This post is part of the Game Night blog carnival. Check the link at the end for other participating bloggers.
I think it would be a pretty fair assessment to say that many RPG players like cooperative gameplay. That is, after all, what RPGs generally are – a cooperative gameplay experience. So when I see board games that feature cooperative gameplay over a competitive one, I am intrigued. And I think you will be too.
Forbidden Island is my first experience with a cooperative boardgame, and it has recently become one of our favorites. The scenario is this: a group of explorers are on a mysterious island that begins to sink. They need to capture the four treasures that they have come for and escape before the island sinks under their feet. Will they do it in time?
Forbidden Island starts with 24 island locale tiles randomly arranged in a vaguely circular pattern that have begun to “sink.” The goal for the players is to collect all four treasures on the island and leave before it disappears completely.
To do this, players must collect treasure cards (four of a kind!) and make their way to certain areas of the island to capture the treasure. The task is made easier by special abilities that each player has – which is good, because they will need all the help they can get.
On a player’s turn, they get a limited number of actions that they can do before the island sinks a little bit more, and maybe portions of it even disappear. In case you’re wondering, yes, missing island tiles make getting around difficult. Of course, as part of a player’s action, they can “shore up” sections of the island to keep them from disappearing, but then that takes up valuable actions that may be better used moving around or trading treasures so someone has four of a kind.
So if all the players are working together, who are they playing against? And how could they lose? In answer to the first question, they’re playing against the game, or the rules, or the mechanics… however you want to look at it. The rules are written in such a way that the island inevitably sinks and disappears. Shore up to your heart’s content, it’s gonna happen. So the players must work efficiently. In answer to the second question, there are several ways to lose the game, but in my experience, the easiest way to lose the game is to let Fool’s Landing sink. Fool’s Landing is one of the “Area Tiles,” and is the only exit off the island. So even if you have all the treasures, if there’s no Fool’s Landing to escape from, you all sink and die horrible watery deaths. (As the group becomes more confident, they can set the difficulty higher, and I theorize that the most frequent way to lose at that point is letting the water level get too high.)
Overall, this is a great game. Gameplay is simple (but not easy) and very kid-friendly. Plus, it comes in a sturdy tin that doesn’t take up a lot of game shelf space. A definite must buy for the next time your whole game group doesn’t show up.
- Game: Forbidden Island
- Players: 2-4
- Time: About 1/2 hour (assuming you don’t lose)
- Type: Cooperative Strategy
EDIT: There are official tile setup variants posted on Boardgamegeek.com for those of you who already own the game, and are looking to spice it up.
Next month, I’d like to review Pandemic, which is a more recent acquisition of mine, and also a cooperative game. Stay tuned!