Saturday, July 20, 2013

Forbidden Island

To describe Forbidden Island as "Pandemic-Lite" is accurate to a degree, but does the game a grave disservice. Both games are designed by Matt Leacock, and while they have many similarities, I love having both on my game shelf.

In Forbidden Island, players play a team of Adventurers, co-operatively trying to recover four artifacts before the island they are on sinks into the ocean, taking the artifacts and the Adventurers with them. Players must gain sets of same-coloured cards in order to retrieve the matching artifact, similar to curing the diseases in Pandemic. Also like Pandemic, each Adventurer has a unique ability, and success depends on players maximizing how those abilities play off each other.

The island itself is made up from tiles that are randomly placed in a thick + shape at the start of the game, revealing where the Landing Pad and the four artifacts are in play. Forbidden Island cuts the Infection and Player decks present in Pandemic into a single deck, containing Waters Rise cards in place of Epidemic cards that slow cause the island to flood. Eventually tiles can sink beneath the waves, and be removed from the game. If a critical tile is removed, the players immediately lose. As is common in co-operative games, there are many ways to lose, but only one way to win.

The theme is much friendlier toward younger players than Matts apocalyptic Pandemic, and the rules are lighter. Players can trade any cards simply by being on the same tile as each other, unlike in Pandemic, where you must be in the city named on the card to be traded, severely restricting trade, and making multiple trades in one players turn almost impossible. Also, once an artifact has been recovered, it's yours to keep. There is no equivalent to eradicating the diseases from Pandemic. Everything has been stripped and streamlined. This doesn't make the game easier, but just different. In fact, Forbidden Island has it's own difficulty scale, and it is alarmingly tough to win at the higher settings.

Forbidden Island is a great game. It plays fast, at 30-45 minutes, and the artwork on the tiles is simply gorgeous. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to have a game on hand for either younger gamers or introducing people to board gaming, while still offering a challenge for experienced gamers.

It also makes a great stepping-stone for introducing players to Pandemic...

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