I discussed Pandemic, a great cooperative board game where you try to save the world from a group of viruses. Now I want to share another game by the same designer.

In Forbidden Island you and your friends play intrepid treasure hunters seeking the four relics of the Forbidden Island. The problem? The island is trapped to protect the treasures, and begins sinking as soon as you arrive! Search the island seeking clues to the four treasures while shoring up against the encroaching waves that threaten to sink you all into the depths.

Just like Pandemic, each players receives a role, such as the Explorer, who may move diagonally, or the Navigator, who can move other people around the island using his actions. Each role is unique, and there’s five of them for a four player game, so you never know what’s getting left out! A neat feature for Forbidden Island is that the role cards also double as the rules reminder card that comes with many games. This is a great use of space!

The board, on the other hand, is not like Pandemic, and is made up of a number of double sided tiles, one in full color, the other blued out. These cards are randomized and set up in a specific pattern: the shape of the island. Most of these tiles are just generic locations with interesting names. Four of the spaces are the ‘gates’ which are the starting locations for four of the roles, with the final start location is Fool’s Landing, the helipad. There are eight other special spaces, each of them associated with one of the four treasures. The Gardens which protect the Statue of the Wind, the Caves where you’ll find the Crystal of Fire, the palaces where the Ocean’s Chalice rests, and the Temples that hold the Earth Stone.

Game play is simple enough: On your turn, take four actions that include moving to an adjacent tile, ‘shoring up’ a flooded tile by flipping it back to its colored side, sharing player cards with someone in your space, or obtaining a treasure by turning in four matching player cards at the appropriate locations. After you’ve played your turn you draw player cards, and flip the location deck to flood more tiles.

You win if you obtain all four treasures, get the players to Fool’s Landing, and take off!

Just like Pandemic, though, this game produces stories. At the beginning, there’s some flooding, but the water is rising slowly. You also don’t have many cards, so you’re spending your time shoring up the island and waiting for enough player cards. As the game goes on, though, the Water Rises, increasing the rate of the flooding. Combine this with the eventuality of tiles sinking completely beneath the ocean, which removes their card from the location deck, and the island begins to sink faster and faster. Many games on normal difficulty come down to that wire, trying to get everyone to Fool’s Landing before it, or they, sink.

Another bonus to Forbidden Island is its simplicity, I taught the game to a pair of five-year-olds who began to play on their own within a few minutes. This is wonderful for a family game, and the cooperative nature definitely helps keep bad feelings away.

Images: The four treasures are an edited image from the rulebook. The game board picture is from boardgamegeeks.