Home > Board Games > Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island

August 19th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Pandemic remains to be one of my favorite cooperative games, but I came across another one that seemed oddly similar.  For those of you who haven’t read my Pandemic review, players will rally together to try and save the world from four deadly diseases.  Diseases are spread by way of infection cards, which are eventually recycled to the top of the draw deck so that they can be drawn again.  This mechanic increases the chances of infections becoming full-blown epidemics.  Diseases can be cured by trading in so many cards of that color, and players will be able to utilize specific abilities depending on which character card they chose in the beginning of the game.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island: 2-4 Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 30 Minutes

Forbidden Island is very similar, but replace infection cards with flood cards and diseases with treasures.  Players will be attempting to gather all four treasures while the island is sinking around them.  They’ll be assuming the roles of characters that can perform special abilities and will be drawing treasure cards in an attempt to collect said treasures.  At the same time, they’ll be taking turns for the island, sinking parts of the island via the flood cards they draw.  Sound familiar?


Island Tiles – These make up the main playing board.  Players will be moving from tile to tile, trying to prevent them from permanently sinking.  Some tiles allow players to trade in treasure cards to collect the appropriate treasure pieces.

Cards – Cards come in various forms.  Treasure cards can be traded in to collect treasures, Waters Rise! cards will increase the rate in which island tiles sink, Helicopter Lift cards allow players to leave the island once they have all of the treasures as well as move around the board, Sandbag cards help to shore up island tiles, Flood cards indicate which tiles should be flooded / permanently removed, and Adventurer cards are assigned to players before the game starts, giving them unique special abilities.

Water Meter / Marker – The marker is moved along the meter as Waters Rise! cards are drawn.  The higher the marker is along the track, the more flood cards that players will be drawing to make the island sink even faster.

Pawns & Treasure Figurines – Players keep track of their movements via their pawns, moving them from tile to tile.  The treasure figurines are collected by players as they turn in the appropriate number of treasure cards.

Forbidden Island Cards

Treasure Cards.

Setup & Gameplay

Players begin by shuffling the tiles and card decks separately.  The tiles are laid out face up in a 4×4 grid with two extra tiles placed on all four sides.  The treasure figurines are placed nearby as is the water meter, the marker being placed on the difficulty level of choice.  Six flood cards are drawn and resolved to start the island’s eventual demise.  Each player receives a random adventurer card and corresponding pawn, along with two face up treasure cards for all players to see.  The starting player is chosen randomly.

Forbidden Island Setup

Game Setup.

A player’s turn consists of the following:

1. Take up to three actions, which consists of moving, shoring up a flooded tile, giving a treasure card to someone else, and capturing a treasure.

2. Draw two treasure cards.  There are three Waters Rise! cards in the treasure card deck, which causes the water meter to raise the marker a notch and recycles the flood card discard pile to the top of the flood draw deck.

3. Draw flood cards equal to the number shown on the water meter.  Each flood card has a corresponding tile…when a flood card is drawn for a tile above water, it becomes flooded and the tile is flipped over.  If the tile is already flooded, it and its corresponding flood card is removed from the game.

Players will be attempting to trade in four like treasure cards on the appropriate tile spaces to collect all four treasures.  After that, they must make it to Fool’s Landing and play a Helicopter Lift card to escape.  If any tile sinks that results in a treasure becoming unattainable, escape impossible, or causes a player to drown, the game ends in a loss.  The water meter has a skull and crossbones symbol on it…should the marker reach it, the game also ends in a loss for players.

Forbidden Island Treasures

Trading cards with other players will help you stay ahead of the island.

The above is just an overview, but should still give you an idea of how the game is played.  To read more about the rules, check out the manual here:

Forbidden Island

The Review

The artwork and quality of the components impressed me, especially the scenery on the tiles themselves.  The manual was an easy read and the game wasn’t difficult to learn at all.  I don’t own many games that come in a tin case, but the box art and 3D effects really stand out.

Forbidden Island Tiles

Kudos on the artwork!

The cooperative element behind Forbidden Island makes the game enjoyable.  My son Vinnie (11) and I were working together throughout the entire ordeal.  His pilot ability let him fly across the map and get to key areas quickly while my engineer ability allowed me to act as damage control.  It is possible for one player to assume a leadership role and guide others on where they should move, but I was content to let Vinnie express his ideas and opinions.  He certainly had a good time planning out his moves and shoring up tiles on his own.

Forbidden Island Review

Thumbs up for sandbags!

As I mentioned above, this game felt a lot like Pandemic…and if I had to compare the two, Forbidden Island would be a Pandemic Junior of sorts.  Younger kids who enjoy the idea behind Pandemic but are overwhelmed by its rules and gameplay mechanics will probably enjoy Forbidden Island.  For those who have never heard of Pandemic, the difficulty level of this game can be adjusted, which will help newcomers to the genre adjust to this style of game.  Overall, it’s a solid choice for family game night and I highly recommend it.

Final Verdict: 7/10


  1. Paul
    October 3rd, 2012 at 02:50 | #1

    Thanks for this review
    Just picked up Forbidden Island yesterday to play with my son Cody.
    I’m hoping it will play as a decent gateway game to bigger more complex ones in the future. Ill definatly have a look at pandemic.

    • Vincent
      October 3rd, 2012 at 05:43 | #2

      Great choice! Forbidden Island is definately child friendly and promotes teamwork. Pandemic is a bit more complex, but it sounds like you have experience with those. With the right amount of coaching, Pandemic is a good choice for kids too. 🙂