Forbidden Island is a cooperative board game for 2-4 players by GameWright where the players take on the role of adventurers trying to retrieve four sacred relics from a mysterious (forbidden!) island before the entire thing sinks into the ocean. Each adventurer has a special ability that can help out the entire group. The diver, for instance, can move through one or more adjacent flooded/missing tiles for a single action, making it easier for him to get around in the later stages of the game. The ‘board’ is created randomly each game by laying out the included tiles. Each adventurer has a start tile (the tile itself is marked with a pawn the same color as the adventurer) which means that not only is the board random, but your starting location is as well.
Tiles other than the starting tiles and the finish ‘Fool’s Landing’ tile all have a symbol for one of the treasures. If you land on one of these tiles with four treasure cards of that type (and the tile hasn’t sunk into the abyss) you can claim the associated treasure and once all of the treasure’s are collected everyone heads back to Fool’s Landing to take off in the helicopter and leave the Forbidden Island behind forever!
Of course this is all complicated by the need to trade treasure cards with other players to have someone with enough of a single treasure type to claim it and by the dreaded rising of the waters. During each players turn they may take three actions (move, trade, shore up an adjacent section of the island, claim a treasure), draw 2 treasure cards and finally draw Flood cards. Each Flood card matches one of the island tiles and causes a dry tile to flip over to its flooded side or a flooded tile to sink into the abyss and no longer be reachable.
To make matters worse the treasure pile also contains ‘Waters Rise!’ cards. These cards cause the water level to rise and more sections of the island to sink each turn, up to a maximum of 5 before the entire island sinks in one fell swoop.
The attractive tin the game comes in claims that this game takes thirty minutes to play, which is about right but the game play is so fast and intense it feels like much less. Having played this game with multiple groups of players from age 8 and up I have found that it is always fun and exciting. The pieces are all incredibly well made and the attention to detail on the island tiles is amazing. I can’t help but imagine a movie version of this game every time I play through it with the main characters using their various strengths to help each other make it through the island only to jump aboard a helicopter at the last second while the last pieces of the island sink around them.
I would recommend this game to pretty much anyone from a hard-core gamer to a casual enthusiast. The replay value is very high and the cooperative play style does a great job keeping younger kids from getting angry with one another as they do in many other games.