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Game Review: Forbidden Island
At Board Game Night at +Ithaca Generator tonight we played two new games (both recently shown on TableTop). I think both are worthy of reviews.

The second game we played was "Forbidden Island", published by Gamewright. Forbidden Island is a cooperative play game (where they players play together against the game, rather than play against each other). It is one of the first cooperative play games I've actually played.

The story line of the game is that the players are a team of looters adventurers trying to steal rescue precious artifacts from an island which is, unfortunately, in the process of sinking into the ocean. If we can collect all four pieces of loot artifacts and successfully fly away in our helicopter, we win. If any of the artifacts, or our helicopter, or one of the players, gets lost to the ocean, we lose.

In game terms, the "island" is a collection of 24 tiles representing different island locations randomly arranged into a diamond-shaped pattern. Each location can be shored up, flooded, or gone. Each turn random parts of the island get wetter, either flooding or, if already flooded, sinking and thus lost. Movement can only occur between adjacent locations, so a sunken location leaves a hole in the map blocking movement. Players do have the ability to shore up a flooded location, but as the game goes on, not fast enough.

The players take turns, each turn consisting of three actions (moving from location to location, shoring up nearby locations, giving treasure to close teammates, or claiming artifacts), then collecting 2 treasures, then flooding parts of the island. Since the game is cooperative, all the players can collude as to what the best set of actions to do are to help win the game. Nothing in the player's control is secret.

Treasure is in the form of cards with pictures of the artifacts on it (a crystal flame, a golden lion, a jade chalice, and a...blue-grey spherical rock thingy). In order to claim an artifact, you have to have 4 treasure cards of the appropriate type and be on one of two locations which correspond to that artifact. If both locations sink before you can claim the artifact, game over dude.

Treasure can also be of the form of two special abilities: helicopter lift and sandbags. Helicopter Lift allows you to discard the card to move you and any other players you are with, from your current location to any other location at any time. It is also required to win the game. Sandbags allow you to discard the card to shore up any location at any time. Both are important and useful cards.

The most insidious form of "treasure" are the "water rises" cards, which accelerate the game. Initially, only 1 location floods each turn. As the water rises, more locations flood each turn. And as the island shrinks, the same locations flood more often, thus making the island shrink even faster. This definitely leads to a ratcheting up of tension in the game and a feeling of impending doom as the game progresses. Early in our game, things felt slow-paced, but pleasantly so. Near the end, we were going "OK, so we'll win if we get back to Marty's turn...if we can survive that long". We didn't -- an opportunity came up we weren't counting on to win earlier.

This game is definitely fun to play, and will also likely be a repeat player at Board Game Nights. It is rated for 2-4 players, so we didn't play it until there were only 4 people left. It's also rated for ages 10+.

I have linked to the TableTop episode about it.