While the focus here at Co-Optimus has been and always will be on video games, we reserve the right to cover other cooperative gaming experiences as well. This column is the perfect place to do so; there are many folks out there who would never pick up a controller, but would be glad to sit around the dining room table for game. As long as it’s all in the spirit of teamwork and cooperation, Billy is pleased. Today, we’ll take a look at Forbidden Island, a delightful co-op board game.
We’ve covered several co-op board games already, ranging from the dungeon crawling D&D Castle Ravenloft to kid-friendly “tower defense” in Castle Panic. But the first game we covered was the very popular and highly regarded Pandemic. Forbidden Island comes from the same designer as the latter, Matt Leacock, and the two games share many of the same mechanics. Several changes have been made, most of them to simplify the experience, plus the theme has changed, in my opinion, for the better.
In Forbidden Island, the players are explorers trying to recover four valuable artifacts from the titular island. Each takes on a role, or specialization, that allows them to break the rules in some way. For example, the Helicopter Pilot can move any character to any tile on the map, while the Diver can swim through flooded tiles with ease. There is no “game board” as such; instead, cardboard location tiles are arranged in a plus-like shape for players to move around on. While this adds a few minutes to setup time, the additional replayability factor of generating a new map every game is more than worth it.
To recover the artifacts, players must collect four matching cards of that artifact’s color, and move to one of two locations that designate where the treasure can be found. Players draw two artifact cards every turn, and can give cards to one another if they are at the same location. Once all four treasures are recovered, everyone must head back to the helicopter landing tile, and, as long as someone has saved a special helicopter lift card, the mission is a success!