Board Game Review! Forbidden Island from Gamewright

Posted: January 27, 2018 in Board Games, Review
Tags: , , , , , ,

Greetings Fellow Board Gamers!


The featured game for this article is Forbidden Island from Gamewright. This is a cooperative game where players work together instead of against each other. This game is meant for 2 to 4 players.

Forbidden Island on Board Game Geek – here.

* Note – This is not a ‘How to Play’ or tutorial type article. This is a review of the game components and brief review of game play.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island was the secluded retreat of the ancient mystical empire known as the Archeans. Legend has it that the Archeans possessed the ability to control the Earth’s core elements – fire, wind, water, and earth – through four sacred treasures: The Crystal of Fire, The Statue of Wind, The Ocean’s Chalice, and The Earth Stone. Because of their potential to cause catastrophic damage if they fell into enemy hands, the Archeans kept the treasures secretly hidden on Forbidden Island and designed it to sink if intruders ever attempted to claim them. In the centuries since the mysterious collapse of their empire, Forbidden Island remained undiscovered … until now.

Will your team be the first to breach its borders, capture the treasures, and make it out alive?


The rule book for Forbidden Island is well written and covers lots of different situations. The book is eight pages and full of visual examples to assist with learning the game. It’s fairly easy to find information in a timely manner if a question arises in the middle of game play.

The only issues I had with the rule book were minor ones that can be easily figured out. One of the issues I have with the rules are in the setup section. I do not care for the explanation of how the island tiles are to be setup, but based off of the picture displayed, it’s simple enough to figure it out. The other issue was over the water level on the water meter. There were a few questions brought up over what the water level indication was represented by. Some players believed it was designated by the numbers, as they appear to be next to a particular line. Others believed the water level was designated by the color breaks, which seems more plausible and is how we ultimately played it.

Both of those are extremely minor issues and do not impact the game in a way that would cause too much confusion. As long as the water level breaks are clearly explained at the beginning of each game, there should be no issues at all with reading the water meter.



Each player is randomly assigned an Adventurer card. Each Adventurer has a different color and an ability unique to them. Since the game only suggests up to four players at once, you won’t have access to all six Adventurers in a single game. This helps to change up the variations in game play each time you play, and since selection is random, you never know who you’ll be on your next visit to Forbidden Island.

Flood Deck and Island Tiles

The Flood Deck contains 24 different cards, which match the 24 different tiles that make up Forbidden Island. Every time a tile’s card is flipped, that tile is is either flooded (flipped to the blue tinted side of the tile) or sinks (removed from the game with its card). The illustrations are beautiful and correspond to the names of each island location. During setup, the tiles are randomly placed to form Forbidden Island, which is another aspect that makes each game different from the last. You’re not likely to set foot on the same Forbidden Island!

Treasure Deck

The Treasure Deck consists of five of each different Treasure card to match the four Forbidden Island Treasures, three Waters Rise! cards, three Helicopter Lift cards, and two Sandbag cards. In order to capture a Treasure, you need to be at one of the two locations and have four of that Treasure’s cards. For example: To capture the Ocean’s Chalice, you need to have four of the Ocean’s Chalice cards and have your Adventurer pawn placed on one of the Ocean’s Chalice locations (Tidal Palace or Coral Palace). You use one of your three actions to capture the Treasure, which will also require you to discard the four Treasure cards.


These are the four Treasures: The Earth Stone, The Statue of the Wind, The Ocean’s Chalice, and The Crystal of Fire. Each one is made of plastic and they’re super cute. Everyone enjoys having a tangible item to hold on to, rather than a cardboard token or a card. The addition of actual ‘Treasures’ was a great design choice. Other than being captured, the Treasures don’t have any other function in the game.

Water Meter

I like the Water Meter, but as I mentioned under the rule book section, I would like for the Water Level indication to be made more clear in the rule book. The only issue I have with the actual Water Meter itself, is that it’s cardboard and very susceptible to wear and tear over multiple uses. The plastic level indicator clamps on very tight, which is good but also bad. Clamps that are too tight, like this one, can cause damage. Luckily, this Water Meter has not been damaged over the course of its use. I can confirm that this copy of Forbidden Island has been played more than 20 times and all the components have held up with minimal evidence of wear.

Standard Size Double Sided Clear

All of the decks will require shuffling and will wear over time and multiple uses. I would highly recommend using protective sleeves that are clear on both sides to sleeve all the cards. All of the cards in this are what they call ‘standard’ size. These Ultra Pro sleeves are perfect for all the cards in Forbidden Island.

Setup & Clean Up

There are multiple aspects to the setup of the game. There are two different decks that need to be shuffled, tiles to be shuffled and formed into an island, and Adventurers to be shuffled and randomly dealt out. I would recommend that the each player assist with the setup to decrease the amount of time it takes. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting on one person to set up the entire game, which could take five minutes or more.

The clean up takes significantly less time. The cards from the two decks won’t be mixed during game play, so it’s very easy to collect both decks, the tiles, and other components quickly.

The box for Forbidden Island is a metal tin with a plastic insert. All the components have their own compartment, including individual spots for each of the Treasures. Sleeved cards will fit in the designated spot where the cards go, but the corners of the sleeves could bend slightly in the tight fit.

Game Play

Each player gets three actions on their turn: Move, Shore Up, Give a Treasure Card, or Capture a Treasure. Each space a player moves takes up an action, so moving three spaces will use all three actions. The same applies to Shore Up and Give a Treasure Card. You will only ever be able to Capture a Treasure one time in a turn, due to the hand size limit.

Once a player has completed up to three actions, they then draw two treasure cards. This could give them Treasure cards, Special Action cards (Sandbags or Helicopter Lift), or Waters Rise!. Drawing Waters Rise! will cause the water level to increase, making the island sink faster.

After a player has drawn their two Treasure cards, that player then reveals a number of Flood cards equal to the water level as indicated on the Water Meter. Each card revealed will indicate which tile becomes flooded or sinks. If the tile is already flooded (the blue side is showing), it sinks and is removed from the game with the corresponding Flood card.

Game play continues with the next player until either the players win by escaping the island, or the island defeats the players. The only way for the players to win is to capture all four Treasures and escape the island via Fools’ Landing (the helicopter pad). Players need to have at least one Helicopter Lift card among them and all pawns on Fools’ Landing, at the same time, to escape.

Forbidden Island can defeat the players several different ways. If both of the tiles corresponding to a treasure sink before the treasure is captured, the players are defeated. If Fools’ Landing sinks, the players are defeated. If a player’s pawn is on a tile when it sinks and they can’t swim to an adjacent tile, the players are defeated. If the water level reaches the skull and crossbones on the Water Meter, the players are defeated. There are a lot of things for the players to keep track of and stay aware of, which makes this game engaging.

Forbidden Island is tactical fun and each player will want to participate in the debate on what everyone should do on their turn. Full cooperation between all players is key if players want a chance at winning. One wrong move and all could be lost.


This game is probably one of my favorite co-op games. It’s a difficult game on the Novice level, but near impossible on any other level. I do not go into any game of Forbidden Island thinking we’ll win easily, if at all. It almost feels like we shouldn’t win, based off of the game backstory. I feel like a villain, plundering an island for treasures that are too powerful for any small group of people to wield. Then again, maybe we’re archeologist, studying ancient relics and trying to preserve the Archeans history. Either way, the task of retrieving the Treasures and making it off the island is extremely difficult.

The difficulty level of this game is caused mostly by the random layout of the island, the randomness of the Treasure Deck and Flood Deck, and the random selection of the Adventurers. Some Adventurers are more useful in certain games, but because of the randomness, you may not have drawn that one super useful one. The difficulty level of the game is also one of its appealing factors. I tire quickly of co-op games that victory can be easily or frequently achieved.

This game is not for the faint of heart! It can be stressful at times, but not in a bad way that would make me not want to play.

What the Players Said

The players that played the game tonight all had a great time and they all agreed that the game is stressful, but in a fun and exciting way! We played several different games on different levels, but we only won one on the Novice level.

Buy or Bye?

I’ve borrowed this particular copy from a fellow tabletop gamer. I most definitely have to purchase this game for myself as it’s becoming a favorite with the locals!

Have strategies or tips for this game? Leave them in a comment!
Have cool accessories or custom pieces? Show them off!
Thanks for reading and be sure to like, follow, and subscribe for more Dice Masters, HeroClix, and Board Game related content!

Board out and game on!

  1. Rachel says:

    This is a great game. We play with my parents and 8-12 yr old nieces and nephews. Lots of great interaction, and I think the strategy discussion at the table is great for kids to be a part of or witness to.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s