Forbidden Island - Board Game Box Shot

Forbidden Island

| Published: 2010

How To Play
Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

About This Game
It’s a great honor to introduce the latest creation by cooperative game master, Matt Leacock. There are so many things we love about this unique game: from the rich illustrations, to the collaborative nature of play, to the innovative set of rules, to the infinite possibilities generated by the tiles and cards. Don’t be surprised if your pulse starts pounding faster soon after you start playing – it’s a game that instantly generates an electrifying atmosphere of tension and excitement!

Digital Version:

Gamewright and Button Mash Games have made a digital version of this game!
Check it out! >

User Reviews (83)

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I play black
Guardian Angel
Platinum Supporter
Marquis / Marchioness
176 of 180 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 4
“The Best Game in Its Price Bracket”

Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game I purchased (or played for that matter). I was intrigued by cooperative games, but felt I needed something on the light side to ease my way into it. From everything I read on this site it seemed like Forbidden Island was quite easy to pick up but provided some level of increasing challenge as you develop your skill at the game, so this became an easy decision. It has remained a staple among my favorite games, and this is how I recall my experiences in the early-going:

Observed Set-Up and Play Time
This is an insanely easy game to get out of the box. There are cardboard tiles, but they are pre-punched and ready to play. Cards and treasure miniatures are organized and stored nicely in the packaging, so your first play is as easy to set up as your hundredth. And the instructions are very easy… to this day, Forbidden Island may be the only game I’ve self-taught where no mistakes were made with the rules in the first play-through. All told, reading of the rulebook and first play set-up should take under 20 minutes, while repeat game set-up takes around 5 minutes. Games themselves rarely last beyond the advertised 30 minutes.

My Learning Curve and Teach Time
Well, that first game taught me the most important strategic lesson… protect Fools’ Landing (the helicopter pad)! Losses have been rare since then, so the learning curve must not be too steep… however, I do feel that I continually improved through the first 20 to 30 games. I have taught this game to 4 or 5 friends or family members, and it never takes longer than 10 minutes.

Group Sizes and Dynamics
Forbidden Island can be just as fun with 2 or 4 players, but the higher player counts increase the challenge of the game. Unfortunately, while it has been quite easy for me to get 2-player games going, it can be a hard sell when I have enough people around to play a 4-player game. At that headcount, we’re usually looking for something a little meatier and longer. The few 4-player games I have played have been great… down to the wire and tense. There is a whole lot of interaction and pre-planning with Forbidden Island, and I find that there’s more communication going on with 4 players in this game than in most other non-social games.

Objectionable Material
There is nothing touchy or “adult” about Forbidden Island and its theme other than the possible stretch of creating questions of what’s making the water levels rise on Earth. If conversation with a child went that route I could see the answers being disturbing to them… but that really depends on the parent and the way they handle it. I personally have no worries, and this will be one of the first real games I introduce my child to. I’m hopeful that can occur by the time he’s 5.

Comparable Titles
While I’ve only read its description, the “sequel” to Forbidden Island, aptly titled Forbidden Desert, sounds a lot like a reworking of the Island mechanics with a little added depth. I look forward to trying it. And of course, no review of Forbidden Island would be complete without a nod to its ancestor Pandemic, a much more challenging and adult game with the same “spread out and save” core conceit and different-behaving characters.

So, why has a game that is so frequently tagged “easy” remained in my good graces? Primarily because it’s the most scalable game I’ve encountered. There is brilliance in the water level meter, where you simply start the game at a higher flood level once you become more advanced. On the “Legendary” level you can play an absolutely perfect strategic game and still lose because of an unlucky shuffle… but you have no shot at all if you don’t play a great strategic game. I stumbled on the real mind-blower of this game’s greatness on the tips page here (thanks @dragontrainer)… there are official variant tile layouts other than the original square, all of which make the game MUCH more difficult. These layouts have increased the life of this game a hundredfold. A little embarrassed I never thought to alter the original layout myself, but thrilled that I’m getting so much life out of such an inexpensive game.

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Advanced Reviewer
Mask of Agamemnon
79 of 81 gamers found this helpful
“Intense family cooperative enjoyment.”


Given the many reviews I’ve read here on this game, it’s difficult to identify anything that hasn’t already been said. However, given that this review process is subjective and individual in nature, I’ll provide the experience I’ve had as it relates to family gaming. For those who have already played and enjoyed pandemic, you’ll find this game mechanic to have a similar feel (same designer). This games sets an intrepid group of treasure hunters out on a fly in quest to loot 4 temples on a sinking island. Players will have to work together using their specialized skills to grab the 4 treasures and get back to the helicopter for lift off before the island sinks. Given that this game is very simple to teach and is cooperative, it lends itself nicely to family game nights with children 10 and up.


As I’ve indicated above, learning/teaching the game is very simple as it is not bogged down with extraneous or complicated rules. The instructions are very clear about set up and game play. Turn sequences are shirt which keeps the game flowing smoothly for all players. As in all cooperative games, Alpha gamers can Sometimes squash quieter if less assertive players. Communications between players becomes essential and in my experience is great for connecting families together in a positive experience.
After a few initial plays, games tend to last 20-30 minutes.


The components amount to a couple of decks of cards, island cards and player cards, as well as individual tiles that represent specific locations on the island. While this game probably won’t win any awards for its artwork, the component quality is good and the artwork is sufficient.


The strength of this game is its simplicity, while Forbidden Island may not see much table time at a gaming club for this reason it is exceptional at introducing non gamers and older children to cooperative gaming. I have been using this game as a gateway to new players and enjoy playing this game with my wife and young daughters. The game is both challenging, engaging, and enjoyable.

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Gamer - Level 7
Guardian Angel
I'm a Gamin' Fiend!
86 of 89 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Great cooperative intro game!”


Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game I ever played, and it’s still one of my favorites. I grew up playing competitive kinds of games (and still enjoy them), so the idea of working together against a hostile game intrigued me. I can’t think of any better title to introduce new players to the concept – and it’s extremely inexpensive to boot.


In Forbidden Island, you play as explorers trying to collect the island’s four treasures and make it back to the helipad to escape. Trouble is, the island is gradually sinking into the sea. In between your turns, parts of the island will flood. If left untended, they’ll sink and become impassable. You have to carefully plan your actions each turn to keep important sections above water and assure you have a viable escape route.

Each player gets a job, randomly drawn from the Job Deck. Optionally you can let everyone pick a job – but I find it’s more fun when you don’t know what you’re going to be. Every job has special abilities unique to it. The Pilot can move straight to any place on the island without having to waste moves walking there, the Diver can move across open water (tiles that have sunk and been removed), the engineer can shore up two flooded tiles for one move, etc. Players have a little wooden pawn that color-matches their job, and each one starts in a different but specific location.

The island is represented by a series of 24 square tiles with location names on them. One side is in full color, and the other is washed out. The tiles start color-side-up, but as you draw locations from the Flood Deck they flip to the washed out side. If a location is already flooded when its card is drawn, it sinks (gets removed from the game). When a tile is removed, you also remove its card – so the flood deck gets smaller and smaller as you go along. Sunken tiles are gone for good, but flooded tiles can be “shored up” (flipped back to the color side) by player actions or special cards.

Players choose three actions per turn – move around the island, collect treasures, or shore up flooded tiles. After your turn you draw three cards from the Treasure deck. To pick up a treasure, you need to get three matching treasure cards and move to a tile that has that treasure’s icon. Each treasure only has two locations it can be collected, so if both of them sink, you all lose.

Hidden in the Treasure Deck are “Waters Rise” cards, which raise the water level counter and make you have to draw more flood cards between turns. If the water level reaches the top, you all lose. You also get “Helicopter Lift” and “Sandbag” cards that can be used at any time without using an action.

There’s a good sense of urgency to the game, between the shrinking flood deck, the rising water level and your limited number of actions per turn. Things can get tense when you’re only one or two tiles away from being cut off from the helipad, or the last treasure location is about to sink.


I was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the pieces for this game, especially considering how little I paid for it (around $15USD at my local Barnes & Noble). The game comes in a sturdy, colorful tin with excellent little cubbies to keep everything secure. The cards have a durable matte finish and the island tiles are drink-coaster-thick. Even the plastic treasure tokens are solid and look like they can take a beating. The box takes up very little space too, so it’s a good one to bring to a friend’s house.


You might think that a game with so many ways to die would be depressing, but Forbidden Island manages to keep it all lighthearted and fun. This is probably one of the easiest cooperative games I play, so I like to pull it out for people who are new to cooperatives or just gaming in general. It’s not as long as something like Pandemic, the rules are simple, and everyone usually gets the hang of it pretty quickly.

Since the configuration of the island changes every time (and so can the jobs) there’s a lot of replay value here. You shouldn’t have much trouble at the easy difficulty, but I’m still challenged by Elite even after dozens of play-throughs. Cooperative games by their nature encourage talking and sharing strategy, so this is a good social game – just be careful not to dictate to new players.

It’s easy to let one experienced person “suggest” the best course of action to everyone. I’ve caught myself doing this. It’s much more fun when everyone gets a chance to pick their path – even if it’s the “wrong” one. Take it as a challenge to work around less experienced players’ choices instead.

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Veteran Grader
102 of 106 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“It's Sinking! Sinking! Oh, What a Great Co-Op World!”

-Forbidden Island offers fast-paced turns and constant strategizing that will demand the attention of even the most distracted player out there.
-Each player takes on the role of a unique specialist, working with others to collect the treasures while preventing areas of the island itself from sinking into the abyss.
-Utilizing those special abilities, carefully planning each action to make the most of each turn, and mastering cooperation are key components to winning this game.

Each turn:
-players spend actions to move, “shore up” the tiles of the island to prevent them from sinking, trade cards with other players, or turn in cards to claim a treasure.
-players draw new cards for their hand. These cards represent one of the four treasures, a water rises event, or a special ability that can be used.
-draw cards to determine which island tiles will be flooded or sunk (if previously flooded).

As the game progresses and players collect the cards needed to claim treasures, the water level continues to rise. As a result, the number of cards drawn to flood the island tiles steadily increases, making it more difficult for the players to maintain the buoyancy of key tiles of the island.

If the players successfully claim all of the treasures before the flooding increases too far, they can dash for the chopper and an airlift to victory.

High quality components (island tiles, 3D treasure and player pieces, cards, and a tin for storage) married to eye-candy artwork make this an enchanting game to play.

Eight pages may look daunting to the Social or Family gamer at first glance, but the pages have large font with plentiful illustrations and examples to explain most game mechanics. All-in-all, this makes for a quick set of rules to learn and easy to reference if needed.

Forbidden Island’s random tile placement during setup ensures that the island layout will rarely be the same twice. Add in some random character selection, and this game neatly sidesteps the “stuck in a rut” feeling that many players face with other games. While the strategy may not be as involved as the often-compared Pandemic, for example, players will still find themselves with challenges to overcome. Finding the right winning strategy, for example, can be tricky when the game’s layout and specialists vary from game to game.

-Quick turn play with simple mechanics.
-Well-explained rules with examples aplenty.
-Breathtaking artwork that lends to the mysterious island feel.
-Unique strategic options for each specialist to consider.
-Difficulty scaling, if desired.
-Randomized game tile placement.
-Easy set up.
-Quick to learn, tricky to master.

-Speed of water rising mechanic can foil an otherwise sound strategy. This can be adjusted with house rules – see Game Tips.
-One player’s decisions can make or break the group’s chance of winning. This can be frustrating for groups with a “rogue” player, but can be overcome by agreeing to discuss strategy before actions are spent each turn.

With the MSRP of $17.99, this game includes a LOT of quality components and will make a great cooperative gateway game. A great buy for families and small gaming groups alike!

Forbidden Island won me over for a lot of reasons: low price, quick set up and play, excellent rules (with detailed game play examples), randomized tile set up and specialist selection that adds to the replay factor, beautiful artwork, quality components, and a set of unique “flooding” (and other) mechanics that will leave your players smiling and ready for more, even after miserable failures.

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Cooperative Game Explorer
Gamer - Level 3
111 of 116 gamers found this helpful
“Great, Quick family fun.”

Trying to play with my young kids, I’ve been trying more co-operative games because a.) you can walk them through the decisions a bit more b.)everybody wins or loses together. I think Forbidden Island strikes the best balance for family gaming for anybody under, say 12. With teenagers, there are better options (Pandemic, of course) but Forbidden Island is still fun even with four adults.

1. Great looking
2. Fun theme
3. Tremendous replay with the variable board and roles. A google search will find you even more fan produced variants for island set up and roles
4. Turns move quickly without a ton of down time. Big plus my kids.
5. Plays really well as 1 player, where you can control 2 roles.
6. VALUE!! I paid $15 and I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a better new game under $20. It would be a fair price at twice the cost.

1. Other reviewers are correct, its not difficult. Losses are rare and the losses often feel unearned when you simply hit the skull on the waters rise meter or draw water rise cards quickly.
2. It does seem to encourage the over-talking bossy leader aspect more than other Co-ops for some reason. Maybe its the brief turns?

Some other reviews here and elsewhere suggest you can play this game with kids as young as 5. I took that advice and hoped, but after a few games I think preschool is a bit too young. It certainly works because you can walk them through, but they aren’t as engaged. The box suggests 10+ and I’d say 8 might be closer to it, give or take.

At such a low cost and quick game time, I’d recommend this for any family game night, as an introduction to co-op board gaming, and even for all but the most hardened strategy snob, as a fun co-op filler. Its not the greatest co-op, but still a lot of fun, and again, you can’t beat that price.

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9 Beta 2.0 Tester
Went to Gen Con 2012
Summoner Wars Fan
Video Game Fan
126 of 132 gamers found this helpful
“Cheap family fun!”

It’s hard to argue with this much family fun in such a small, inexpensive package. Forbidden Island can easily be found for less than $15 these days, and it is quite a value for your gaming dollar. Overall, it offers fun, light, cooperative gameplay with a fair amount of replayability and simplicity. In this way, Forbidden Island can appeal to families with a variety of age ranges, can serve as an introduction to co-op play, and can act as a quick filler for more experienced gamers.

First the components: These are top notch. The four treasures are well-constructed and solid with a nice feel to them. They add to the fun theme of searching for ancient artifacts and provide a nice distraction for younger players. The cardboard pieces that make up the “island” are sturdy and well-made, with great thematic artwork. The player tokens are also nice, and the cards are quite functional. The metal box is also a lot of fun and makes the game stand out on the shelf (although this may be considered a negative by some, as it does’t fit on the shelf as well as some of my other games).

Anyone who has played Pandemic will find the games share a lot of similarities. The players are attempting to collect all four treasures and evacuate the island before it sinks. The game is a cooperative one, with all players working together, and if one person doesn’t make it, everyone loses. Each turn players have a limited number of actions they can perform, which includes moving their pawns, sharing a treasure card with another player on the same space, or “shoring up” adjacent spaces that have flooded. After taking their actions, players must draw additional treasure cards and then reveal flood cards that correspond to the tiles that make up the island. If an island space is revealed by a flood card twice without being shored up, it disappears into the ocean forever. This can drastically affect the game, as the various treasures that must be collected are only available on specific island tiles. If those tiles sink before you collect the specific treasure, the game is over. Also, to add to the tension, hidden in the treasure card deck are multiple copies of the dreaded “waters rise!” card, which increases the number of flood cards drawn each turn and causes the flood discard pile to be shuffled back to the top of the flood draw pile. The game becomes a race against time, as the flood rate increases, and the island tiles sink around you. To add flavor to the game, each player assumes a role, and each role has a special ability that alters the rules of the game.

Overall, this a great family game. It is simple to teach and easy to play, yet provides a challenge, particularly to younger players. It makes for a great introductory game to non-gamers, especially those with little experience with the cooperative aspect. With the randomized island tile placement and the various possible roles available, the game offers a great deal of replay value. My only complaint is that it can be easy to beat at lower difficulty levels, but this is easily remedied by starting the flood rate at a higher level. I would definitely suggest Forbidden Island to anyone looking for a quick, entertaining co-op, particularly one that will be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike.

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Video Game Fan
Comic Book Fan
124 of 130 gamers found this helpful
“"Dad, can we play Forbidden Island again?" A Review for Parents with Young Kids!”

I going to write this review from the eyes of a parent with two young daughters ages 5 and 8. My college aged son and I just recently got into designer board games after years for playing Magic:TG. Small World, Fluxx and Forbidden Island were our first choices of games to purchase (after playing digital versions of Catan and Ticket to Ride on Xbox) You can see from my score that we loved Forbidden Island! Here’s why…

Forbidden Island is a pretty fast setup. You mix the 24 tiles up and arrange them in a diamond-like pattern on the table. Each tile represents a location on the island and is printed on both sides, one side being a blued-out version of the same location. Players randomly choose a role card, which also determines the color of their game piece. (Red Engineer, Black Diver, Grey Messenger, etc.) There are six roles, which each has a special ability, and the game can be beat with any combination. Players put their piece on the corresponding start tile indicated by a icon. There are two decks to shuffle up: The Treasure Deck and the Flood Deck. Once both are shuffled, each player gets 2 treasure cards. Then the top 6 cards of the flood deck are turned over. Each card in the Flood deck has a corresponding tile on the island that must now be flipped over to the blue side indicating that it is flooding. My girls quickly figured out how to set the game up (but still need help with the shuffling part).

The object is to collect 4 treasures at get off the island via the helipad before key parts of the island sink or the flood meter gets to the top meaning the entire island has sunk and the game is over. I won’t go into too much detail about how all that happens here as other reviews have already done that. I will say that this is a CO-OPERATIVE GAME, which is great when you are working with young kids because they enjoy the help and working together. Everyones a winner if you beat it, and we are all in the same boat if we fail so no one person feels defeated over another. Now I can say that it took about 2-3 games for my girls to grasp what to do. My oldest one jumped in after watching my son and I play a game, then my littlest one wanted to try. Of course we coached the girls on their turn and each game they got more and more proficient at making decisions. Each game takes less than 30 mins to complete. There are also four difficulty settings, like many video games, Novice, Normal, Elite, and Legendary set by where you start the water level on the meter.

This game is solid! The tiles are thick card board, the game pieces and treasures are made of wood and thick plastic and the best part is the game comes in a TIN BOX with defined compartments in the box to organize putting it away. The most fragile part are the cards, but they are good quality as well, like a Hoyle deck of playing cards thickness and gloss.

This is an excellent game for both casual adults and of course kids the ages of mine. When I introduced it to my girls, they of course wanted to start on novice, which is almost a guaranteed win. But we quickly challenged ourselves and just yesterday they were so excited to beat it on Legendary with only 4 tiles left and one notch away from the island being sunk! Note that I play this game WITH them, they don’t/aren’t allowed to play it on their own…yet. (Daddy is a little protective of the investments he’s made in these games haha) Plus they still need advice on their turns. It’s a great way to spend time with your kids playing a game that is not *SIGH* Trouble or Candy Land. Also, my wife runs a private school and she wants me to bring FI, as well as Fluxx and a few other new ones I just ordered, to introduce her students to during her summer camp program. That’ll be fun!

Forbidden Island will be a fav with my kids for a long while and will also be a gateway game for my adult friends to get them into designer games. PLUS THE PRICE IS GREAT!!!!

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I play green
Novice Reviewer
I Walk the Talk!
162 of 170 gamers found this helpful
“Get to Da Choppa!”

I rented this game knowing nothing about it except that it was a cooperative game. It has now become one of my favorite games. It is cheap, easy to learn, and has so much replay value, it is insane.

You and your team take on roles as explorers who stumble upon an island that is sinking every second. Your quest is to get all four treasures before you die or the island sinks. You either all win or you all lose together.


This game has some of the funnest pieces I have ever come across. The Crystal of Fire, the Ocean’s Chalice, the Earth Stone, and the Statue of the Wind are really detailed and add a tactile element to the game. It feels so good when you finally collect a treasure and you get to place it in front of you.

The artwork featured on the tiles and the cards is beautiful. You feel like this island has a spirit of its own. Each card is unique and really fits into the theme of an abandoned and doomed island.

The one thing that bugs me is that the water level ticker does not stand on its own. Very,very,very small annoyance, but a small plastic piece could have fit that perfectly.


Every game of Forbidden Island is different. Each explorer role has different powers that work with the others and the teams that appear vary in how they play. Some groups are really mobile, but others are really good at shoring up the island. Plus, there are tons of different rules that have been made up by fans of the game. Check the tips for additional rules and various tile placements to shake up the game a little bit.

This game really has a sense of urgency with the water rising and the island slowing sinking into the sea. Working together is essential and it is a great change from competitive interactions with other players.


This game is a great start into the cooperative board game genre. It is easy to learn, easy to play, and is surprisingly cheap. Please take a trip to the Forbidden Island. You won’t regret it.

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Viscount / Viscountess
Novice Reviewer
121 of 127 gamers found this helpful
“Great light co-op game”

Forbidden Island is a light cooperative game for 2-4 players in which the players take the role of a team of adventurers attempting to collect the hidden treasures of the island and then escape with the treasures before the island sinks. The game is similar to another popular cooperative game by the same designer called Pandemic, though it possesses a lighter theme and rule set designed to make the game appeal to a wider audience.

Gameplay Features

• Fully cooperative play
• Hand and action management
• No player elimination
• Four adjustable difficulty levels
• Randomized modular game board
• Six roles (Adventurers) with unique special abilities

Components and Theme

Especially when considering the very low price point, the components are excellent and contained in an attractive tin. The game board tiles have beautiful depictions of each location and are made from thick cardboard. There are molded plastic figurines of each treasure and a nice cardboard water level marker with a plastic guide. The Adventurer, Treasure and Flood cards are the same consistency as the average deck of playing cards and can be easily sleeved if one is concerned about wear over multiple plays.

The theme is light but very well represented in the game mechanics, artwork, actions and cards. You do get the feel of being on a sinking island and feeling the stress of revising your plans as parts of the island sink into the ocean.

Ease of Adoption

The game is designed for players aged 10 and up, so the rules are fairly simple to learn for even non-gamers. Most players will catch onto the rules in 5-10 minutes. Regarding mastering rules and tactics, due to the simplicity of the rules, frequent players will quickly become more adept at the game after only a few games.

There is no conflict between players built into the game, so this game will appeal to more casual players who do not like conflict. However, like all cooperative games, one or more dominant players can attempt to dictate the moves of others, which could affect the enjoyment of the other players.

Setup and Play Times

Setup is very simple and will take less than 5 minutes for even inexperienced players, as the instructions are clear and concise.
Gameplay generally takes about thirty minutes, so even failures (whether as a result of random card draws or poor decisions) can be quickly forgotten in favor of another game, especially because setup is so fast.

Each turn is very quick, so there are no long delays between an individual player’s turns, especially when each player can always be involved in planning.

Since gameplay is fully cooperative and there is no player elimination, either all players succeed or all fail, which means that no one will ever need to sit idle while others finish the game.

Luck Factor

Using the game’s default rules, everything in this game is randomized, so luck is a significant contributor. Luck is more of a factor in this game than in Pandemic, as the flood cards are shuffled in with the treasure cards at the very beginning and after every reshuffle, whereas Pandemic spaces out the epidemic cards in a more managed fashion by dividing them amongst equally split piles of the starting player deck. As such, a game can technically end after the very first player’s turn with the wrong mixture of cards, tiles and starting locations.

A player’s turns involve mitigating risk by balancing which tiles should be shored up, which tiles can be ignored, and managing their hand, so poor decision-making or excessive risk-taking can definitely result in a game loss.

Replay Value

As previously mentioned, every element of the game is randomized, so you will never play the same game twice. There are also official board layout variants on the web that can further increase replay value.

Suggested Audience

This can be enjoyed by families, non-gamers, casual gamers and even board game hobbyists, though it is targeted primarily to families, non-gamers and casual gamers due to its approachable rules and light theme. For hobbyists and gamers in need of more complexity or a heavier theme, other cooperative games in the same vein, such as Pandemic and Defenders of the Realm, would be better options, though Forbidden Island does work well as a filler game.


Overall, I find Forbidden Island a fun and light game that I feel comfortable bringing into a wide variety of playgroups, especially with family or casual players. Since my playgroups tend to be into deeper and more complex games, I would generally go to Pandemic, Defenders of the Realm or Ghost Stories for cooperative play, but Forbidden Island will still always have a respected place in my collection.

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Gamer - Level 2
81 of 85 gamers found this helpful
“Cooperative treasure hunting adventure”

Unlike the majority of board games, Forbidden island does not place players in an opposing position against each other, rather as teammates. The objective of this adventurous and thrill-seeking team is to venture to a mythical island and claim its fabled treasures. However, the risk they are encountering is great, for the empire known as Archeans, foreseeing this kind of event to come about, designed the island to submerge to the depths of the sea, along with the daring treasure hunting team! It is therefore up to the players to escape from the forbidden-sinking island via helicopter, after having brought all 4 valuable treasures to their possession in time, before the island is lost beneath the waves.

Forbidden island makes use of 24 square tiles to randomly generate the ‘game-board’, which eventually turns out unique on practically every game. The tiles, which are printed on both sides, represent 24 different locations of the island. 9 of them are of particular significance: The temples from where the treasures can be obtained and the heliport, the only means of connection with the rest of the world (only way of escaping from the island). The artwork done to depict those locations is attractive enough in my opinion, although there is an impression of lack of coherence between the various location-tiles. This setting creates a good yet also weird atmosphere for the game.
Besides the tiles, the rest of the game’s components are cards, 4 rather detailed plastic treasures’ figurines, 6 players’ pawn in different colors made from wood and a water level scaleboard that along with a separate indicator keeps track of how much flooded the island is at any given time.
The cards are of 3 different types: The flood cards, supposedly played by the island to pose a challenge to the team of adventurers; the treasure cards, which are to be collected by the players and 6 adventurer cards which bestow each player a unique ability, whose clever use during the game will considerably increase the likelihood of a victorious outcome.

Since it is a cooperative game, Forbidden island expects players to collectively plan their actions, for mutual benefit. This is probably simpler than ideal, as the interaction between players is confined to the exchange of cards and a few other elements on special occasions (like a privilege that is granted from certain adventurer cards). Naturally, players are supposed (even encouraged) to discuss on potential plans and exchange advise.
To my opinion, the game’s complexity is somewhat insufficient, both at the cooperative part, as well as overall. I would prefer it if it featured a somewhat wider array of options, so to offer a greater degree of choices discrimination. An example of this simplicity is that the 24 different locations of the island, with the exception of the 8 temples and 1 heliport, are equal as far as the game-play is concerned. I believe the game would be more interesting if there was some kind of special characteristic to each of the locations, or at least some of them, to differentiate them in practical terms (other than just by the name and artwork) and therefore adding extra variety. By that I am not implying that a game of Forbidden island feel boring; on some occasions however, the correct decisions can seem too obvious and consecutive players’ turn may turn out quite repetitive.
Players take turns in order, choosing how to spend their, up to 3, action points in any combination of the 4 possible actions (an action can be selected several times during the same turn). At the end of each player’s turn, it is time for the island to do its part: A certain number of flood cards must be turned over in order to identify which island locations will become flooded, or even sink and be removed from the game, if they were already flooded.
One of the game’s best features is the adjustable difficulty level; players can choose among 4 different settings. This actually defines the starting water level, with higher difficulty moving it up closer to the defeat condition, meaning that the adventurers have less time at their disposal to complete their mission. However, the water level indicator reaching the final mark is only one of the 4 possible occasions where the team may face failure. So, they will have to be cautious of avoiding several things from happening. For the first 2 difficulty levels, mistakes are quite forgivable, but beyond that (on settings 3 and 4), prudent planning and caution will usually be required for attaining victory.
In Forbidden island, the elements of luck and strategy are existing in a pretty much balance state, slightly closer to the strategic part. The most noticeable aspect of luck and randomness are how the initial ‘board’ setup will turn out and in which order cards, particularly flood cards will be drawn. Memorization affects this game only slightly.

Generally, Forbidden island presents an interesting and enjoyable gaming opportunity that is quick paced, easy to learn and strikes a nice balance between luck and strategy with a good artistic/aesthetic back-up. The variable difficulty level makes it appreciable to players of various experience and/or skill. I only wish there was more variety to it.

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Critic - Level 4
Advanced Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
61 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“A Great Way to Bring Co-Op to the Family Table”

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about discovering the modern era of board games has been cooperative gaming. Having everyone work together is a refreshing departure from the competitive norm of winner-take-all gaming, and is much better at fostering communication at the table. I would recommend many such titles for any number of reasons, but Forbidden Island has a good combination of factors that makes it a strong recommendation for family or “gateway” gaming.

The game “board” of sorts is actually a collection of named tiles, comprising an island where the players will move their characters about, trying to reach certain tiles that hold ancient treasures. Meanwhile, cards revealed on each turn will flood and eventually sink those tiles, causing the team to scramble to collect all four treasures and get back to the helicopter before getting sunk themselves. People who have played Matt Leacock’s other cooperative design, Pandemic, will recognize familiar mechanisms employed: players will have the option to move their pieces around the board, “shore up” tiles that are in danger of sinking, and perform various other actions, mostly dictated by the special power unique to their character.

The components for this game are splendid, especially for the price. The game comes in a decorative tin with a raised design on the lid. The board tiles are thick and sturdy, and the game comes with four molded plastic treasures for the players to hold: completely superfluous but a great bit of chrome for purposes of theme.

Speaking of theme, this game is swimming in it (no pun intended), and it’s a great hook for gaming with family and friends. The rush of exploring a remote island for lost treasure and desperately trying to avoid the pitfalls and survive, is something straight out of Indiana Jones. The special powers for the characters make great sense within their job title, and give the players something to think about when trying to work together. And the increasing rapidity of the sinking tiles really drives the game to a climactic finish as well as keeping the game short.

People who want a game that’s longer or more challenging might approach Pandemic or Flash Point: Fire Rescue first. But for its lightness, Forbidden Island is fun, engaging, occasionally raucous, and at a price point under twenty dollars, the overall value of the game is tremendous.

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Advanced Reviewer
I play black
Bronze Supporter
79 of 83 gamers found this helpful
“A dynamic co-op great for families”

In this light co-op players assume the roles of explorers on a sinking island, trying to collect the island’s treasures and make it out alive before the entire place is underwater.

Gameplay itself is good and light – you move about the island and try to coordinate card-trading with other players so that treasures can be saved. There are several roles in the game (diver, pilot etc.) each with their own special ability.

Every turn a part of the island goes underwater and the rate of submersion increases as the game goes on. This is my favourite part of there is real urgency in your race against the water rising, aided by the visuals of more and more island tiles disappearing from the board.

There are some critical moment where everyone is waiting for a card to be flipped that could make or break the game – there are still two tiles that will flood – is the helicopter pad (which is your only hope of escaping and winning the game) one of them?

Game plays fast and light, usually done in about half an hour. The difficulty is customizable and can accommodate everyone from beginners to masochists nicely. Components are of good quality and the art is very good and fits the theme well.

Due to its easy rules, exciting theme, cooperative gameplay and light duration – the game is great for younger players, being a solid way to introduce kids as young as 5 to the world of board games. Older crowds might not get too much repeated enjoyment out of it.

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I play blue
Football Fan
Advanced Reviewer
210 of 221 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 3
“What Global Warming Can Cause”

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for 2-4 adventurers attempting to capture four treasures. The island is sinking so you must work together quickly. Once collected, your team must escape the island before it is too late!

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
The components are of good quality and very colorful. Player are represented by wooden pawns while the treasures are molded plastic pieces. The board is modular and made up of 24 square tiles. A deck of cards is divided up into Treasure cards (collected to find the treasures), Flood cards (used to see which spaces are in danger), and Adventurer cards (describing each players special ability). There is also a Water level meter keeping track of the overall danger to the island (another game losing trigger) that can be set at variable difficulties. All of this comes in a nice tin box with a decent insert to organize everything.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Each player takes a simple turn consisting of up to 3 Actions, drawing 2 Treasure cards, and then resolving the Flood. A player can take as many of the allotted Actions during his turn. Those Actions are to move one space orthogonally, shore up a tile (flip it from its flooded to normal side), pass a Treasure card to another player on the same tile, or turn in 4 matching Treasure cards on 1 of the 2 matching Treasure tiles to gain that Treasure. During the Action phase, each player represents a specific character that can break a rule in some way, such as the Explorer who can also move diagonally or the Messenger who can give a Treasure card to another player regardless where they are on the island.

After that, a player draws 2 Treasure cards and discards down to 5 cards The goal is to collect a set of 4 in order to claim that Treasure. As this is a cooperative game, you also want to keep cards that could help the other players get to a set of 4 quickly. Cards that match Treasures already collected can be easily discarded as they have no other game effect. There are a few special cards in this deck along with the “Waters Rise!” card (explained below).

At the end of the player turn, he draws a number of Flood cards equal to the current water level. This deck of cards matches each tile of the island. When that tile is drawn, it is flipped to its flooded side. In order to save this tile, it needs to be shored up (one of the player Actions). If a tile is drawn while flooded, it is permanently washed away by removing it from the board. If both tiles associated with any Treasure are washed away before that Treasure is collected, the game ends in defeat. The number of cards drawn are between 2-5 depending on the current water level.

The main antagonist is the “Waters Rise!” mechanic. When one of these cards are drawn during the Draw Treasure Cards phase, a couple of things happen. First the water level goes up, potentially forcing more cards to be drawn during the Draw Flood Cards phase. Second, all of the discarded Flood cards are reshuffled and placed on top of the deck. This ensures that the same tiles that have already flooded will be more likely to flood again, getting washed away.

The game ends when all 4 Treasures have been collected and all players managed to fly off the island. While there is only one way to win, there are several ways to lose. This includes losing the Treasure tiles before treasures are collected, losing the helicopter tile, losing any player to the sea, and letting the water level get too high.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This game is Pandemic-lite, Matt Leacock’s second foray into the cooperative scene. The same basic mechanics are present but the game play has been streamlined and given a more family-friendly theme. The game is also considerably shorter.

While I eventually was turned off of Pandemic’s extreme luck of the draw (being able to lose on the first round and little correlation between difficulty and success), I find Forbidden Island hits the spot. The luck is still present but given the playing time, it feels less disappointing when it stacks against you.

What I like is that it is fast to setup, fast to teach, and fast to play. You don’t have to juggle as much worrying about the slightly more involved “outbreak” conditions in the first game. The water level creates the same sort of tension, without the fear of a really hot spot that you need to focus all efforts on. The board is smaller and movement is much more simple to grasp for new players.

To put it simply, it takes everything I liked about Pandemic, cut all the things I didn’t like, and made a tense and rewarding game experience in a very short time.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
As already mentioned, Pandemic was the forerunner to this game and good next step for someone wanting more complexity with this game platform.

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Master Grader
Novice Reviewer
Amateur Advisor
I'm Completely Obsessed
128 of 135 gamers found this helpful
“Soggy Island or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Flood”

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game of strategy. You either succeed as a team or fail as a team. There is no middle ground. This can either be an amazingly fun experience or a fight in the making.

Every player is randomly assigned a role card. These all provide unique abilities that other players do not have. All of the roles are useful and using them correctly is pivotal to your success.

Once you have your roles, you are now ready to start trekking over the island to obtain the treasure and then fly away to freedom, but that won’t be easy. The island will start flooding instantly. Flooding is the main weapon the island will use against you to hinder your progress and try to ultimately kill you all.

As the island floods, areas of the island are threatened. If an area floods twice without being saved, it falls away forever and is removed from the game. This makes it difficult to travel but even more importantly, if the piece was vital, such as a treasure location, you loose. This makes for some tense moments as it just feels like the island could destroy everything at the drop of a hat if you do not plan properly.

Don’t misunderstand me. The game is winnable. It will be a difficult journey but the payoff is worth it. Work together and you won’t be afraid of getting your shoes wet, or even massive sections of the island disappearing into the sea.

-Incredibly fun.
-Well designed strategy elements.
-Easy to setup and quick to play.
-Tons of replay ability.

-Players must utilize strategy or they will loose the game for everyone. This is not enjoyable for all types of players.

I love this game. The unique strategy elements mixed with the co-op game play makes for a great time. Working together with your friends to achieve an obtainable but difficult goal is exciting. This game does require the players to utilize their abilities and implement some strategies though. The game encourages discussions to assist other players with their strategies to ultimately provide overall success for your group. Not all players are up to this task or find it enjoyable, but if this does sound fun to you, the game will not disappoint. It’s a very affordable game that will be played more than many much more expensive ones.

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Intermediate Reviewer
Copper Supporter
Viscount / Viscountess
120 of 127 gamers found this helpful
“Down to the Basics Review”

Disclaimer: The main goal of “Down to the Basics Reviews” is to show what the game is about, getting down to the basics, the bare minimum necessary to captivated the reader.

So, about Forbidden Island:

1) What it is?
A simple cooperative game where you have to recover treasures before the island submerges.

2) How do you play?
Draw cards, move pawn, flip island tiles, give cards, get treasure, set water level indicator, shuffle cards. Each island tile represents a place on one side and the same place flooded on the other side. At the end of eacher player’s turn, a certain number of water cards are drawn to indicate which tiles will be flipped. If the tile is already flooded it is lost forever. The players win the game if all treasures are captured and all players escaped with the helicopter.

3) What are the decisions that you make?
– Where to move your pawn. You must move to shore up tiles that are flooded, to capture treasures and to be in a better position to give or receive cards from other players.
– Which island tile to flip. You may flip tiles that are crucial to the players: a tile with a treasure, a tile that is part of an important path, etc.
– Give cards to players. Other players may have more of a certain treasure. You may give another card of the same treasure so they can capture the treasure.
– Capture a treasure if you have four cards of it and if you are at the correct location.
– Each player has a different role with different powers. For instance, if you are a pilot you may decide to use the helicopter to go directly to a better place.

4) What is good about it?
The components, box and artwork are really good. The tiles are thick, the miniatures are solid and the box is made of metal. The variable powers of each role demands for group decisions. The simple rules and the short duration of the game.

5) What is not so good about it?
The game is very simple so power gamers will not find real challenges here. You can adjust the difficult (initial water level), but even so the game will not offer many options to achieve victory.

6) What it feels when you play it?
A bit like a bike ride in the park. There are some obstacles to avoid but not that many. And children will probably love it.


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