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Forbidden Desert - Board Game Box Shot

Forbidden Desert

| Published: 2013

How To Play
Gear up for a thrilling adventure to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You'll need to coordinate with your teammates and use every available resource if you hope to survive the scorching heat and relentless sandstorm. Find the flying machine and escape before you all become permanent artifacts of the Forbidden Desert!

Forbidden Desert components
images © Gamewright

About This Game
When we launched Forbidden Island in 2010, we had an inkling that we had created a hit game but never to the point that we’d be prompted to make a sequel. Well, here we are a few years later with just that in hand. Our challenge to designer Matt Leacock was to create a game that would contain familiar elements (cooperative play, modular board), while offering up a completely different in-game experience. In addition, we wanted it to be simultaneously approachable to new players while upping the ante for those who felt they had mastered Forbidden Island. All this resulted in a fresh new game with an innovative set of mechanics, such as an ever-shifting board, individual resource management, and unique method for locating the flying machine parts. Hopefully we’ve achieved our goals and quenched your thirst for adventure!


  • Deduction
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Cooperation

User Reviews (21)

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Grand Master Grader
Guardian Angel
Advanced Reviewer
Rosetta Stone
105 of 115 gamers found this helpful
“Kicks up a cooperative storm”

A swift opinion:
*Great cooperative action that is consistently stressful…and fun.
*Strong sequel with enough variants on the original Island formula.
*Welcoming to newcomers and experts alike.

A video opinion (with Forbidden Island):

A wordy opinion:Forbidden Desert FORCES you and up to 4 others to co-operate when your tiny expedition ship crash lands in the middle of a foreboding desert, leaving several integral pieces of transport littered about the place. If it weren’t for the dry art that surrounds you throughout, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for its predecessor Forbidden Island; the environment is of modular design, the artwork looks like something from a game of Myst (positive) and you play as an intrepid group of explorers who must all utilise their own unique skills in order to survive. However, Forbidden Desert poses a bevy of new threats to players which, although follows the same blueprints as its older sibling, presents an entirely new identity.

Rather than picking up several different artifacts, you and your friends will be attempting to collect parts of your ship in a bid to escape before the desert covers you all in grainicles. Hardened by their adventures on the island, the adventurers now have 4 actions, allowing them to move around the desert or excavate the clumps of sand below them in order to reveal a lost city. If you clear out a tile of sand, you can discover exactly what lies beneath. Certain tiles reveal tunnels which players can use to hide from the NEVER LEAVING sun that might drain them of fluid and thus victory. Others reveal locations that harbour funky pieces of tech that can help your team out of many a jam. The best however, will reveal clues to the potential locations of those ship pieces you’re in desperate need of.

Each attempt to tackle the desert leads to it fighting back. The 5X5 grid has a hole in its center, but rather than representing a Sarlacc Pit, it takes the role of an ever-strengthening sand storm. After a player has a turn, the storm moves around the board via a set of Storm cards. Each move it makes covers the tiles it glosses over with sand, making your job uncovering what lies beneath much, much harder.

It’s this mechanic that I appreciate the most. Whereas Forbidden Island clearly follows the Pandemic formula of co-operation, Desert’s toe clenching tension comes in the form of an ever changing landscape. Everyone’s playing a diabolical lottery of survival this tornado of grit has set up, testing their luck on uncovering the items they need whilst combining noggins in a bid to grab everything they need as swiftly as possible.

Despite most of the threats that the desert presents being out of control of the poor explorers trapped within it, they have a powerful bevy of skills and utensils to draw from. As the desert is constantly changing its layout, players are forced to work at optimal efficiency to escape. Forbidden Desert’s blistering challenge feels like it should be reserved for hardcore teamwork veterans, but as the odds can just as easily tip in your favour as much as they can tip out, it remains as accessible as any of the cooperative classics you’ll find on a shelf.

Of the Forbidden duo, Desert takes the crown for me. It keeps to a familiar formula that has worked well for co-op games in the past, whilst straying far enough away from what we’ve grown comfortable with to keep things uncomfortably tense. It’s a delightfully macabre experience to put your friends through, yet one you’ll likely want to jump into again before too long.

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I'm a Real Person
62 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“Excellent Step Up From Forbidden Island”

It’s difficult to talk about Forbidden Desert and not talk about Forbidden Island. At the same time they are different games and both are excellent additions to any game collection as long as you enjoy co-op games.

Forbidden Desert is more difficult than Forbidden Island but still has the easy to learn but difficult to master appeal.

My favorite game play mechanic in Forbidden Desert is how the board is always changing. Tiles are moving around and collecting sand constantly. The changes on the board depict a ever changing landscape that is true to a sandstorm.

Having two clues to find where a piece of the flying machine is at on the board then having to collect that piece makes every game different and challenging.

Each player managing their water is a very big concern in this game and the way that my fellow adventures and I have lost the game the most.

The components in the game are really well done. The engine of the flying machine is a little metal piece that looks like an engine and the other flying machine parts are made of very sturdy plastic. The tiles are just as thick and durable as the Forbidden Island tiles. The Sand tiles are slightly thinner but that works well for stacking them.

My only very slight disappointment in the components is that the flying machine doesn’t fit back into the box if the propeller is attached to it. If you take the propeller off then the flying machine fits back into it’s place in the insert. This is very minor because there is another place in the insert that the propeller fits into.

Overall Forbidden Desert is a great addition to my game collection and something that my game group, Family, and Friends have all enjoyed playing.

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57 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“A tense, uphill struggle that will leave you pouring sand (markers) out of your boots for a week”

From the safety of the helicopter you survey the Cliffs of Abandon on the horizon as they crumble into the whirlpool. Far below, the sea surges out from the sinking island. You breathe a sigh of relief. Your team managed to grab the treasure and escape … barely. Through your headset, you hear the pilot going on about some lost desert civilization and their flying machines. Apparently your flight path will take you directly over the ruins. Suddenly the pilot cuts his chatter. After a moment, his voice crackles through the headset, “Uh, guys, I don’t like the look of those storm clouds …”


Crawling from the wreckage of your crashed helicopter, your group must work together to find and reassemble a lost airship and escape the Forbidden Desert. But with dwindling supplies of water, and an escalating storm threatening to bury you under mountains of sand, you are in race against time.

Forbidden Desert is played on a grid of desert tiles. On your turn you can take any combination of 4 actions: move, remove a sand marker, flip over and reveal the desert tile you are standing on (if there is no sand on it), or pick up an airship part. Revealing tiles will yield shelter from the burning desert sun, new supplies of water, survival equipment, and the lost airship parts. After taking your actions, you draw storm cards.

Storm cards cause the desert sands to shift, whereupon you physically slide the desert tiles based on the pattern shown on the cards. Then you add sand markers to the tiles that shifted. As the game goes on you draw increasingly more storm cards and add increasingly more sand. Storm cards may also deplete players’ limited supplies of water.

Against such adversity, each player can deploy special abilities based on their respective adventurer roles. E.g., the archeologist can remove an extra sand marker with each remove-sand action, or the meteorologist can choose the next storm card to be drawn. Maximizing the role-advantages will prove crucial to your survival.

To win, your group must locate and pick up all the lost airship parts and then rendezvous at the ship to escape the desert. You lose if any player runs out of water, if you take too long and draw too many Storm Picks Up cards, or if the storm buries you under mountains of sand and exhausts the supply of sand markers.

Watching the sand markers pile up and the water markers sink dangerously low conveys the desert survival theme, while the pieces of lost technology you unearth from beneath swirling sands enchants the proceedings with a whisper of back story. It turns out you would not be the first to meet an untimely end in the Forbidden Desert.

Thick cardboard desert tiles and sand markers, wooden pawns, plastic airship components, and a cool tin game box belie the game’s budget pricing.

+ Dwindling water supplies and rising mountains of sand maintain the tension of an uphill battle throughout play.
+ Punishing difficulty forces you to plan well and maximize role advantages.
+ Strong desert survival theme, simple rule system, and short play time open the game to a wide audience.

– Players’ limited ability to mitigate the effects of Storm cards often results in unwinnable scenarios, which may dishearten people who need to win to have fun.
– Light complexity may not appease gamers looking for a deeper co-op experience.

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Comic Book Fan
Book Lover
Pet Lover
64 of 72 gamers found this helpful
“I've been through the desert on a horse with no name ”

Forbidden Desert is another coop by designer Matt Leacock, along with Forbidden Island and Pandemic. Like these games, central to the mechanics is a deck that people draw from at the end of their turn that ups the ante on a counter as it reaches a critical point. So like all of Leacock’s coop games the clock is ticking and the game gets harder as time passes.
Players assume different rolls, each with unique abilities, and win or lose as a team. Your team has crashed in the desert while in search of an ancient lost city. As the sun beats down and water supplies run low your only hope is to excavate the city searching for parts for a legendary flying machine. As you try to dig and reveal tiles and part locations, the sands shift and pile up, slowing progress and blocking your routes. Once you find all the parts and reassemble the flying machine you can escape together, but if one player runs out of water, or the desert storms escalate to high, everyone loses.

Very similar to Forbidden Island, the shifting sands mechanic makes Forbidden Desert unique. The components are excellent, the airship, while a simple set of props, is beautifully made. The feel of the game is excellent with the option to tweak the game setting harder or easier. And unlike its older brother Pandemic, games are faster and its not the end of the world when you lose – just the end of your team.

A better recommendation for a family game, Forbidden Desert is mid weight of the three, Forbidden Island, if younger players are involved.
We use it regularly as a coop/gateway game. Fun, lighter play for 2-5 players – a great add to anyone’s collection.

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Book Lover
44 of 50 gamers found this helpful
“Wind, Sand and Sun”

One line impression and recommendation:
A surprisingly challenging coop adventure that’s still easy enough to introduce to kids to the idea of working together.
Highly Recommended.

How to play:
Your intrepid party of explorers have been stranded in a mysterious desert ruin by a raging sandstorm. It’s a race against time to collect the parts of an ancient flying machine in order to escape. Each player has four actions per turn allowing them to move, clear sand, excavate a tile or pick up a part of the flying machine. In addition, each character has special abilities which may allow variation from the standard rules and gear cards may be obtained to make your game a little more manageable. After the end of each player’s turn, the storm plays, shifting the board pieces around and depositing more sand. There is also the added risk that it may increase in intensity or the sun will beat down forcing you to drink your dwindling water supply.

Forbidden Desert was a surprise hit for me, my other half borrowed it from a friend and the first time we played we almost put it away thinking it was far too simple. Then I re-read the rules and realised we’d been playing it wrong (only playing the storm after we’d both had our turns instead of after every turn). We played it again and realised it was a lot more fun than we first thought. With two players it’s challenging but still quite winnable, with four to five players however, we’ve found it very difficult and are yet to win a game with a larger number of players.

We’ve played Forbidden Desert with our usual group of test subjects; our gaming friends and the in-laws, and found it was well received by both groups. A note of caution however, this is not a game to play conservatively. After explaining all the ways to lose to my gaming friends (dehydration, being buried alive in sand, or the storm reaching the maximum intensity) they latched onto dehydration as the biggest threat and refused to stray too far from the water source. This meant we couldn’t clear and excavate enough of the board and we all drowned in sand.

I insisted on introducing it to our niece when playing at the in-laws, the age suggestion on the box says 10+ but Little Miss 9 had no problems picking it up and I think you could easily go younger. I thought it would be good to introduce the idea of working together in order to win as a way of tempering her strong competitive streak. It worked. She went from, “I’m going to win and get out on my own” to “Oh, I guess Mummy needs more water” after gently explaining that if anyone died we all lost. My husband thought she’d struggle to understand, but as it’s a cooperative game you can discuss the options each turn with children and they still feel like they’re playing independently.

The game itself is surprisingly good quality for such an affordable price. The desert tiles and sand tokens are made of a heavy board and the flying machine is a robust little model that can stand up to all the putting together and pulling apart. The only thing I felt could be better was the thickness of the playing cards. These are quite thin and show wear very easily. This is likely to be the biggest problem with the character cards as there’s a little plastic marker to indicate your current water level. Clipping this on and off and sliding it up and down may damage these cards quickly without due care. The box itself is designed quite well with a moulded insert that everything fits into very nicely.

I might be going against the majority opinion here, but I think I actually prefer Forbidden Desert to Pandemic. I’ve had much more fun trying to escape the desert than I’ve ever had curing diseases. I suspect it’s the theme which appeals to me, I’m a scientist in real life so I prefer something more fantastic in my down time. We’ve since had to give Forbidden Desert back to its owner but I’ll be looking out for a copy to add to our own games collection and it’s now firmly on my wish list.

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I Am What I Am
Reporter Intern
56 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“A Desert for all ages”

My wife and I both enjoy Forbidden Island and so we were not disappointed when we played Forbidden Desert. Both games are fun to play and easy to learn (Forbidden Desert perhaps a little more difficult)and both offer much replay value.
The rules are quite easy to understand and adults should have no problem understanding them and explaining them to younger players.
The game components are similar to Forbidden Island which in my opinion are very good quality. I did have a card that was marked, but customer service was very friendly and I had no problem asking for a replacement card.
The objective of the game is to explore the desert and find the missing parts to an air ship. Once you have all the missing parts, all players must make it back to the launch site to win. Players must work together to recover the missing air ship parts and the exploration is hampered by water consumption, heat, sand and the sand storm that moves the tiles around.
The game difficulty can be adjusted and I would recommend that new players should start on the Novice level for their first game. After the first game you should have a good grasp of the rules and how the game plays.
This game uses cards to help the explorers, and cards that control the actions on the board (made up of tiles). Tiles are placed face down at the start of the game and must be explored along the way. Each tile has some symbol or picture that represents something of significance (or not).
The game does not take too long to setup and play, so more than likely you will want to play more than one game; perhaps using different characters.
I have nothing bad to say about this game and if I could pass on some words of advice to would be desert explorers, make sure you have lots of water, stay out of the sun and be wary of any sand storms.

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Treasure Map
56 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“Easy Cooperative Game ... Or Is It?”

As mentioned this cooperative game is a great introduction in to the sub genre or even gaming in general. The objective is clear, the gameplay is simple, and there is a lot of interaction that should happen.

The main holdback for this game (and the reason that replay value takes a hit) is that at times the game is beaten rather easily. I have a bit of a hard time pulling it out with my wife because we’ve managed to beat it rather easily together and she views it as boring.

It’s not quite as simple as that though. The longer the game goes for the more difficult it gets. The storm that you’re fighting against only gets stronger as you’re forced to draw more sand storm cards. The difficulty in moving around and the danger of running out of water can be real problems. I have also found that the game is slightly more difficult with multiple players as it’s harder to coordinate and share resources amongst multiple people.

Any review of this game would be incomplete without mentioning the mechanic of the sand storm. As it moves around the very “board” you’re playing on shifts. Your strategy has to be very pliable to keep up with the ever changing circumstances.

The other thing that this game does very well is balance the gear that you can pickup against the dangers you face. The gear can include things like a jet pack, or secret water reserve that all encourage interaction and teamwork. If used effectively you should always feel like you have a chance.

Overall, for it’s simplicity, unique mechanics and ability to inspire that sense of desperation (especially with more players) that co-op games are so good at I’d definitely recommend it.

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I Am What I Am
56 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“Complex, Fun, Surprisingly Difficult!”

I’ve never played Forbidden Island. It looked fun, but, frankly, a bit simplistic. I don’t think it would have quite been enough for anybody in my gaming group. We enjoy Pandemic quite a bit, as it has a bit more complexity, but that game is a bit too intimidating to teach people who aren’t familiar with gaming, I’ve found.

So I requested Forbidden Desert, my wife acquiesced, and here we are. Having played a few games now, I’ve come to a few conclusions. First, the game looks pretty simple. You’ve got your desert tiles, you’ve got your sand, you’ve got your pawns. The first few turns go by pretty quick and simple, but then, suddenly, the game takes a turn and the complexity ramps up. This is tied directly to the storm “ramping up”- you flip more cards each turn as the game progresses, the storm moves around a bunch, more sand piles on, etc., etc.

Of course, this is where a lot of the fun comes in. The early game is a bit simple, but it doesn’t last very long, so by the time you have a turn or two under your belt, the game auto-compensates for it. Because of this complexity, I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I’ve had an obvious, correct move (except when I’m standing directly on top of a piece needed to win). There is always some thinking required to maximize your moves.

Overall, I like it because of this gradual ramping-up process. I’m a bit worried that the increase in complexity will make it difficult to teach to younger players (That’s one of the reasons I picked this game), but it still manages to engage players that would grow bored fairly quickly if the game stayed the same.

The game has all of the pros and cons of a cooperative game, which might sell you or warn you away from this game, but I’ll leave that to others to discuss.

TL;DR- Starts simple, increases difficulty as game continues, makes for a challenge even for more experienced gamers.

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Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
oddball Aeronauts fan
62 of 71 gamers found this helpful
“A pretty gritty city”

Matt Leacock designer of Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert seems like a nice enough chap, I can only assume he was picked on as a child, maybe he always lost those family games of Monopoly. The reason for this? Well take a look at his board game output it resembles a 70’s disaster movie marathon, in fact that’s it! Matt Leacock is board games very own Irwin Allen. His design output has predominately been co-op games, bloody merciless, vicious, take no survivors co-op’s with the players against natural disasters or rampaging viruses, all we need now is an earthquake or killer bees and he’s done the lot. Somebody somewhere wronged this man and he’s been seeking a reckoning for this against any poor passing slob who happens to pick up a meeple.

So Forbidden Desert is the sequel to Forbidden Island, a game that saw players desperately trying and often failing to escape a rapidly sinking island. Not content with that horror show we are now transposed to an ancient desert dwelling city, beset by constantly shifting sands and howling storms threatening to bury us all at a moments notice this is not a happy holiday. The set up is pure Flight Of The Pheonix by way of Indiana Jones, with players coming over all Jimmy Stuart with a bull whip after carelessly crash landing. Ahead they have the herculean task of searching the shifting dunes to scavenge the scattered parts of a steampunk chitty chitty bang bang style aircraft, glue it all back together and hot foot it outta there.

The game is played on a randomly assembled five by five grid of tiles that our desperate survivors face the unenviable task of excavating by flipping to look below, some may contain cool gadgets to aid in moving about such as the nifty rocket packs or a Jules Verne style vacuum cleaner for sucking up sand dunes. Others may conceal a hidden passage, or ways to shield you from the merciless beating sun or possibly an oasis of life giving water. If you’re really lucky you might uncover coordinates to one of the scattered aircraft parts, track down both of these and they triangulate on the grid showing the location of the lifesaving components.

However there is one problem, sand. Once a player has completed their four actions they draw cards from a Storm Deck, how many depends on what wind force the storm is at. You see it slowly gathers up a head of gritty steam as the game progresses, aided by the dreaded “storm picks up” cards that increase its ferocity. Whenever a storm card is drawn the storm moves in the direction indicated on the cards, the eye of the storm in this case is one empty tile space that starts in the center of the grid but throughout the game will haphazardly meander about, helpfully every tile shifted by the storms passing becomes covered in sand, starting with an annoying light dusting to becoming a gritty pain in my backside burying everything beneath. Once a tile has accumulated more than one layer of sand it’s blocked becoming impassable and can only be interacted with once all the offending sand has been dug out, so freshly discovered parts can become buried or even our adventurers, OK not can, will, WILL be buried.

If you hadn’t already figured it out the Storm Deck is bad, nestled within is further misery waiting to strike like a particular ornery rattlesnake and that’s the “sun beats down” card. So as we already covered we’re all in a desert and you know the thing about deserts, aside from all the bloody sand is that they are hot, and the thing about people getting hot is they get thirsty. So every character starts with a sparse amount of water and when that jolly old sun beats down then they take a sip from their canteens, and when they run dry and this being a team game one goes we all go, its game over.

So there you have it, the game is relatively straight forward to play and teach so its sits nicely at the family level entry point, its a hugely rewarding puzzle to try and solve, and Leacock’s co-op’s are puzzles. This one just happens to be a jumbo 1000 piece set that has an annoying uncle passing every five minutes dumping the contents of a litter tray on you, then stealing that refreshing beverage you just prepared for yourself whilst all the while you are poached under a spotlight.

Components wise this is a home run, it comes with the neat little flying machine parts that actually fit together giving it a cool tactile edge to appeal to kiddies big and small. All of the card and tile art is top notch featuring a thematic steampunk Miyazaki Saturday morning adventure serial vibe, and as the whole venture plays out in under an hour it won’t outstay its welcome. If you’ve kept your distance because of the assumed Pandemic similarities then I can say that these games are like very distant cousins who happen to share the same self destructive gene’s, both want to ruin your fun, but go about that in completely different and dastardly ways.

Its replay-ability, ace components and low threshold to entry already make this a winner, that it can be picked up for essentially peanuts convert it to a slam dunk. If you have kids then this is a great alternative to the usual family friendly dirge that the big box stores offer, and contains plenty of informed choices and nail biting levels of excitement that you’re never going to get in a Monopoly. The fact that this is also a satisfying enough challenge that rufty tufty board game veterans will still feel their noodle twisted by the dusty dark heart of this adventure is the cherry on the top.

Mr Leacock once again we salute you, but I really think its time that you speak to somebody about these issues.

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62 of 73 gamers found this helpful
“Wonderful Cooperative Game”

Forbidden Desert is a fantastic game in which two to four players need to work together in order to find and recover four different artifacts from desert ruins in the midst of a turbulent sand storm.

The mechanics of the game are pretty unique and fun. Each player takes on the role of a different explorer who’s crash landed in the middle of the desert. While moving around the landscape and trying to uncover artifacts and oasis(es?), he or she is constantly trying to avoid both death by thirst and being buried by the sandstorm, which is constantly moving around the board (which is made up of tiles).

The game can be difficult, but there’s some leeway in how easy or hard you can make the game by adjusting the number of sand storm cards you start out the game having to draw every turn. I remember it taking several attempts before I beat the game for the first time, but luckily the game plays fairly short (a long game might take 30-45 minutes), and once you really get the hang of the different abilities of the different explorers you’ll probably find yourself wanting to take more of a challenge.

The components of the game feel nice and sturdy. The tiles and sand pieces are nice and thick and don’t feel like they’d damage to easily, and the artifacts that you have to collect are well-made and fun to look at.

If you’ve played Forbidden Island, this game is very similar, although it has a little bit more complexity in the rules and it’s a fair amount more difficult. Both are extremely fun games and are of a very similar quality. Between the two, I think I probably prefer Forbidden Desert a little bit more due to the increased challenge. I play this game with my friend and her mother, and sometimes her younger sisters. The youngest player in my group is 16, but I could probably imagine someone as young as 8 or 9 being able to grasp the rules enough, especially since it’s a cooperative game and communication and help is totally necessary and encourages.

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Check Out My Favorites
58 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“LOVE this all ages game. Our new favorite.”

This has become the favorite game for my seven year old and I to play together.

I will forgo the rules, you may know how it plays, but I will focus more on how it plays with a seven and even a five year old.

Firstly, my seven year old is a HUGE Indiana Jones fan. He is sold on the concept alone of finding an old artifact in the desert and flying it to safety. At seven years old, my son had absolutely no issues playing this game at full capacity with full understanding of the rule set.

When playing cooperatively with my son, I step back and let him be the Alpha gamer, and I resort more to a consultation / cooperative role explaining the possible consequences. This works perfectly for this game. Also, I “run” the board, i.e. move the tiles, draw the cards, etc. This lets my son concentrate on the task at hand and the strategy involved. He very easily tracks his actions, knows how to use the gear cards and even comes up with strategies that I have never considered which make for a great cooperative play. I also think he really enjoys playing with me, although I will say he really enjoys beating me in adversarial games.

My son really enjoys the different roles of the players involved, and we even cheer when we get our favorite combinations. My son is quite dramatic, so when we die of thirst, he actually even enjoys that quite a bit. The sensitivity of your child to this fate may differ. We tend to have a fun at the conclusion of the game, no matter the outcome. I will say this game can be at times hard to win, but those victories are quite satisfying.

Now, onto my five year old. My five (just turned five) easily understands the basic concept of the game. He even runs the storm tracker and assembles the pieces at the end of the game of the flying machine. He understands the concept of the four actions and that using cards do not count as actions. He is just beginning to read, so he does need help with the cards and keeping on task with his actions. I will say he does enjoy the game, but he is a little more sensitive to dying of thirst than his brother. Warning: Do not play this close to bed time when patience or grip on reality is slipping.

Overall, this is a game that plays quickly, and my seven year old I break it out all the time. Our new go to favorite.

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56 of 67 gamers found this helpful
“A Great Intro to Cooperative Games”

Forbidden Desert has proved to be well worth the price at our table.

In Forbidden Desert, each player chooses a character that has a special ability or abilities. For example, the explorer can move orthogonally and diagonally, the climber can move through buried tiles, and the water carrier can distribute water to others.

The players are exploring the tiled board to excavate the four key pieces to the legendary flying machine. Each excavated tile will reveal a buried ruin of the ancient city or may provide one of the two coordinates for each of the four buried parts.

After each player turn, cards are drawn from the deck to move the sand storm around the board, advance the sand storm meter, and force the players to take drinks of water from their meager supplies. Balancing exploration with your water supply is a continual concern as each character has a different sized canteen.

Overall, I felt the game is very well balanced, provides a lot of replayability and is actually winnable. Everyone is on the edge of their seats by the end of the game to see if we can squeak out a narrow victory.

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Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue
57 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“Good Leacock Title; But I like Forbiiden Island More”

Forbidden Desert (2013) followed Forbidden Island (2010) and Pandemic (2008). Given its pedigree, Forbidden Desert should be superb, but for me it was just “good”. Perhaps I expected too much, or maybe it was too similar to the other titles. Each of the three games has players who work together to complete four objectives (find cures, treasures, or pieces of a flying machine) before losing in any number of assorted ways. Despite the similarities, each has a distinctive theme, and all warrant playing.

I find, however, Forbidden Desert is my least favorite of the Leacock cooperative games. The components are lovely and of good quality, and the tin box holds the components well. The instruction booklet is clearly written and illustrated, and setup takes just a few minutes. I like the shifting tiles that make up the board, and the coordinate system used to find the four flying machine parts. Forbidden Desert lies somewhere between Forbidden Island and Pandemic in difficulty and accessibility.

Like its predecessors, Forbidden Desert has distinct role cards that list each adventurer’s special ability. And like the other games, certain combinations of adventurers are better than others. The sand pile concept was not as engaging to me as disease cubes of Pandemic or the sinking tiles of Forbidden Island. I am not sure why, but the piling sand markers seemed to be and annoyance rather than a fun challenge. I just didn’t feel the same sense of urgency and tension clearing sand as I did treating diseases or shoring up flooded regions of an island.

Again, maybe the four objectives to win while managing chaos theme has run its course with me. Most reviewers prefer “Desert” to “Island”; and it is more complex and more involved. My ranking of the three Leacock coops in descending order is Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and then Forbidden Desert. I own all three, but Forbidden Desert gets the least table time at my house. My family and I love coops, and I look forward to future releases.

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Crab Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
80 of 97 gamers found this helpful
“Forbidden but So Fun”

I love Forbidden Island. It was the game that got me gaming! I still take it out and play. But every now and then, I want something a little more… death defying.

Is it Pretty?
So pretty. So, so pretty. Just like it’s Forbidden Island, this desert is gorgeous. Every tile, component and card is lovingly made. I know this is supposed to be a dangerous and unforgiving wasteland, but I would still love to visit this underground ruin. It even comes with a little ship! They could have just told us we were making a ship, but they gave it to us! From cover to the instructions, this is a great looking game.

Who’s it For?
People who enjoyed Forbidden Island and thought it was too simple. Or maybe people who like Pandemic but think it’s too hard. For families and friends who like working together. And you do have to work together, because it’s not a cake walk. You’ll find yourself closer to death than you’d care for. Like Island, this game feels like an adventure so if that’s what you’re looking for its right here.

Why is it in My Collection?
Because I love games that feel like an adventure and allow for a sense of role playing, without requiring it. This is a game that allows for this story,
We had collected all the pieces and were making our way to escape the desert and my wife was the only player left to get to the home tile. She used her turn to to make her way to us. But then she had to draw the desert shift cards and the tile she’s standing on gets moved, further away from us! From across the desert (table) I yell out to her but there’s nothing I can do. Thankfully, her brother has a jet pack and saves her! But for that one moment, all I could see was the sand storm coming down on us.
End story.

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61 of 79 gamers found this helpful
“Harder than Forbidden Island”

If you played Forbidden Island and you really enjoyed it and you also beat it enough times to say that you are ready for the next challenge, then Forbidden Desert is the next best thing.

Matt Leacock has taken the base game mechanic but tweaked it enough so that there are enough changes to create for a new gaming experience. What I love about Forbidden Desert is not only is it more challenging but the way it is more challenging is spread out through the game in a very thematic way.

If you are in a desert, you need to find a way to get out but if you if a sandstorm keeps on coming, you will get buried alive or the sun will just make you die of thirst. This is why you and the rest of the players have to start working as a team to start finding those ship parts so that you can fly out of there. The desert and the sun is very unforgiving and it will beat you down with the force of mother nature.

Just like Forbidden Island, I love that there’s a sense of urgency. There’s no time to waste so each action you make really needs to count because once that sand starts building up, you are going to have more work cut out for yourself. And even though you think you are winning when you have all the ship parts, you might run out of water and die of thirst. So there are many aspects to consider. It is not just about excavating land tiles and then seeing whats underneath but also a lot of teamwork and communication needs to be done for your survival.

This another great game from designer Matt Leacock and is a must have for fans of cooperative gaming.

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Old Bones
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
55 of 74 gamers found this helpful
“Great Family Game for younger kids”

My family plays this game at least once a month and always has a great time. Our 8 y/o daughter loves the game, especially putting together the airship. We recommend this game to our friends with younger kids (7+) as a perfect starter game to introduce cooperative family gaming.

We starting with forbidden island a few months before reading about this game and now when given the choice this game is always picked over forbidden island. Both games are great for us, it gives us a chance to let our daughter explore ideas of how we should best cooperate, it reinforces row/column logic for locating the hidden pieces, it gets tense and we only win about 50% of the time so we show her it’s okay to lose if your having fun.

Highly recommended for family play. As an older lifetime gamer it doesn’t exactly thrill me but watching her play and the laughs we get out of it when the storm blows our plans up is worth it.

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55 of 80 gamers found this helpful
“If you like Forbidden Island and want to take it to the next level...”

This game has some obvious similarities to Forbidden Island. While the game definitely feels like a sequel to the smash hit board game, it definitely raises the stakes.

With the added difficulty of managing your water it is quite easy to get overwhelmed and have someone lose water. If someone loses all their water, they die, if they die, you lose. It is a super light co-op game, but it still can be difficult. My group is a bunch of people who have been playing games for a long time. Whenever we break out Forbidden Desert for just a light filler, it can take us down.

It will test you, pro and am alike.

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55 of 84 gamers found this helpful
“Fun but Frustrating”

Forbidden Desert is the predecessor to Forbidden Island. This is a cooperative game where the players uncover parts to create a flying machine to escape the desert.

The game mechanics are very much the same as Forbidden Island but instead of raise a sinking island, you are trying to remove the sand from the desert. I enjoy the cooperative nature of the game and the fact that each player is taking on a different character with a unique ability.

The game is easy to learn and setup is quite easy. The components are very colorful and go very well with the game.

The only aspect of the game that does not work well is the sandstorm. Sand accumulates very quickly and it takes a lot of planning to remove efficiently. We’ve played 5 games and were only able to win once. 3 of the games were played on the easiest setting.

Even though I like the game, I feel that it is too frustrating for casual gamers to enjoy.

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Gamer - Level 5
Z-Man Games fan
56 of 86 gamers found this helpful
“Dont lose your hope, have fun.”

In Forbidden Desert your flying ship has crushed into a desert, sand storms move around each turn and bury its parts, sun beats down and you loose water from your flask and even worse, storm picks up and brings more sand to bury you, but you are a band of adventurers and desert some times shows mercy on you, and you may find water but beware of mirage, some times you may find useful items to get rid of sands, don’t lose your hope! You need to find and fix your ship and scape.

Though the game is super easy to learn but wining the game is extremely hard. The more people in the game the harder game you will experience which is a logical bug for it (why time goes faster when more people are in the game), this much of difficulty which is not fair will reduce the fun to play this game, specially when you can’t even win the game on the rookie level.

Components are cool! *Game mechanic is unique but not balanced!*
After many games I need to confess that the game is absolutely balanced! But it is hard to master the game. Now I adore this game.

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55 of 85 gamers found this helpful
“Lots of Fun”

Co-op games can be more entertaining than vs. games (that is players vs players). I believe winning the game could be based on luck and or strategy as well as playing cooperatively. The game board, or playing area is always changing. I really enjoy this game. I’ve even played it solo several times.

I do wish the theme was different and that the components to build the flying machine did not look so much like a toy except for the engine. Also, several of my board tiles seemed to have wear on them before I even played, and some had white markings on the sides.


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