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Tips & Strategies (49)

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Video Game Fan
Comic Book Fan
72 of 72 gamers found this helpful
“Teaching First-time Kids (or Adults)?? Use this guide!”

I just recently have have taught this game to a few groups, one in particular was a group of 7-8 year olds at a summer camp. Teaching a group a board/card game can be tricky business. Tell too much too fast and they’ll get confused. Tell too little and they may miss some of the fun intricacies of the gameplay. Most important, how do you break down the rules and gameplay in the right order to ensure good comprehension? Yes, using the rulebook as a model is a great idea however, that may take a bit too long (remember, I’m teaching kids with short attention spans, but fortunately with minds like sponges!) Intro-ing the game in this order also helps set it up as you take each part out of the box and explain it.

Here’s what I did to get everyone pulled in and ready to play:

Before I open the box, I tease them with the story/object of the game to build excitement and curiosity!

I show them a couple pieces of the island and they each has 2 sides and tell why that is. Then I build the island.

I introduce each treasure by name and place them in each corner, telling them these are what WE need to work as a team to capture.

4. THE TREASURE DECK (treasures only)
Show them the four different treasure cards and explain how they’ll need four of each to capture the designated treasure. Remind them we are working as a team and thus some players may capture more than one, others none, and that’s okay! Tell them they will be receiving 2 treasure cards at the end of their turns.

Point to the treasure locations on the map. Tell player that once they get their 4 treasure cards, they need to get to that space to capture the treasure.

Show how there is one flood card for each location on the map. Explain about what happens when those cards come up. Tell them they will be flipping flood cards at the end of each of their turns.

Explain how the flood meter works. Show them that there are WATER RISES cards in the treasure deck and when those come up, the meter moves. Explain that the number of flood cards flipped at the end of the players’ turns increases as the meter moves.

Explain how players can choose three of any combination of the 4 different actions available to them. A)Move- show what this means B)Shore up- demonstrate this C)Give a treasure to another player or D) Capture a Treasure [if you have the cards] Remind them that at the end of their turn they get two treasure cards and they have to flip the designated number of flood cards.

They are almost ready to start playing, but first…they need their roles. Randomly hand out roles (or not if you want know which role would be good for them heheh) Explain that the game can be won with any combination of roles. Go through each player and explain their role to them. Finally, show them where to place their starting piece on the island!

10. FTW!!!
Remind them how to win the game (getting to the chopper with the treasures) and what can prevent them from success (flood meter, sunken Fool’s Landing, etc.)

Now you’ve set the game up and you’re ready to go!

–Tell them they will see some special action cards come out of the treasure deck (Helicopter Lift, Sandbags) and you’ll explain what those mean when they come up.

–Elaborate on the rules when the appropriate time comes up.

–Set the meter on Novice for the first time to practically guarantee a successful first-time adventure! They’ll be coming back for more!!

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I play black
Guardian Angel
Platinum Supporter
Marquis / Marchioness
171 of 173 gamers found this helpful
“The Smallest Islands Make You Legendary”

While Forbidden Island is quite easy on the lower levels, once you’ve graduated to “Legendary” you have little margin for error. It’s even possible to lose with a perfect strategy if 2 of the Waters Rise cards shuffle to the top after you burn through the treasure deck. To maximize our chances, we always spend a few minutes analyzing the island before we begin play.

We start with Fool’s Landing, and draw the smallest possible path to the closest of each of the 4 treasure locations. Any piece that lies on that path (ideally between 7 and 10 tiles, and hopefully more square than line) is imperative to save… but we let everything else sink. Secondary treasure locations can flood, and we won’t lift a finger. It doesn’t matter if the middle of the board becomes rife with water… we won’t save it if it’s not on our path.

We now play not just to win, but to win with the smallest amount of the island left. At the lower levels, you will frequently win with 18 or so of the 24 island pieces remaining. On “Legendary”, our personal best is just 6 pieces remaining… it was a close call, and thus a highly memorable game.

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Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue
27 of 27 gamers found this helpful
“Make it Easier for Beginning Younger players...”

Nothing can inspire confidence and boost interest in a game than early success. This is particularly true with newbies and young players. Start the game on novice, and flood only four tiles. It will almost guarantee a win, and it will allow new players to focus on the different types of actions. Let them see the goals and strategies before the real chaos begins. After the first game, step up to five, then six flooded tiles.

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Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue
52 of 53 gamers found this helpful
“Five Essential Tiles...”

Fool’s Landing and one of each of the treasure tiles are all that you need to win the game. Choose among the two treasure tiles for each treasure based on their proximity to Fool’s Landing. Of course you will need to keep a clear path to Fool’s Landing, and shore up as many tiles as possible. That will keep the flood deck thick and reduce the odds that one of the essential tiles floods or sinks.

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Smash Up: Dinosaur Faction Fan
58 of 61 gamers found this helpful
“Don't forget the most important action”

Shore up, shore up and shore up

In our first game the game beat us because we forgot to shore up the treasure spaces because we were so worried about trading cards for that treasure. I was so disappointed when I watched the treasure I had just got all 4 cards for sink. Whoops.

We also let my son pick the type he wants to be from the randomly drawn cards. It makes him happy to have right of first refusal.

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Critic - Level 5
Professional Advisor
Expert Reviewer
Marquis / Marchioness
56 of 59 gamers found this helpful
“Variant layouts”

Building on a previous item by ‘ccmonter’, there are a number of variant layouts that have been designed for Forbidden Island, of varying form and difficulty.

Ten such variants have been “officially” released. They include:

Island of Shadows – 4×6 rectangle

Volcano Island – Square with empty middle

Island of Death – Cross-like

Bay of Gulls – Bird shaped

Bone Island – Bone shaped

Coral Reef – (I’m not sure how to describe it so it makes sense, helically shaped???)

Skull Island – Skull shaped

Bridge of Horrors – Two islands connected by a two tile bridge (my favorite!)

Atoll of Decisions – More or less a circle, quite difficult!

Arch of Fate – Arch/Boomerang shaped

Check here for sketches and more discussion (and many user variants)

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Rated 25 Games
16 of 16 gamers found this helpful
“Help! I need a helicopter lift!”

while it can be easy to use your “Helicopter lift” treasure cards to get players together to trade cards or move to a location to pick up a treasure don’t forget that at least one player has to have one in their hand to get you off the island to win the game! You don’t win just by getting back to fools landing you also have to escape the island!

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Cooperative Game Explorer
Gamer - Level 3
51 of 54 gamers found this helpful
“Balancing difficulty with a simple rule change”

Sure, you win a lot. But, if you move the Waters Rise meter too high, there just isn’t enough time. So, start with the Meter at Legendary or higher, but with one simple change: allow for TRADING cards instead of simply giving them. I.E. you give one, and receive one card to another player on the same tile. We played with the Messenger still only being able to GIVE on their turn.

Trading hasn’t been used enough to make a huge difference, but it lets you start out at a higher difficulty, but I think skew it back just enough.

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Subscribed to BG News
113 of 120 gamers found this helpful
“Campaigning on the Island(s)”

I wrote an article about turning normal board games into campaigns a few months back, and Forbidden Island was a great game to lend an overarching continuity. This is just an excerpt, but it explains the basics of how to play a Forbidden Island campaign.
For the full article, go to:

“When Forbidden Island was released, there were a few minor differences between the German version and the English version (as there is with many games.) Namely, the German version contained a page of variant islands that could be set up in place of the traditional board. These variants are more conceptual and less balanced, which means that the challenge flies through the roof on a few of them (the biggest decision in the Atoll is when to flip the table and go watch Mythbusters instead of playing.) Forbidden Island already has a lot of replay value with the adjustable difficulty scale, the unique character types, and the randomly created board. But these extra islands transform that replay value into something greater: the opportunity for a super-nerdy story campaign.

My fiance and I have been doing the following:

– We are playing each island in order, starting with the Island of Shadows.
– We use new characters each time until we have used all six, at which point we reshuffle the roles and start again with new team combinations.
– If we ever lose a game, those characters have drowned and cannot participate in the rest of the campaign.
– If all the characters drown, then we just bring them all back to life as the plucky apprentices of the late experts and keep playing. But we feel very bad about ourselves, like someone who adopts the same breed of dog after their old one dies and gives it the same name.

It’s a campaign that doesn’t skew the balance, but does impose a glorious sense of tension onto each playthrough. Every time I draw the Explorer at the beginning of a game I cringe, because I love the Explorer so dearly and just can’t bear to lose him. Let the Diver be sacrificed to the fell gods of the sea, I proclaim, he loves it down there in the murky blackness! Just leave me my precious Explorer with his clever diagonal mechanics!”

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Cross Hares fan
I play purple
65 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“The dreaded Waters Rise! card”

When playing with young children, who might get frustrated with frequent losses, I sometimes will only include 2 or 3 “Waters Rise” cards in the deck until they are old enough to accept the challenge of actual gameplay. It keeps them interested without getting upset. Please note: this tip does not, I repeat, does not, apply to adults. 🙂

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Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
AEG fan
Mage Wars fan
14 of 14 gamers found this helpful
“"Once Around Rule"”

To help curb some peoples instinct to Quarterback, I suggest only helping new players with their first turn. After a full run around the table, it is best to let people learn by experience.

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Professional Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
34 of 36 gamers found this helpful
“Shift your focus”

Early in the game every temple, their connecting tiles, and fool’s landing is always important to be above water. However, don’t try to keep the whole island afloat. You can always “afford” to lose one of each of the temples, so long as you can reach one of them to get the treasure. Of course, you can never afford to lose fool’s landing or both temples of a kind if it’s treasure isn’t found.

As treasures are discovered, shift your focus to protecting the remaining temples and fool’s landing.

If you have a diver, you can afford to lose a connecting tile, so long as the diver is nearby to swim across.

Position your team to where everyone can easily shore up tiles without having to go very far.

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I play green
44 of 47 gamers found this helpful
“Class Abilities and Focus”

Use your class abilities constantly. If you aren’t, you’re ultimately going to lose, or cut it much closer than you should. Class abilities are all essentially cheats that the designer wants you to use. Using your abilities is how to quickly and safely get off the island!

Secondly, focus your efforts. Your hand limits are deliberately small. If you cannot hold the cards for both the red and the yellow treasure, pick one treasure, focus on getting it, and discard the other cards. If you move quickly enough, the cards will come back around in the deck quickly enough to survive.

Focus also applies to the treasure in the first place. It’s too hard to save both of the potential treasure spots. Pick one, and devote all of your efforts to keeping it around until you can grab the treasure.

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My First Game Tip
29 of 31 gamers found this helpful
“Avoiding a watery grave.”

Some tiles are more important than others. This however does not mean you should neglect outlying pieces of the island and let them sink unless absolutely necessary. When the tile goes so does the card, this means every tile lost will make the flood deck more dangerous. Position your team wisely to cover areas likely to sink, you will know what cards are coming after a waters rise pops up so get ready to start shoring up.

Take into account which color cards you and your team mates have as to where you go to minimise travel to temples when you complete a set. The scuba diver becomes very powerful late game use this to your advantage. Do not be afraid to use your Helicopter lifts on the first turn through the deck. Avoid wasting Sand Bags they can be the difference between victory and certain defeat. Make sure to focus on what cards you can hand in if you have discarded 2 of a color you will have to wait for the deck to be reshuffled try to avoid this if possible.

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Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue
29 of 31 gamers found this helpful
“Shore Up Everything..!”

Try not to “waste” and action on your turn. Shore up (flip) any flooded tiles you can, as a flooded tile can be lost on a “Waters Rise” card draw. Keeping tiles in play, even if they aren’t essential, decreases the chance of losing more of the island to rising waters. They may also become an alternative route to Fools’ Landing once the four treasures are recovered.
Share this game with family, friends, and younger players. It is an excellent gateway to bigger things.

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28 of 30 gamers found this helpful
“Five player variant”

When playing with 5 players the standard game becomes considerably more difficult because the treasure deck is refreshed so often (so the ‘waters rise’ cards keep coming up).

I tried out a 5-player game where I just removed one of the ‘waters rise’ cards from the treasure deck. It seemed to balance out quite well for beginner players (we were on flooding level 5 at the end) although I suspect it might make things very slightly too easy.

See also Okie’s tips above – they might be a little more subtle.

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I play green
Novice Reviewer
I Walk the Talk!
63 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“Treasure Powers”

The treasures are supposed to have magical qualities, so why not make it so?

When you are in possession of a treasure, you can use 1 action and discard a matching treasure card to use the special ability.

The Ocean’s Chalice: Discard one Chalice card and use one action to draw 2 fewer flood cards that turn.

The Earth Stone: Discard one Stone card and use one action to shore up any tile on the board.

The Statue of the Wind: Discard one Statue card and use one action to move any one character to any tile.

The Crystal of Fire: Discard one Crystal card and use one action to have any player’s treasure card traded with another player’s.

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Master Grader
Novice Reviewer
Amateur Advisor
I'm Completely Obsessed
61 of 67 gamers found this helpful
“Sort out the treasure”

Decide early who will be getting which treasure cards. Use the special ability to get the treasures sorted out to the correct players. There is no need for each player to have one of each treasure card.

Trade early and trade often. Work together to get four of the treasure cards to one person and buy the treasure. If you keep a specific person assigned to specific treasures, it will save you a lot of time and effort and allow you to get the treasures faster.

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Professional Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
32 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Save your sandbags for the right time”

Hang onto the sandbag cards to use for protecting Fool’s landing as well as any remaining temples you need to travel to for the treasure. Use them wisely!

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Professional Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
32 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Use helicopter lift wisely!”

Helicopter lift is a key card to your strategy in winning the game. You can’t win the game without it of course! However, in the early stages of the game, it is not as critical to hold onto it for very long. One reason is that you need to maximize your hand for matching treasure cards. Of course, don’t just use it right away. In the early stages of the game, use it to move someone with the right set of treasure cards onto the temple they need to collect the treasure.

As the game draws to an end, be more careful how you use it. There are only 3 of them in the deck. If you need to use it for something other than lifting your team off the island, make sure someone else has one too.

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