A Coffee Table Classic.

Forbidden Island on coffee table

I was invited by my brother to join him and some buddies for an afternoon of board games. He’s recently relocated and so we would be gaming at his new place. We arrived the day of to find out we were playing on a coffee table. Now as grownup gamers it wasn’t the most comfortable way to sit and play but we still had a lot of fun!

We played two different games but one stood out as the clear winner of our Coffee Table Classic due to it’s ease of play and format for the available space. It didn’t have a massive board or an avalanche of counters just a few tidy set of cards and tiles. As a cooperative title it played to the coffee table’s size as we huddled to discuss strategy. It also lacked any dice so avoided the short width of the coffee table that was for sure dicey with the best tosses. All of this to say this game is probably in the portable and playable anywhere category for all of the above reasons not to mention it is pretty fun too.

The game I’m talking about is Forbidden Island, a cooperative game for up to four players that has simple mechanics but luck and strategy play critical roles to your success! The game’s flavor text spices this up a bit:

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!

Forbidden Island board game contents
A small foot print does not mean a small challenge.
  • Avg. Playtime: 10~30 minutes
  • Players: 2-4
  • Recommended Ages: Ten and up

The goal is just as the flavor text states: retrieve the four treasures before the island you are on sinks. As the game is cooperative you can only win as a team so working together is paramount! However even with the best communication the luck of the draw can also be pretty cruel. In one out of our three play-throughs our luck ran out early and we drowned in just under five minutes!

The island itself is made out of the included tiles using a set pattern however you get to place the tiles in any position within that pattern you wish. Then you get to choose an archetype that comes with unique abilities, recommend you discuss who wants to be what so you know what your team is capable of, none are absolutely necessary though so mix it up! There are two decks of cards, Treasure cards and Flood cards shuffle these well cause again the luck of the draw can ruin the best laid plans. Then set the water level on your handy tracker, this will tell you how dangerous things are getting and set the difficulty level for the game.

A turn is simple, take 3 actions, draw 2 treasure cards, then draw the number of flood cards equal to the water level. An action could be to move a tile, shore up a tile, trade treasure with another player, or depending on your archetype some modified version of these actions. While a turn is easy making through several of them in time to collect the four treasures on the island quickly becomes perilous as the tiles start to disappear due to rising water and remember if you loose a team mate it’s “Game Over”. Out of the three games we played we only ‘won’ once and even that was seemingly a close call so while the rules are quite simple the out come is all but certain.

Our Recommendation

Would highly recommend this for introductory gaming for ages eight and up especially for family play. Also suitable for a group of adult gamers seeking a game with an easy rule set offering some cooperative challenge but not looking for a lengthy play session.

I feel that the ability to shuffle the board into different combinations of play makes this a pretty solid replay title. Although the play time lends this better to probably more for an ice breaker game rather than one for an all day session.

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About the Author: Buruko

A gamer & father of two who strangely still tries to cram gaming into his busy schedule.