Toy Corner

Forbidden Island Review

Apr 24, 2024

forbidden island board game

In Forbidden Island, you will be cast away on an adventure on a mysterious unstable island, navigating throughout to find lost treasure. I will be looking into this game where I will give you an overview of the gameplay and look at what I think are the pros and cons of this 2-4 player game. 


Forbidden Island is a unique, high-tension cooperative board game where survival truly lies in teamwork. As an expert player, I've been whisked away by a helicopter and dropped on this dangerously alluring island more times than I can count, once as a diver, another as an engineer, and each game has been uniquely thrilling.

You see, the concept is intriguing. You're part of a team of daring explorers dropped on, you guessed it, this Forbidden Island, in what's always a rush job. Your mission? Work in harmony, overcome your differences and collectively explore the unforgiving terrain, locate four legendary artefacts and hightail it back to your helicopter. Sounds uncomplicated, right? Well, dig deeper, and you'll find it's anything but easy.

The catch, and believe me there's always a catch, is that the water level is rising incessantly. Every turn of the tide makes the island shrink a little more, and a little more, until what was once a land vibrant with potential becomes a perilous waterbody. Your only lifeline in this ceaseless waterfall? Shore up the floods as fast as you can, like sandbags against a storm, buying precious seconds to complete your treasure hunt.

Back to the Forbidden Island board game, it's not all despair and panic. Each explorer comes with a special power that can just as easily turn the tide of the game. Picture you're the Diver, sending out a last-minute Helicopter Lift card amid a rapid flood, whisking your fellow engineer to a more advantageous location, or holding the nerve-wracking suspense as you draw a Fire from the treasure cards, it's a series of cliff edge moments one after another.

Overview of Forbidden Island

Diving deeper into the captivating world of Forbidden Island, it's essential to understand the core mechanics that fuel the game's suspense and allure. "Will we survive?" That’s the pressing question that'll constantly tickle the back of your mind.

As the diver, for instance, you've got to make key decisions such as when to shore up the Temple of the Sun with your Sandbags card. With only two Sandbags cards in the deck, the stakes here are perilously high. One misstep and it's all over.

forbidden island board game components

This part of the Forbidden Island review would be incomplete without applauding the commendable efforts put into the physical components of the game. The wealth of detail in each element truly sets Forbidden Island apart in the world of both co-op and competitive games. All of this delightfully comes enclosed in a sturdy, well-organised tin. The vibrantly screen-printed island tiles, crafted with intricate designs, are a feast for the eyes, which for the price of the game did surprise me. Popping out of the box, each plastic treasure piece and wooden pawn screams quality. Not to mention the conveniently durable cards that are easy to comprehend.

Setting up the game for play, "Forbidden Island", is half the fun. As the blue sea turns into a perilous desert and the confident chatter fades to sombre determination, we know we're in for an unforgettable adventure. The island tiles, arrayed haphazardly, mirror the unpredictability that awaits, proving that although we may start together, only true collaboration will ensure we finish together.

The world of Forbidden Island board games is a test of our collective wits and adaptability, and a throwback to the age-old truth that together, we survive; divided, we sink.

Pros and Cons

As a player, I love the thrill and pressure of this cooperative board game. The game is also very easy to learn to play, making it excellent to play with the family.

Moreover, the game's requirement of strategic problem-solving gave depth to decisions made during gameplay and certainly tested our team's ability to work efficiently under pressure, I really found this when you increased the difficulty of the game, on easy mode it is well, easy but playing in this mode first is a great way to get a feel for the game. Whether it's deciding to use scarce resources or figuring out the best way to work with each team member's unique abilities. It's about adapting, responding, and collaborating effectively.

However, my journey through the perilous landscape wasn't without its roadblocks. Once gripped within the game's hardcore gameplay, some less appealing aspects began to surface. For example, there is a noticeable imbalance between different players' roles. The Pilot's unique ability to move across the board in just one action surely trumped the Diver's ability to move through sunk tiles. 

Another hitch was the hand limit which caps at 5 cards. This game mechanic became extremely problematic in small games, especially two-player instances. Possessing multiple copies of two different artefacts and an unfortunate drawing sequence that ensures you get at least four Water's Rise cards— these circumstances proved frustrating and resulted in unwinnable situations through no fault of the player.

Lastly, Forbidden Island's strategic requirements often morphed into more of a logic puzzle than a game. This design choice, while interesting, somewhat undercuts the usefulness of public information such as player hands and discard piles. Consequently, each player's position lost its uniqueness, reducing active participation and leaving me feeling as though I was merely occupying a seat at the table, rather than being part of the story.

Final Thoughts

Overall I highly rate Forbidden Island and I believe it makes for an excellent cooperative gaming experience. With the different difficulty levels, it will surely challenge your problem-solving skills and will provide you with a thrilling ride. For the price of £19.99, I think it is a no-brainer to add to your collection and will bring you and your family together for a special games night.