The Lightly Seared Board Game of the Year is: Forbidden Island

Looking back at the games we have played over the past year, one game stands out in terms of both popularity and playability.

Forbidden Island is a game for two to six players, played on a board randomly generated from 24 tiles. This board represents a slowly sinking island which the players must traverse in order to retrieve four hidden treasures. This is a co-operative game, however, so the players are not against each other. Instead, they must work together in order to retrieve the treasures and escape the island before it is lost beneath the waves.

It’s not only the co-operative nature of the game but also it’s openness that makes Forbidden Island stand out. All of the cards are kept face up so that everyone knows exactly who has what and who is best placed to deal with whatever event arises. This makes it very much a game about teamwork and negotiation.

The only thing that we have to watch out for, somewhat, is when the older of our three boys starts directing his brothers.

The rules themselves are very straightforward. There is very little to remember and most of this is written on the cards, all of which makes it a very easy game in which to involve newer and younger players. This focus on the playability combined with the rising water / sinking island mechanic makes for a game that is quick to play and, often, genuinely exciting.

Forbidden Island is a quick, easy to follow game that encourages discussion and which keeps all the players engaged all of the time. It is certainly the most played of our games this year, and the most enjoyable.

Forbidden Island

As someone who spent his formative years playing far too many role-playing games, it should probably come as no surprise that I have long found the idea of co-operative games to be very appealing. What is surprising is that it has taken me so long to actually give one of these things a try. But, based on a recommendation, I finally acquired a copy of Forbidden Island a few of months ago — and have been playing it almost obsessively ever since.

Just to be clear here, Forbidden Island is a tabletop game. While I don’t object to digital games, and have even been known to play a few, these come nowhere near to recreating the atmosphere and excitement that can be generated when everyone is in the same room.

The game is played by two to six players on a board randomly generated from 24 tiles and involves trying to retrieve four treasures from a sinking island. If the players manage to retrieve all four treasures and escape before the island sinks, everyone wins. If the island sinks first or the players find themselves trapped, everyone loses.

The board is randomly generated using a set of 24 tiles and the flood cards determine which tiles flood, then sink. The rate of this flooding and sinking increases as the game progresses and it is this that provides the tension and much of the excitement of the game.

Each of the players takes an adventurer card which gives them a role, such as Navigator, Engineer or Pilot and each of these adventurers has a different special ability. And a large part of the challenge is for the players to look at who drew which adventurer and agree how the various abilities can be combined to best find the treasure before the whole party ends up stranded or sunk.

According to the (rather nice, metal) box, Forbidden Island is for 2 to 4 players aged 10 or above. That said, I have played it with the twins (who are aged 7) and they have no problem with fully comprehending and playing the game. This is helped a lot by the fact that the game is both quick to set up and quick to play.

Setting up takes no more than a minute and the sinking island mechanic ensures that no game will last for more than 30 minutes.

This is a great little game and one that really does generate a lot of fun for players of all ages. If you ever have the opportunity to give it a try, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.