Saturday, July 15, 2017

Forbidden Island Game Review - Great Cooperative Family Game For Learning Strategy

For Christmas 2016, our family purchased a game for the mom component called Forbidden Island.  It has been over 6 months since we started playing it, and it is still the family favorite game.

The basic premise of Forbidden Island is that you and your team-mates have landed on an island that starts to sink, and you and all the team mates have to make it off the island with all the treasures before it is fully submerged to win.

While the rules make total sense now, and are well written, it took us 3 tries (full game plays) to finally get it right.  For example, we were making a mistake about what to do when a part of the island submerges with a player standing on it.  We wrongly played it as, "ooops, you're dead ... we all lose."  This is wrong as the game is clear that you can simply swim to another part.  I guess if we got super awesome at the game, we could make this a "you die" rule to make it more challenging.

The game play actively encourages dialog/table-talk among the players as it unfolds yielding an obvious benefit, then a not so obvious benefit.

Like a real life team, you have to figure out how to work together to pull off the task.  The talking  creates an awesome education opportunity as we discuss the trade-offs, risks, merits, etc. of various approaches during each turn.  After just a few games, I could clearly see the wheels turning in my daughters as they thought through the possible step/game play sequences.  Further, their articulation of why certain approaches may be better has improved too.  This dialog has also another interesting, unexpected, learning opportunity: analysis paralysis.  Our girls can now see so many paths and make so many good arguments for what approach to take as we play that we can simply get too deep into the analysis and be paralyzed.  This has happened a number of times allowing us to discuss the perils of too much too deep and simply not making a choice.

The game is set up such that each player has distinct abilities, which are randomly assigned via player cards, and not all of the abilities are available from game to game.  This particular variable, the
shifting and variance of the ability collection from game to game, helps ensure different approaches to winning are taken each time you play.  This alone gets the girls excited as they wonder which abilities they will get from game to game.

There are so many things that I personally like about the game, such as the names of the island parts (like Bridge of Abandon and Phantom Rock) and the gorgeous/mystical graphic, but I most appreciate is how clever the game flow and rules fit together to create the challenge.  Things get hard at the right times.  Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.

Our 8 year old studying
the rules of Forbidden Island
The game makers suggest ages 10 and up, but our 8 year old does just fine.  Keep in mind, though, she has been playing board strategy games since she was 5.

The difficulty in playing this game is one notch above Monopoly, but two notches below Carcassonne.  Most of our games end in 40 minutes, but could be 20 minutes if we didn't discuss so much! :)

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