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Review: Forbidden Desert

Are you a fan of cooperative games? Did you experience the 2010 hit Forbidden Island and GAMEWRIGHT-415fell in love? Well, if so, you may need to try out Forbidden Desert: The Thirst for Survival.

Released by Gamewright games in 2013 and designed by Matt Leacock (Forbidden Island, Pandemic) Forbidden Desert was released as the sequel to Forbidden Island.

Much like it’s predecessor, forbidden Desert is a cooperative game that has the players taking on roles, working together to escape the desert.

The concept

The players (2-5) have crashed their airship in the desert. They must assemble the pieces of the airship that are strewn out across the desert, find the extraction point and escape the desert. All this must be done while a sand storm rages piling sand on the desert and players alike. Further, while the storm makes things difficult, there is also the sun the players must worry about. You win the game by assembling the airship and getting to the extraction point. Here’s the thing, all players must make it to the extraction point. This means no last minute attempts at martyrdom will save the team.

Set up

To set up the game, you randomly arrange the desert tiles on your field of play. The middle spot of your desert is left empty to represent the starting point of the storm. Then, each player receives a role card. The roles represent crewmembers of the airship, all of which have special abilities which can be used to assist your team. From there, play begins.

Game play

The players are allowed to take four actions per turn (move, remove sand, excavate, pick up an airship part, etc.) Once all four actions have been taken, the player then flips over cards from the Storm Deck. A couple things can happen when you flip over the storm deck.

  1. The storm moves leaving piles of sand in its wake
  2. The storm ticks up (as the storm level increases, players will flip over more cards. If the level of the storm reaches the skull and crossbones, it’s lights out for the team)
  3. Or the Sun Beats Down. When this happens, any player not protected (hiding in a tunnel or have some other equipment or ability to protect them) they remove one water from their canteen. If the players have no water left in their canteen … well.. it’s bad.

Play continues like this until all parts of the airship have been found and the players make it to the extraction point and escape.

Seems simple enough, right? That’s what we thought, too.

How you lose

There are a few ways to lose at this game.

  1. A player dies from being out of water
  2. The storm hits the skull and crossbones on the storm meter
  3. There is no sand left to put on the board.

This game is a lot of fun. It is challenging, entertaining, and almost anxiety-inducing. Players have to work together to win, there is no way around it. While teamwork is the main focus of the game, there is a bit of randomness, too. Players have to draw from the Storm deck, and if they hit a run of bad luck, can find themselves with some very unfortunate draws. Our game last night saw us needing one part of the airship and losing to no more IMG_0681sand to place on the board.

The game, although the win condition is always the same, has a lot of re-playability. Because of the different roles and the various ways to lose, each game you play is just a bit different.

The game is designed for 2-5 players and is suggested for ages 10 and up. This makes Forbidden Desert an excellent game to play with family or friends.

Forbidden Desert has been honored with the following:
2013 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Nominee

2013 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Winner

2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee

2013 Meeples’ Choice Nominee

2013 Mensa Select Winner

2013 UK Games Expo Best Family/Children’s Game Winner

2013/Fall Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Winner


© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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