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    Review: Forbidden Desert

    November 24, 2014

    Forbidden Desert is the sequel to Gamewright’s 2010 co-operative hit Forbidden Island. While it brings many similar mechanics back to the table, it adds enough new twists to stand proudly beside its older brother and even surpass it in some areas. An average game will take 2-5 players around thirty minutes, and is generally easy to learn for ages eight and up.

    In Forbidden Desert, players take on the roles of characters within a hearty band of archaeologists who have crash-landed in a treacherous and turbulent desert while searching for a fabled ancient flying machine. Now their only hope of survival is to unearth and assemble the four parts of this great flying contraption before they, too, find themselves buried deep beneath the sand. Unfortunately the players have no idea where the airship or its pieces are, and the desert can be a very inhospitable place.

    I’m going to take a moment here just to say that Forbidden Desert does an excellent job instilling a sense of atmosphere with its theme and art. Choosing to forgo the bright candy-like colors of its predecessor, Forbidden Desert’s thematic production makes you feel adrift in a chaotic, sun-bleached desert; lost amidst the shifting dunes but for the dwindling strength of you and your team. As you set up the randomized tile grid that makes up the core of the game, you’ll look down upon the pale expanse in front of you and might even feel your feet sink a few inches into the sand…

    The core of Forbidden Desert’s gameplay is focused on players taking turns moving around on a 24-tile grid, digging through piles of sand and flipping over excavated tiles to see what treasures lie beneath. On the bottom of each tile is one of a number of helpful items ranging from hidden wells of much-needed water to clues that will reveal the location of a piece of the legendary airship. One never quite knows what will be found, but time is of the essence due to the limited supply of drinking water. Uncover two clues for one of the four airship parts and the team will be able to collect it. Collect all four parts to power up the ship and sail the sky to freedom!

    But be careful – after each player’s turn, the Desert gets to take a turn of its own as dictated by events pulled from a deck of environmental hazards. These events will shift the geography of the Desert, pile on heaps of sand all around the board, and slowly cook the players alive with harsh sunlight that parches the players’ throats. Escaping the Desert is no simple task, and to accomplish this Herculean feat the players must work together in the face of adversity, using their distinct abilities to address the many possible dangers. When a player starts to dehydrate, others will be required to meet up with him on the map and supply him with some of their precious water. Should a player be stranded out alone in a sand bank, the rest of the team will need to come the rescue. And should a player find a clue that reveals the location of a piece of the airship, everyone will need to work together to find and collect it quickly.

    Equipped with a very limited supply of water that dwindles away as time elapses and facing down a vortex of sand that chaotically impacts the board and grows more violent as the game moves along, it’s up to you and your team to protect each other long enough to assemble your airship and escape. Forbidden Desert is an excellent, immersive co-operative experience for people new to gaming and board game veterans alike, encourages tactical problem-solving and communication between players to beat the board. It’s been wildly popular since its release, and it’s easy to see why. Like its antecedent Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert definitely belongs on everyone’s gaming shelf.


    If you like: Forbidden Island, Pandemic, Shadows Over Camelot
    You’d definitely enjoy: Forbidden Desert
    MRP: $24.99
    Designer: Matt Leacock
    Produced by: Gamewright