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Subject: A fantastic family game, with an easy upgrade path to Pandemic. rss

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Wil Wheaton
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My friend Cal and I went down to Orccon this weekend (02/13/10), and one of the games we were able to play was Forbidden Island, with Matt and his wife, no less.

We met Matt Leacock early in the day, when we played his game Roll Through the Ages. Matt recognized my name from my badge, and remembered that I'd written a blog post about how much I liked Pandemic, so we ended up talking a little bit.

While I was waiting to play Roll Through the Ages, Matt showed me his copy of Forbidden Island, which had arrived from the manufacturer within the previous 24 or 48 hours. (It's a beautiful presentation: a nice metal box that holds all the pieces, which are equally beautiful: the four elements in the game are represented by some very nice minis. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) He said it was one of a very few copies - possibly the only copy - in North America, and he was happy it had arrived, because he was scheduled to run a demo of the game later in the afternoon.

Fast forward to 5pm. Cal and I found the signup sheet, and it was obvious that, as numbers 11 and 12, we weren't going to get to play the only copy of the 4-player game. However, we'd blocked out the time and were interested in the game, so we stuck around and watched Matt run the demo, before the four lucky attendees got to give it a try.

Matt started out by telling the story of the game: Four artifacts are scattered around an ancient island that carries a terrible curse; whenever an interloper sets foot upon it, it will begin to sink beneath the waves. Being intrepid adventurers who care not about such silly things, you've all come to the island to acquire the artifacts and fly off the island before it sinks beneath you.

The players we watched started on the elite level (one down from legendary), and barely beat the game in about 35 minutes. I guess Matt and his wife had some time to kill after, so they invited Cal and me to play with them, which we did, on legendary. (Because, seriously, if you're going to play a game like this with its designer, why wouldn't you play on the hardest setting?)

Gameplay

The island is randomly built before each game from a set of beautifully-illustrated tiles. There's a standard layout, but players could quite easily make clever 8-bit designs, like skulls or space invaders if they wanted to. The players draw different roles that have unique abilities, just like in Pandemic, and place them on the board. Then, the first player (who most recently went swimming) turns over six cards from the "bad" deck, to determine what parts of the island have begun to sink, just like spreading the infection in Pandemic.

On each turn, players draw two "good" cards (which could lead to a "flood waters rise" card - that's bad) and can do up to three of the following actions:

1. Move one square.
2. Shore up one sinking square (squares have three states: solid, sinking, gone.)
3. Give cards to a player on the same square.
4. Turn in four cards to collect an artifact, provided that player is on one of the two squares where the artifact is located.

Players then flip over a number of "bad" cards, from 2 to 5, to find out what tiles are sinking.

Different parts of the island sink on every turn, so players can't just go charging after the artifacts; they'll also have make sure they keep a path open to the helicopter pad (if that sinks, the players lose) and prevent themselves from getting stranded on a square that has no connection to the rest of the board. Every player will have to use her special ability, and they'll all have to work together if they want to have a shot at winning the game.

Bottom Line
The game is described by Matt as, essentially, "Pandemic Lite", and players who are familiar with Pandemic will recognize a lot of the mechanics, from epidemics (flood waters rise) to curing diseases (turning in cards to collect artifacts) to sandbagging sinking sections of the island (one quiet evening, etc.) It's a fast game - we played in about 30 minutes - and just like those classic games of Pandemic, we ended up barely beating the game with very little room to spare.

I really enjoyed Forbidden Island. It's a great family game, suitable for kids as young as 10. It's also a great way to introduce non-hardcore friends, spouses or partners to cooperative gaming, especially because the upgrade path to Pandemic is simple and clear.

Finally,I wanted to make sure that everyone knew this: Matt Leacock is a totally down to earth and really friendly guy; if you get a chance to meet him at a con, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Ryan Walker
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Can't wait to get this one. I've decided this is how I want to introduce my gf to gaming.

Thanks for the early review.
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Jim McMahon
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Cool. I've been looking to find out more about this. Thanks!
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Thanks much for the advanced review, Wil. I guess my question is... understanding this is "Pandemic Lite"... what is different from Pandemic, other than the theme and some simplification of Pandemic's elements? It sounds great and I'm planning to pick it up, regardless, but I'm curious if it's almost entirely a Pandemic retheme or if there's anything more distinct about it.
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Wil Wheaton
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Grudunza wrote:
Thanks much for the advanced review, Wil. I guess my question is... understanding this is "Pandemic Lite"... what is different from Pandemic, other than the theme and some simplification of Pandemic's elements? It sounds great and I'm planning to pick it up, regardless, but I'm curious if it's almost entirely a Pandemic retheme or if there's anything more distinct about it.


Hurm. That's a very good question. It is very similar, as far as mechanics go (that's deliberate, as I understand it) ... I'm sure this isn't a very satisfactory answer, but I guess the fundamental difference is that you get to build a different island every game, so no two games will ever play the same.

Accessibility is a big difference, too. I wouldn't try to introduce a young player to Pandemic, but I could easily teach my nieces and nephews to play Forbidden Island, and both of my kids would have loved it when they were around 8 and 10.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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wilwheaton wrote:
Grudunza wrote:
Thanks much for the advanced review, Wil. I guess my question is... understanding this is "Pandemic Lite"... what is different from Pandemic, other than the theme and some simplification of Pandemic's elements? It sounds great and I'm planning to pick it up, regardless, but I'm curious if it's almost entirely a Pandemic retheme or if there's anything more distinct about it.


Hurm. That's a very good question. It is very similar, as far as mechanics go (that's deliberate, as I understand it) ... I'm sure this isn't a very satisfactory answer, but I guess the fundamental difference is that you get to build a different island every game, so no two games will ever play the same.

Accessibility is a big difference, too. I wouldn't try to introduce a young player to Pandemic, but I could easily teach my nieces and nephews to play Forbidden Island, and both of my kids would have loved it when they were around 8 and 10.


Yeah, I understand. That makes sense and is pretty much what I expected, though I was hoping that there might be some new wrinkles. If there's some modularity to the layout, then that's something different, at least. My girls are 5 and 7 and I'm planning on teaching them Pandemic using this Incredibles variant, but it might be better to lead with this.

Great job on Leverage, by the way...
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Wil Wheaton
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Grudunza wrote:
Yeah, I understand. That makes sense and is pretty much what I expected, though I was hoping that there might be some new wrinkles. If there's some modularity to the layout, then that's something different, at least. My girls are 5 and 7 and I'm planning on teaching them Pandemic using this Incredibles variant, but it might be better to lead with this.
Wow, that looks like so much fun! Nice work.

For what it's worth, the whole feel of the game is more kid-friendly than Pandemic right out of the box, if you care about that sort of thing. I know that my kids would have been more into getting treasures (that come with gorgeous minis they can actually put their hands on) on a fantastic island than the abstract concept of treating diseases around the world.

And then, when they're a little older ... BAM! Pandemic.

Quote:
Great job on Leverage, by the way...
Thanks, man. It sure was fun to be That Guy.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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wilwheaton wrote:
For what it's worth, the whole feel of the game is more kid-friendly than Pandemic right out of the box, if you care about that sort of thing. I know that my kids would have been more into getting treasures (that come with gorgeous minis they can actually put their hands on) on a fantastic island than the abstract concept of treating diseases around the world.

Well, that's a good point, and it's true... they would definitely have more fun with that theme. Thus the idea for the Incredibles thing.

Quote:
Great job on Leverage, by the way...
Thanks, man. It sure was fun to be That Guy.


Spoiler (click to reveal)
I know you were locked up in the end, but are there any plans for a return/escape? I liked the idea of your team being the nemesis of the regulars and you as the "other Hardison".
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Bob
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Glad to hear it's going to be good for the family. I've had my eye on this one. goo
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Matthew Rooks
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Thank you for the nice review Wil! I've been waiting to hear more about this game for a while now, and it sounds like it will live up to the hype. Pandemic Lite, can't argue with that. Also, the pricing is fantastic.
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yegods
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wilwheaton wrote:
Grudunza wrote:
Yeah, I understand. That makes sense and is pretty much what I expected, though I was hoping that there might be some new wrinkles. If there's some modularity to the layout, then that's something different, at least. My girls are 5 and 7 and I'm planning on teaching them Pandemic using this Incredibles variant, but it might be better to lead with this.
Wow, that looks like so much fun! Nice work.

For what it's worth, the whole feel of the game is more kid-friendly than Pandemic right out of the box, if you care about that sort of thing. I know that my kids would have been more into getting treasures (that come with gorgeous minis they can actually put their hands on) on a fantastic island than the abstract concept of treating diseases around the world.

And then, when they're a little older ... BAM! Pandemic.

Quote:
Great job on Leverage, by the way...
Thanks, man. It sure was fun to be That Guy.


i think i'd rather see a return of the "Evil Wil Wheaton".

Haven't played the recent version, but played an earlier prototype -- i think the theme has been changed a bit -- and thought it was a decent Pandemic-lite. it likens well to a cooperative Survive also. I will definitely pick this one up... maybe Matt will have another coming out party for the new game, so i can grab one there. Hint, Matt, hint...
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David Neumann
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yegods wrote:

i think i'd rather see a return of the "Evil Wil Wheaton".


I really just want to see who replaces Al, Alf, what was his name again?

Oh yeah, Aeofel...
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Mike Krajewski
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I love Pandemic and while this seems like an easier game overall, it still is interesting to me.

Any chance you could give us a little more details? I'd like to hear what kind of powers the roles have. Where are the artifacts initially hidden? When parts of the island start sinking, do you flip over their tiles to a "sinking" side or have chits that denote that they are sinking?

In any case, thanks a bunch for your early review! Good to hear that you had fun, especially as a fan of Pandemic.
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Wil Wheaton
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mkrajew wrote:

Any chance you could give us a little more details? I'd like to hear what kind of powers the roles have. Where are the artifacts initially hidden? When parts of the island start sinking, do you flip over their tiles to a "sinking" side or have chits that denote that they are sinking?



The roles I remember are:

Explorer: This player can move and shore up tiles diagonally. Normally, you can only move at right angles.
Pilot: This player can jump to any square on the board.
Messenger (I'm not sure this is the right name): This player can give one card to any player on their turn, without being in the same space.

The artifacts aren't hidden, so you're not trying to find them as much as you're trying to get 4 matching artifact cards to whatever player is going after that artifact. There are two tiles for every artifact, clearly marked with a picture of that artifact, so you know where you have to go to pick it up. Because the board is randomized before each game, they'll never start in the same place.

When you start to sink tiles, you flip over the actual tile. The "sinking" side of the tile is mostly white with pale blue artwork, so it's very easy to see where you're in danger of losing a space.

Did I answer your questions? I'm working on my PAX keynote today, and the CPU on my WheatonIX operating system is pretty close to maximum.
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Mike Krajewski
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wilwheaton wrote:
Did I answer your questions? I'm working on my PAX keynote today, and the CPU on my WheatonIX operating system is pretty close to maximum.


Yes, that answers them and makes sense to me. Thanks, sounds fun!

Edit: fixed quotes
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Железный комиссар
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Well gosh, I'd never heard of this game.

Consider it on the watch-list. Maybe it will be too close to Pandemic, but I'll certainly give it a shot.
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Barry Kendall
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Wil, is it possible that the island will sink in such a way that sections will become separate, smaller islands, possibly segregating artifacts? If so, it sounds as though "The Pilot" will be a decisive character.

Dang it, now you've gone and made me put ANOTHER one on the list . . . .
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Alexandr Sirotkin
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I don't own Pandemic yet but I am considering picking this game over it due to the wonderful art style it has. Given your experience with this game, would it be a bad decision to ignore Pandemic entirely in favor of Forbidden Island?
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Trent Howell
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Grudunza wrote:
wilwheaton wrote:
Grudunza wrote:
Thanks much for the advanced review, Wil. I guess my question is... understanding this is "Pandemic Lite"... what is different from Pandemic, other than the theme and some simplification of Pandemic's elements? It sounds great and I'm planning to pick it up, regardless, but I'm curious if it's almost entirely a Pandemic retheme or if there's anything more distinct about it.


Hurm. That's a very good question. It is very similar, as far as mechanics go (that's deliberate, as I understand it) ... I'm sure this isn't a very satisfactory answer, but I guess the fundamental difference is that you get to build a different island every game, so no two games will ever play the same.

Accessibility is a big difference, too. I wouldn't try to introduce a young player to Pandemic, but I could easily teach my nieces and nephews to play Forbidden Island, and both of my kids would have loved it when they were around 8 and 10.


Yeah, I understand. That makes sense and is pretty much what I expected, though I was hoping that there might be some new wrinkles. If there's some modularity to the layout, then that's something different, at least. My girls are 5 and 7 and I'm planning on teaching them Pandemic using this Incredibles variant, but it might be better to lead with this.

Great job on Leverage, by the way...


Our 6 year old loves Pandemic. In fact he pulls it out and plays by himself once in a while - deciding how many "others" are going to join him and he plays all their turns.

As we started doing video reviews of games we had him do the review for Pandemic. However, we were just testing a few things at that time (Sept '09) and weren't using a very good camera. However, we may go back, clean it up and get it posted too.

So we've have our eye on this one since we love cooperative family games.
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Jim Cote
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TheBoardGameFamily wrote:
Our 6 year old loves Pandemic. In fact he pulls it out and plays by himself once in a while - deciding how many "others" are going to join him and he plays all their turns.

As we started doing video reviews of games we had him do the review for Pandemic. However, we were just testing a few things at that time (Sept '09) and weren't using a very good camera. However, we may go back, clean it up and get it posted too.

So we've have our eye on this one since we love cooperative family games.

Do you know how many thumbs you'll get for a video of a 6yo teaching Pandemic? They are going to need a new color meeple microbadge.
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Thanks for the review — I've been keeping an eye on this one. What's the replay value on this game? I could play Pandemic over and over all day, but some people feel the base game has gotten stale. Does Forbidden Island have enough variety to it for many multiple plays?

Also, does it look enjoyable solo? Always looking for solo games for when the girlfriend insists on her DirecTV fix.
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Wil Wheaton
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Forbidden Island » Forums » Reviews
Re: A fantastic family game, with an easy upgrade path to Pandemic.
Barry Kendall wrote:
Wil, is it possible that the island will sink in such a way that sections will become separate, smaller islands, possibly segregating artifacts? If so, it sounds as though "The Pilot" will be a decisive character.

Dang it, now you've gone and made me put ANOTHER one on the list . . . .
Yes, you have to be very careful to make sure the artifact tiles don't sink, and that there's a path from them from the helipad. Even with a pilot, you can really get into trouble in the later stages of the game as more and more of the island sinks.
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Wil Wheaton
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Skwib wrote:
Does Forbidden Island have enough variety to it for many multiple plays?
I think so, yeah.

Skwib wrote:
Also, does it look enjoyable solo? Always looking for solo games for when the girlfriend insists on her DirecTV fix.
I think that if you have fun playing Pandemic solo, you'd have fun playing this solo, but keep in mind that this is a significantly simpler game than Pandemic.
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Wil Wheaton
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Sirot wrote:
I don't own Pandemic yet but I am considering picking this game over it due to the wonderful art style it has. Given your experience with this game, would it be a bad decision to ignore Pandemic entirely in favor of Forbidden Island?
I think so, yeah. But keep in mind that I *love* Pandemic, so I'm not entirely objective. I say get them both.
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Trent Howell
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ekted wrote:
TheBoardGameFamily wrote:
Our 6 year old loves Pandemic. In fact he pulls it out and plays by himself once in a while - deciding how many "others" are going to join him and he plays all their turns.

As we started doing video reviews of games we had him do the review for Pandemic. However, we were just testing a few things at that time (Sept '09) and weren't using a very good camera. However, we may go back, clean it up and get it posted too.

So we've have our eye on this one since we love cooperative family games.

Do you know how many thumbs you'll get for a video of a 6yo teaching Pandemic? They are going to need a new color meeple microbadge.


We decided to grab the old test video and edit it for a full review. We've now posted the video review of Pandemic by our 6 yr old here.
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