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Subject: An anticlimactic 2p session rss

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Jeff Warrender
United States
Averill Park
New York
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My daughter and I, fresh from a disappointing early exit from Castle Panic, in which a giant boulder took out our last remaining tower, were looking for a quick dose of redemption, so we ventured to Forbidden Island, our first time playing with 2 players.

The first half of the game was lively and exciting. We found the 2p version has some great challenges. Deprived of 4 of the special powers, you have to really work to maximize the benefit you get from the powers you do have (and we drew ours at random, selecting the Navigator and the Engineer). And more importantly, you only have a carrying capacity of 10 cards between the two of you, meaning that you're probably only going to be working on 2 treasures, or perhaps 3, at a time. We drew some helicopter cards early, and were able to use those to compensate for our limited reach, to send the Engineer all around the board, shoring up tiles. And the navigator was able to funnel artifact cards to the engineer to quickly collect the Earth statue. In the second time through the draw deck, some fortuitous drawing put us in position to collect the blue chalice and the winged lion, which were at opposite sides of the board, but in the middle were Fool's Landing and the Cave of Embers, both of which kept flooding and both of which we needed to stay afloat to be able to complete the game. So, we stayed in place, shoring those up until we had seen two of the Waters Rise! cards come out, then made a break for it, sprinting to the Howling Garden and the Coral Palace to claim the 2nd and 3rd treasures.

But then the game stalled. In our 3rd time through the treasure deck, we drew two Waters Rise! cards almost immediately, pushing the water level to one below the max (we were playing on Novice level). We had three Fire cards, all in the Navigator's hand, and she was parked on the space between Fool's Landing and the Cave of Embers, just waiting to draw that fourth Fire card. We basically just sat there, shoring up one of the adjacent tiles if it happened to flood, but really, there was nothing we could do except wait and see whether the final Waters Rise! card would come out before we drew the last Fire card, collected the Artifact, and made it to Fool's Landing. As it happened, the Waters Rise! card came out before the Fire card was even revealed (the final 2 Fire cards were the last cards in the draw deck), so we didn't even get the satisfaction of making a run for it.

This session really changed my perception of Forbidden Island. I like a lot of the things that the game does, and the tension of playing, but really, it's just a game of creative stalling. You're simply trying to hold on long enough to avoid losing the game, until the draw deck puts you in a position to win. I don't like that there isn't anything you can actively do to win. There isn't even much you can do to prevent losing -- you can keep the island from sinking out from underneath you with aggressive shoring up, but ultimately, the Waters Rise! cards force you to lose, whether you have had the opportunity to win or not.

I think/hope this situation may be worse in the 2p game, where the hand limit forces you to discard cards the first and sometimes second time you see them, which puts you in the position we found ourselves in. I think that's probably part of the challenge, but overall, the experience of waiting for the entire third deck to exhaust to see whether we would win or lose was pretty anticlimactic. I hope it's an outlier session.
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Matthew Roskam
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Birmingham
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Due to the extreme swings a truly randomized deck can create, it is inevitable that Forbidden Island will create from time to time an almost unstoppable loss and also, the occasional easy victory. I was teaching this game to my brother-in-law in Florida and Fool's Landing sunk on the fourth turn, and there was nothing we could do about it. He looked at me like "that's it? It's over?...we didn't even get to do anything!". Despite my protests that this was a really good game, we brought another game out and that was it. But I know from multiple plays (especially on my iPad) that this is a really great game. Throw out the extremes you will experience from time to time, and you are left with a great race against the clock game that most of the time, rewards really clever strategies very well. This game is much more than a ride on the random waves. Stick with it, and thanks for the great report!
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Kevin B. Smith
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Mercer Island
Washington
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With 2p, I go in with the assumption that we must get 2 artifacts in the first pass through the deck, and the other 2 in the second pass. I'm not sure we have ever gotten into the 3rd pass, since we usually (always?) win or lose by then.

We have gotten into short "stalls", but they have never lasted more than a few turns. Certainly not a whole pass through the deck.

When playing with first-timers, I will sometimes "cheat" and make sure Fool's Landing is near the middle of the board. And if it is one of the initial cards drawn, I might explain the grief that might cause, and let the group decide whether to choose a replacement card and shuffle Fool's landing back in the deck.
 
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Dave C
United States
Oceanside
California
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definitely the first time you play draw the 6 initial flood cards without having Fool's Landing in the deck.. then shuffle it into the remaining cards and start the game.
 
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