These days Forbidden Island sits on our shelf of shame, unplayed and surpassed another cooperative game title, Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008). In some ways that is very sad as both games are by Matt Leacock, the godfather of cooperative games, and both are good at what they do. Interestingly, I see that Pandemic is rated for ages 8+, yet I don’t think anybody calls Pandemic a children’s game. So why does Forbidden Island not get more love at our gaming table?
Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game that reached the RockyMountainNavy house. It is not a bad game, but in this house a cooperative game needs to build a strong narrative for it to reach our gaming table more often. Alas, this is a weakness of Forbidden Island. Of the several cooperative games in the RMN collection, Pandemic and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) are well regarded, and played more often, because of the highly dramatic story that plays out in the game. Other cooperative games, like Forbidden Island or Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (Mattel, 2016) are more like puzzles with a thin story behind the game mechanics. They aren’t bad games, just not dramatic enough. For us, it is the thought (expectation?) of a great narrative that brings certain cooperative games to the table.
RockyMountainNavy Jr. recently expressed an interest in Forbidden Sky (Gamewright, 2018). The game is the third in the Forbidden Island/Desert/Sky trilogy and claims to carry the narrative of the first two games forward. Not owning or playing Forbidden DesertI cannot comment on the carried-narrative portion. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to this. The question will be is the lure of carried-narrative enought to get a new game, much less two older ones, to the gaming table?
This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year.
I am running this challenge in parallel to my 2019 CSR Awards Wargame Challenge. Between the 20 games there and the 15 here I should have a fun year. Not to mention all the new games I’m sure to get this year….
This year’s visit from Santa featured many games for the family. Some are classics, some will be classics, but all are great.
Teen RMN got the classic Battleship for her middle brother. As we all know, Battleship has little skill or tactics and generally depends on luck. That still makes it OK and fun for the RMN kids as they go head-to-head with multiple battles. Due to the lack of tactical thinking required, this game can be easily played by any age, meaning that even the youngest RMN kid can take on any of his older siblings on a generally even playing field. It also works against the grandparents. This game has been played on a daily basis over the winter break. The kids are even challenging each other to rematches and tracking their overall win-loss records. WINNER!
Santa and DaddyRMN combined to give the youngest RMN kid Heroica: Fortaan and Heroica: Waldurk. Both are part of the Heroica series with Fortaan being the “Basic” set and Waldurk being an “expansion” though each game can be played separately. Heroica is basically a dungeon-crawl game. Each player has a “hero” which is a character with a different special ability. The players must fight their way across the board (map) fighting monsters of different levels, gathering treasures and the like before defeating the “monster king.” The game can be played as a campaign series which allows players to accumulate treasure and gold from game-to-game and buy weapons to become more dangerous. All this sounds like a basic Dungeons & Dragons game, ehh? Well it is, but with Legos! The rules lend themselves very nicely to the 7-10 year old crowd. This one proved so popular with the youngest RMN that he actually used his Target gift card to buy Heroica: Draida Bay. He has also pointed out that his birthday in February would be a great time to get the last expansion…. WINNER!
Another game that made an appearance under the tree this year was Forbidden Island. Forbidden Island is a cooperative game where each player is part of a team that is trying to get four treasures off a sinking island. Each player must use their special ability to benefit the team and all must work together because the island starts sinking faster and faster as the game goes on. Think of a group Indiana Jones adventure! Some people on BoardGameGeek deride this game as “Pandemic-lite” but since we don’t have Pandemic (heretic you say!) this doesn’t bother us. What is important is that all the RMN kids, from the youngest 7 year old to the oldest (16) can – and do – play together. Mommy RMN really likes this game because of the coop format – the kids have to work together to win not try to one-up or out-think each other. They can’t wait to introduce Grandpa to this game too. WINNER!