Forbidden Desert Board Game Review

forbidden desert board game reviewForbidden Desert Board Game

I haven’t had “game dreams” in years, but last night I fell asleep thinking about this Forbidden Desert Board Game Review, and I had a DOOZY. Imagine… lost in a desert, searching for pieces of my airship, and a storm constantly moving the very board under my feet. Waking up in a sweat is a drag, but… on the other hand, it did make me realize just how involved you can get in this fun cooperative game.

In Forbidden Desert, you and your fellow adventurers have crashed your “Steampunk Airship”… and now you are charged with searching the harsh desert landscape for the missing parts before they are swallowed forever by the shifting sands. Not tense enough? Occasionally the sun beats down so hard that you lose one of your precious water reserves (everyone has a different water Level). Still not enough? Ever turns ends with the storm shifting location… moving the eye of the storm, and piling sand in its wake.

There are more ways to die in Forbidden Desert than to live... but if you work together, you can overcome the obstacles and escape the Forbidden Desert.

Forbidden Desert Board Game Review

I’ve been a fan of Forbidden Island and Pandemic for a few years, and since both were also created by Matt Leacock, I was pretty sure that we’d enjoy Forbidden Desert.

forbidden desert board game review

Different Adventurers have different abilities and Water Supply Levels

Setting up the board is fairly easy… lay out the cards randomly in a 5 by 5 grid with an empty “storm” space in the center. A pattern of sand tiles is placed on the grid.

Players become Adventurers (by choosing from a stack of cards) and use their special abilities or traits to help search for the parts to reassemble the airship.

On each player’s turn, they get four moves. Players can move to a new space, clear sand off of a space, flip over a card to see what’s underneath, or collect an essential part.

forbidden desert board game review

The Propeller piece is placed at the intersection of the two tiles with arrows pointing right/left and up/down

Certain tiles have a picture of a part and arrows on them. When two tiles for a specific part are flipped, the part is placed at the intersection of the arrows…. it stays on that card, and moves with the card until it’s collected. Other tiles allow players to pick up special equipment like a jet pack, a solar shield (to protect from the sun’s rays) or extra water. There are also Oasis tiles that may replenish the water supply (unless it’s a mirage!)


FOrbidden desert board game review

Cards in the Storm Stack… either they move the storm a certain number of tiles in a direction, or the Sun Beats Down, or the Storm Picks up.

After each turn, cards are drawn from the storm deck. The cards will indicate which direction the storm moves, and how many spaces. It’s also possible to get a Sun Beats Down card (sucking up water) or a Storm Picks Up card which raises the Storm meter. The Storm Meter determines how many cards are pulled … and as it goes up, more cards are pulled… too many cards, and the team dies.

Because this game is cooperative, players work together to decide the best way to find the missing parts. Special abilities can be utilized (the Climber can go over large piles of sand, while others go around… the Archaeologist can move 2 sand markers in one move… the Meteorologist can “see” what is coming in the storm cards, so that the team can prepare).

There are a lot of different mechanics… different things happening… in Forbidden Desert, and that makes the game quite engaging. Also, since the game board changes each time… and the player make up changes each time, the replay value is quite high.

Forbidden Desert Vs. Forbidden Island

There are some similarities… but Forbidden Desert is not just a reworking of Forbidden Island. There are cards that make up the board, and you do collect objects. However…. the mechanics of the game are different. Instead of collecting cards to gather treasure, like in Forbidden Island, your team searches through the cards that make up the board. Certain pieces will point out where the objects will be found. And for added fun, instead of the board sinking under water, the pieces shift around with the storm… pieces are buried under sand or they physically MOVE.

Personally, I find Forbidden Desert to be much more interesting. There is a lot going on, and there are a lot of different choices you can make about how you find the bits you need. The game really is different every time.

Forbidden Desert Componants

forbidden desert board game reviewI absolutely LOVE that Forbidden Desert comes in a tin. There is no way this game box is going to wear out or tear. Also, the box is compact, so it isn’t taking up a ton of room on your shelf (and it packs easily into a suitcase if you are planning a weekend away).

The Board Tiles are thick cardboard. Great for repeated play… remember, these cards need to flip over and slide around the table. Illustrations are done in a cool Steampunk style. The sand tiles (sort of x shaped) are also well made, and can hold up to handling. Instead of Meeples, you get little wooden people markers (I wish they’d make meeples… but I bet you can make your own). The Airship is fun to play with… and the components are solid. As you find them, you can add them to the ship (my daughter likes to be in charge of building…). You also get well illustrated equipment cards and storm cards, and the storm meter. Level markers go on the adventure cards to monitor water levels.

All in all, the pieces are well made, and designed to be played with.

Who Can Play Forbidden Desert

The box says that Forbidden Desert is for ages 10 and up. This game may be too “complex” for many younger kids, unless you are helping them. It is a game with enough strategy and play-ability for experienced gamers. It is well beyond a  roll the dice and move your man game. It’s a game of planning, strategy and teamwork. (And I think it’s perfect for family game night).

forbidden desert board game reviewForbidden Desert Board Game

You may also like...