Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island on Savvy Game Night

In Forbidden Island, players must work together to collect four treasures from around an island before the island sinks away into the ocean. It is another cooperative game where each turn ends with the situation getting just a little more difficult (see also: Pandemic). In Pandemic, this meant that a few more cities would become infected with one of the viruses; in Forbidden Island, it means that one more region of the island sinks further underwater. Every so often, a disaster card (in this case, a “Waters Rising” card) comes up, amplifying the game further. Forbidden Island in Play // Savvy Game Night

There are a lot of similarities between the gameplay of Forbidden Island and Pandemic. However, Forbidden Island is definitely quicker and easier for new players to pick up. For this reason, it works well as an end-of-the-night game, or as a game to get people in the game-playing mood at the start of a big board game session.

Forbidden Island: A Cooperative Game on Savvy Game Night



Each player takes on a role that gives them a special ability. The Explorer, for instance, is the only player who can move diagonally, while the Navigator can move other players around the island. On each turn, a player takes these steps:

1. Take three actions, such as moving to a new part of the island, shoring up a sinking island tile, passing treasure cards or capturing a treasure.

2. Draw 2 treasure cards. When one player is holding four matching treasure cards, they can rescue that treasure from the sinking island. There are also a few special action cards sprinkled throughout this deck. If a “Waters Rise!” card comes up, the used flood cards get shuffled and put back on top of the deck. Better shore up those pieces fast, or they will flood and sink entirely in the next few turns!

3. Draw flood cards to flood new parts of the island.

To win the game, all four treasures need to be rescued, and then every player needs to get to Fools’ Landing and use a Helicopter Lift to fly to safety.


Number of Players:


Set Up Time:

10-15 minutes.

Play Time for New Players:

30-45 minutes.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

30 minutes.

Age Range:


Overall Rating for Forbidden Island: 6 out of 10 stars.

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  1. says

    I’ve never played Forbidden Island, but Forbidden Desert gets a lot of play in our house. In Forbidden Desert one has to find the pieces of a flying machine (to help escape the desert) by flipping the game tiles and then going to where the 2 matching tiles intersect in the grid to pick up the piece of the ship. We love playing it with less experienced gamers and as a couple.

    • Julie says

      Interesting! I kind of assumed that Forbidden Desert would be just like Forbidden Island, so we hadn’t looked at it much – will have to give it a try now that I know it is different!

  2. Kathleen says

    We found Forbidden Island to be a bit too predictable and easy after a while. Much prefer Pandemic and Shadows Over Camelot when it comes to cooperative games.

    • Julie says

      We still like Forbidden Island – especially for playing with the family and friends who aren’t as into board games – but I agree, Pandemic is much more interesting!

  3. P G says

    The navigator’s role confuses us… when he is able to move other people? Is it during the navigator’s turn or the other players’ turns? I know he can move each person 2 spaces instead of the 1 space per action, but it doesn’t specify during whose turn. For example, The explorer needs to move 2 spaces, I am the navigator. Do I move him during one of my actions or during one of his actions?

    • says

      I believe he can move other people during his (the Navigator’s) turn. So instead of using actions to move himself, the Navigator can use his actions to move other players around the board.