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.

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products I use myself. 

Pandemic: A Cooperative Game

Pandemic: A Cooperative Game on Savvy Game Night

Let’s talk cooperative games. Rather than the typical board game format, in which there is one winner and everyone else loses, in a cooperative game, it is all or nothing: either everyone wins together, or everyone loses. In the case of Pandemic, either you find cures for or eradicate all four deadly diseases that have broken out around the world, or everyone dies.

So far, Pandemic is Dan’s and my favorite cooperative game. It is nicely balanced, and it is neither too difficult to ever win, nor so easy that it doesn’t feel like much of a challenge. I’d say we win about 2/3 of the time. And more often than not, we lose because we run out of player cards, not because there were so many outbreaks that we couldn’t control them. There have been several occurrences where we just needed one more turn, maybe two, in order to get all the cures or eliminate the last disease.

Pandemic In Play on Savvy Game Night

Unless you are playing with five people every time you play Pandemic, the game changes a little bit each time. Each player is given a role with a special ability: the Medic can treat all the illnesses in a city at once, rather than one per turn; the Dispatcher can move other players around the board; the Scientist can find a cure with 4 player cards instead of the usual 5, and so on. Since the roles are randomly assigned, the combination of special abilities available in the game changes a bit each time (again, unless you are playing with the full five players).

Note: A newer version of the game was released in 2013. Apparently, it introduces two new roles and reduces the maximum number of players to four. So if you purchase/play the newer version, the combination of roles will change every game, even when you are playing with the max number of players.

It’s a fun game for Dan and I when we aren’t feeling all that competitive and want to work together. And because it is a cooperative game, Pandemic is a great one to pull out when we have friends over with mixed levels of experience with or interest in board games.
Pandemic, a cooperative game. Don't let too many outbreaks happen, or everyone loses! On Savvy Game Night

There’s an outbreak in Essen, and the blue disease has spread to all neighboring cities. Don’t let too many of these happen, or everyone loses!


Pandemic is a cooperative game, so either everyone wins or everyone loses. Four diseases have simultaneously broken out around the world. Players must research to find a cure for or completely eradicate all four diseases before the epidemics become too overwhelming to contain. Each player may take up to 4 actions on their turn to move around the map, treat infected cities, research a cure or build a research station. At the end of each turn, the diseases spread just a bit more, unless an Epidemic card turns up, which accelerates the infection rate.

The game is over when: all the diseases have been cured and/or eradicated, there have been 8 outbreaks, or there are no player cards remaining.

Number of Players:

2-5. It is much more difficult to win with just two players, but it is still doable.

Set Up Time:

5-10 minutes

Play Time for New Players:

1 hour.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

45 minutes – 1 hour.

Age Range:


Overall Rating for Pandemic: 8/10

Pandemic Player Cards on Savvy Game Night

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever link to games I’ve played and enjoyed myself. Most of the links above are to the newer version of this game. If you’d like to purchase the version of the game photographed here, click here.