Forbidden Desert: Thirst for Survival – The Sequel to Forbidden Island Provides New Mechanics and Challenges To Slake Your Thirst for Adventure

Forbidden Desert - The Sequel to Forbidden Island Provides New Mechanics and Challenges to Slake Your Thirst for Adventure

Forbidden Desert: Thirst for Survival is a cooperative family game from the designer of Forbidden Island. Forbidden Desert is sort of a sequel to Forbidden Island with the adventurers finding themselves stranded in the desert where a huge sand storm rages threatening to bury them alive or sweep them away, that is if they don’t die of thirst first.

To escape their predicament, the adventurers must excavate the area, an ancient city buried in the sand, and find the four missing parts to a flying machine that is their only means out of the desert. Equipment found during their search will help them survive. Of course, they’ll need water, too.

Forbidden Desert - components

Forbidden Desert – components

As a player, you take on the role of one of these wayward adventurers, with a special ability you’ll need to utilize for your party is to survive and escape the Forbidden Desert. On your turn you can perform four actions: move, remove sand, excavate, or pick up a part for the flying machine. You can move to any adjacent tile (orthogonally) for one action as long as the tile is not blocked by two or more sand markers. Removing sand on the tile you’re on or an adjacent tile costs one action per sand marker removed. In order to excavate a tile, you have to be on it and it must be free of sand, then you can flip it over for one action. Each tile either provides some gear, water, a tunnel entrance or a clue to the location of a part. To find a part, you have to uncover two clues to its location, the part is then placed at the intersection of the two clues. Once a part is found, you can go to the tile and use an action to pick it up. Players can also exchange equipment or water with each other as free actions whenever they are on the same tile.

After each player’s turn, it’s the desert’s turn to do its worst. Draw a number of Sand Storm cards, according to the current Sand Storm Meter level and apply their effects one at a time. Possible effects include: the Wind Blows moving tiles around and covering them with sand, the Sun Beats Down requiring you to drink water if you’re not protected by a shield or in a tunnel, or the Storm Picks Up raising the Sand Storm Meter level which affects how many cards you have to draw for the Sand Storm.

Forbidden Desert escape

Forbidden Desert escape.
Photo courtesy of Chris Norwood.

Play continues until the players successfully find all of the parts for the flying machine, get to the launch pad and take off – or the desert kills one or more of them. Players can die of thirst, get buried by sand (if you need to place a sand maker, but there are none left) or be swept away by the storm (the Sand Storm level reaches the top).

I really like Forbidden Desert. It offers a fresh new cooperative gaming experience utilizing an innovative set of mechanisms, including an ever-shifting board, individual resource management, and a unique method for locating the flying machine parts. Forbidden Desert provides a nice change of pace from Forbidden Island, but isn’t much more complex to learn – the sand storm movement might seem a little confusing at first. The order of play and some of the role abilities will feel familiar to those experienced with Forbidden Island. The game is well suited for both kids and adults.

I highly recommend playing your first game at the Novice level to get acquainted with the mechanics. Then try the Normal or Elite level to ramp up the difficulty.

Tim and I played six games in a row our first time out. Our first play was at the Normal level, which we easily won. Little did we know the Storm was really going easy on us. Our next five games, at Elite level, were tough to say the least – we lost four of them by dying of thirst, getting buried by sand twice and finally being swept away by the storm. Only the last game did we win, and that was barely – Tim had to hide out in a tunnel for two rounds before we could get to the launch pad, assemble the flying machine and take off.

We tried a variety of role combinations and discovered the hard way that you need to use every tool and ability at your disposal if you want to survive the Forbidden Desert.

Forbidden Desert supports 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up and plays in about 45 minutes. Younger children should be able to play with a little assistance. The German versions of Forbidden Desert (Die Vergessene Stadt) and Forbidden Island (Die Verbotene Insel) include painted figurines.