Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Miscellany: Forbidden Desert review

"Forbidden Desert" is designer Matt Leacock's latest and greatest cooperative board game. Much like his previous games, "Pandemic" and "Forbidden Island," it pits two to five players in a race against time - in this case, an ever-worsening sandstorm and the pitiless desert sun. You must work with your teammates to excavate an ancient flying machine to escape...before you're buried by the sands or die of thirst:

It's a great premise, and the setting informs all of the game's mechanics. The board starts off as a grid of unexplored desert tiles, with a blank space in the middle for the sandstorm. Each turn, an adventurer gets four actions, chosen among several options: move, clear sand from a tile, excavate a tile (i.e., flip over and reveal), or pick up a part of the flying machine.

At the end of the player's turn, though, it's the storm's move. The storm can dump sand on tiles (which can trap players and prevent them from exploring), or the sun can beat down, forcing each player to deplete his or her own personal water supply. Allow too much sand to pile up, or allow anyone to run out of water, and you lose.

Each adventurer has a unique special ability.  For instance, the Climber can move through sand, while the Water Carrier can spend an action to collect precious water...if you've found a well. Likewise, ancient equipment recovered in the desert can instantly blast away sand, reveal water supplies, or protect from the sun. It'll take full exploitation of your abilities, judicious use of items, and a little bit of luck to get the flying machine together and everyone aboard before they're swallowed by the sandstorm:

My friends and I really liked "Forbidden Desert." The game is easy to learn, quick to play, and yet requires a fair amount of strategy and cooperation to succeed. The randomly generated map and different adventurer roles provide a lot of replayability, and the components are all high quality. If you're in the market for a coop game that'll appeal to a fifth grader, a hardcore gamer, or your parents, you should probably check out "Forbidden Desert."


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