Forbidden Island (game)

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Forbidden Island is a cooperative board game developed by Matt Leacock and published by Gamewright Games in 2010.[1] Two to four players take the roles of different adventurers, moving around a mysterious island, looking for hidden treasures as the island sinks around them. All players win if they find all the hidden treasures and they all make it back to the helicopter and fly away, and they all lose if they cannot.

Rules and mechanics[edit]

Players take on the role of adventurers trying to retrieve treasures from a rapidly sinking island. They must retrieve four treasures: (The Earth Stone, the Crystal of Fire, the Statue of the Wind, and the Ocean Chalice) and return to the helicopter landing pad ("Fools Landing") before the waters rise covering the entire island.

Each player takes on one of six available roles—each with a unique skill:

  1. Pilot: (Blue) - The pilot begins the game on Fools Landing. From there, the pilot has the ability to fly to any other available location on the island for one action.
  2. Engineer: (Red) - The engineer begins the game on Bronze Gate. From there, the engineer has the ability to "shore up" (flip a tile from its blue side to its colored side) two adjacent tiles (including the tile the engineer is currently on) for one action.
  3. Explorer: (Green) - The explorer begins the game on Copper Gate. From there, the explorer has the ability to move or "shore up" tiles diagonally for one action (in addition to moving or "shoring up" adjacent and current tiles).
  4. Navigator: (Yellow) - The navigator begins the game on Gold Gate. From there, the navigator has the ability to move another player up to two adjacent tiles for one action.
  5. Messenger: (Light Gray) - The messenger begins the game on Silver Gate. From there, the messenger has the ability to give treasure cards to other players (without having to be on the same space) for one action.
  6. Diver: (Black) - The diver begins the game on Iron Gate. From there, the diver has the ability to swim through single or multiple flooded and/or sunken tiles for one action.


At the beginning of the game, players randomly distribute the Island tiles to create a newly configured Island in the shape of a "4 x 4" square with an additional two tiles beyond each side of the square. The players select their roles (randomly or otherwise), and place their pieces on the board. Players then shuffle the blue "flood deck" and flip over the top six cards from the deck and place each in a discard pile. As each card from the flood deck is drawn, the player also flips or "floods" the card's corresponding tile. Next, players shuffle the orange "treasure deck" and deal two treasure cards to each player. If players are dealt a "Waters rise" card, place the card back in the treasure deck, reshuffle, and deal a new card to that player. Finally, players select a difficulty level by sliding the red arrow on the flood meter to the corresponding difficulty level: Novice, Normal, Elite, or Legendary. Players are now ready to begin.

Game play[edit]

Whoever most recently visited an island will take the first turn; play will then move clockwise. On each turn, a player may take up to three actions. Available actions (excluding each role's unique skill) include:

  1. Moving to an adjacent tile - a player can move forward, backward, left, or right. (The Pilot, Explorer, Navigator, and Diver have additional movement skills).
  2. Shoring up an adjacent tile - (or the tile upon which the player currently resides) - a player can flip a tile from its blue side to its colored side. (The Engineer has additional shoring up skills).
  3. Giving a treasure card to another player who is on the same tile - (all treasure cards are transferable; the Messenger has additional skills); or
  4. Collecting a treasure - A player may collect one of the four treasures by being on one of its two respective tiles, and having the requisite four, matching treasure cards corresponding to the particular treasure. For example, in order to collect the Ocean Chalice, the player must be located on either the "Coral Palace" or "Tidal Palace" tile.

Players may choose to skip their actions or take fewer than three actions. Once a player has taken their actions, the player draws two treasure cards from the treasure deck. Players may hold up to, but not more than, five treasure cards in their hands at a time. If the player has greater than five cards after drawing, the player must discard enough cards to ensure they have no more than five cards in their hand.

After drawing the two treasure cards, the player must then flip over as many cards from the flood deck as the flood meter indicates. For example, if the red arrow on the flood meter is currently at "4," the player must flip four flood cards. After each card is flipped, the player also flips the corresponding tile on the island from the colored side to the blue side. If the tile is already on the blue side when its corresponding flood card is flipped, the tile and the card are both removed for the remainder of the game, shrinking the island. If the players run out of cards in either deck, shuffle the corresponding discard pile and start the draw pile over.

"Waters Rise" and Other Cards[edit]

When drawing treasure cards, aside from the cards corresponding to each treasure, players may also draw three other distinct types of cards: Waters rise cards, Helicopter cards, and Sand Bag cards.

  1. Waters Rise: If a player draws a waters rise card, place the waters rise card in the treasure deck discard pile. Next, move the flood meter arrow one level higher. Finally, take the discard pile from the flood deck, shuffle it, and place it on top of the flood deck. Once these three things are completed, draw the number of flood cards corresponding to the arrow's level on the flood meter, and continue play.
  2. Helicopter Cards: Helicopter cards can be played at any time in the game. Helicopter cards do not count as an action. These cards allow the player to move one or more pawns to any other tile, if moving more than one pawn they must start on the same tile. You do not have to be on the same tile as the person you are moving. Players should know that in order to win the game, a helicopter card must be played to leave the island. To play a helicopter card, the player must place the helicopter card in the treasure deck's discard pile and immediately use the helicopter's effect.
  3. Sand Bag Cards: Like helicopter cards, sand bag cards can be played at any time in the game. Sand bag cards immediately shore up one tile that is currently on its blue side. The player who plays a sand bag card need not be on or adjacent to the tile the sand bag shores up. To play a sand bag card, the player must place the sand bag card in the treasure deck's discard pile and immediately use the sand bag's effect.

Winning and losing the game[edit]

There are a number of ways to lose the game:

  1. If the flood meter advances to the skull and crossbones logo, players lose the game.
  2. If Fools Landing disappears before the end of the game, players lose the game.
  3. If both tiles corresponding to a particular treasure disappear prior to players collecting that treasure, players lose the game.
  4. If the entire island disappears, players lose the game.

Players do not lose the game if they are standing on a tile that disappears. If this occurs, players must move to the nearest adjacent tile. However, if a tile a player is standing on disappears and there are no adjacent tiles, the game is lost.

To win the game players must collect all four treasures, get all players to Fools Landing, and use a helicopter card to depart before any of the losing conditions occur.

Board game sequel[edit]

A sequel to Forbidden Island was released in 2013, titled Forbidden Desert. As the name implies, the game is situated in a desert and still employs many of the same mechanics as Forbidden Island. However, there is added difficulty as well as new and improved player roles and mechanics.[2] An additional sequel was made in 2018, titled Forbidden Sky. This game, while again largely similar in mechanics as the two previous games, focused on manipulating circuitry to activate a rocket and escape a floating platform during a thunderstorm.[3]


  1. ^ "Gamewright: Forbidden Island™". Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  2. ^ "Forbidden Desert™". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Forbidden Sky | Height of Danger | Gamewright". Gamewright. Retrieved 2018-11-12.

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