I Lost BIG TIME This Weekend…

but it wasn’t in a game. 

You see, on Friday sometime, a one or more people of very poor character broke into my house and made off with my brand-new TV, my laptop, our camcorder, and Gwen’s new iPod.  It was not the Mother’s Day weekend that Gwen (or I) had hoped for.  But for the most part, insurance should replace all the “stuff”, even though there were a few pictures and movie files (mainly of Samantha, of course) on both the laptop and camcorder that were not backed up elsewhere.

And as far as the laptop goes, that was also the main tool that I used for image editing and storage for my game photos as well.  The best ones are also on a flash drive and many are on BGG (as well as here in smaller format), but some of the original photoshop files (with all the layers and stuff, especially for things like my buttons and header image) were only on the laptop.  But still, it could have been a lot worse, and it shouldn’t affect me too terribly in being able to update this site.  

So, on a lighter note, yesterday afternoon after all the Mother’s Day festivities at church and with the in-laws, my little family gathered in the game room and played Go Away Monster! together.  Samantha did wonderfully, but I couldn’t help but think to myself how much I’d like to say “Go away monster!” to the thief who violated our home.  Still, it was a lot of fun.

And then, Gwen and I broke out one of the presents I gave to her, Matt Leacock’s new game Forbidden Island.  Yes, it was obviously a self-serving way to get around the game-buying moratorium, but Pandemic is one of our favorite games to play as a couple, and I knew that she’d like it.  So anyway, while Samantha played by herself (trying, for the first time, to write on the walls with crayon… but thankfully keeping it restricted to the windowpane), we set up to do some treasure hunting!

I started us on the “normal” difficulty (skipping over “novice”), and in the initial setup, the helipad was in an unfortunate edge position (and already flodded).  I was playing the Engineer (which allowed me to “shore up” two locations at once) and Gwen was the Explorer (which allowed her to move and shore up diagonally).  We worked together well, and made some good choices in priorities especially as we entered into the endgame.  So, even with 2/3 of the island lost forever, I managed to pick up the last of the treasures, Gwen picked me up in the helicopter, and we flew away to victory.

Forbidden Island was pretty darn cool.  It is “Pandemic-lite” in a many ways, of course.  Players have a certain number of action points to spend on their turns.  They travel around “treating” (shoring up) locations that are in trouble. They try to collect sets of cards to claim four different treasures (like curing the four diseases).  And at the end of each turn a certain number of “flood” cards will put locations in danger (which we continually called “infecting” rather than “flooding”).  Not that any of these things are bad, however, because (as you know) I freaking love Pandemic.  But they are very similar.

However, there are a few other elements that make Forbidden Island its own game.  Most obviously, there is the modular board.  There are 24 island tiles that are randomly assembled to form the island.  I really like that every game will be a little different because of the changes in how the island is laid out.  And the other cool thing about the tiles is that when its card comes up again while already flooded, it is actually removed from the game.  So you don’t get the cool chain reactions that you find in Pandemic, but instead, you have these ever-growing sections of the island that are impassable and gone forever.  And if ever both tiles for a particular unclaimed treasure or the helipad tile are ever lost, you lose the game.  Oh, and it’s possible that a tile can disappear while a player is on it, and if there’s no where for them to swim to, they die and you all lose the game as well.  It’s all quite thematic, and makes for really some cool play decisions.

I also like the change in how the decks work.  There are a lot fewer cards in both decks, and they can be reshuffled when they run out.  The three Waters Rise cards are just shuffled into the treasure deck, instead of how the player deck in Pandemic is constructed using stacked piles each containing an Epidemic card.  It’s simpler, but also changes strategy a lot since you know that you’ll have to count on picking up some cards after it’s reshuffled.  And in some ways, the fact that there are fewer cards (and that you’ll most likely get through all of them) make the game less luck-based than Pandemic.    

More than anything, though, Forbidden Island just feels different in a noticeable way.  Maybe I’m just falling for the gorgeous art and am a sucker for theme, but I definitely think that it’s different enough to warrant owning both.  I still like the weight and overall challenge of Pandemic considerably more, but in the role of family and gateway game, my early impressions of Forbidden Island are looking really great.  


  1. Wow – I hate to hear that Chris. The main thing is that nothing happened to you guys.

  2. Michelle Benson

    wow… I’m So Sorry that happened, I’m Glad to hear All of you are safe.

  3. Keith Carter

    I am very sorry to hear about the break-in. Glad to hear insurance will cover most of it. Special empathy on my part for the lost layered Photoshop files. Not critical or even a high priority but that does sting.

  4. Keith Carter

    I introduced my family to Pandemic this weekend. It went fairly well. I did get a “why would you play with diseases?” and it was clear how to play did not click with one player until our second game. Forbidden Island looks like it would have been an even better fit.

    It does seem to be Pandemic-lite given all the similar play mechanisms. A few differences that might make a difference are: variable board, specific points to turn in cards, those points do not increase as the game is played and in fact can be lost. Getting to the helicopter and getting out seems to be the significant extension as it provides a final resolution whereas finding a fourth cure in Pandemic in the face of an overwhelming next infector phase feels like more of just a technical win.

    One way that this game does seem lighter is in the roles. In Pandemic the coordination between players uses different kinds of actions. Here the roles seem to be variations of the same types of action. I am looking to play and acquire Forbidden Island.

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