Tag Archives: Gamewright

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island (Gamewright, 2010) just won the widely respected Mensa Select Seal, and I’m happy to say that it received my number one vote there (Mensa Select Seals are awarded annually at Mensa Mind Games, which was held in San Diego last weekend; go to my other blog at http://meeplespeak.wordpress.com/. for a description of the top five winners).

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game, so instead of players trying to outdo each other, they are working together to “beat the game.”  Players compose a team of adventurers, racing against time to retrieve four treasures from a sinking island, and then escape before the water rises. If they escape with all four treasures, they have won.

Each player takes on a different role (Pilot, Engineer, Navigator, Messenger, Diver, or Adventurer), each having a special – but not outrageously powerful – ability, which aids in the three main tasks – getting around the island, “shoring up” the island (undoing the effects of rising water), and moving or claiming treasure. The island itself consists of tiles laid out randomly  in a cross-shaped grid. Some tiles are labeled as places to claim treasure, and some are labeled with pawns, and serve as starting places for that player (pawn colors correspond to the identity and special ability of that player). There are six roles to choose from, but a maximum of four players results in the absence of at least two specialists.

Players alternate turns, performing three actions per turn, from this list: Move to an adjacent tile, Shore up a tile that has been flooded (i.e., unflood it), Give a treasure card to another player, or Claim a treasure. After the actions are taken, players draw two treasure cards – one of which might actually be one of three “Waters Rise” cards in the deck, but many of which represent one of the four treasures to be claimed. It takes four treasure cards to physically claim a treasure. When a “Waters Rise” card is chosen from the treasure deck, “Flood Cards” are drawn from a different deck. Each Flood Card represents one tile, thus revealing which tiles will be flooded. Those tiles are physically inverted, or, if they had already been inverted, they are removed from the game, along with their flood card. Yikes! As the game progresses, water levels only get higher…so more cards are drawn…thus more tiles flood when the Waters Rise cards are drawn. To make matters worse, when the Waters Rise cards is drawn, all the flood cards previously drawn are reshuffled and placed on top of the draw pile, so they are the first to be drawn again.

Forbidden Island is exciting to play. Your fate is bound to the fate of your colleagues, so each player has a stake in what the other players do. The bulk of the time is spent deciding, as a group, how to spend each of the three activities a player gets. In my first game we were literally one card away from being overtaken by the flood waters, and it was surprisingly simple to imagine ourselves on the rapidly disappearing island, trying to make it safely to the helicopter pad (“Fools’ Landing”).

For me, one very reliable sign of a good game is how easily immersed you are into its world, and Forbidden Island did that within two turns, and maintained it. It’s recommended for ages 10 and up, which is probably fair because one must really consider possible future problems and contingencies to win, but an 8 year old could enjoy the game with a little help. If you want to try something new for just a few people, give this game a shot!

Buy Forbidden Island from Amazon!

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Feed the Kitty

feed the kitty boxFeed the Kitty (2006, Gamewright) is quick and simple, and an excellent way to involve several kids in a game without losing their interest, at least for a little while.

Feed the Kitty is a themed version of the cult favorite LCR, which means you roll the dice and win or lose tokens until every player but one is out of tokens. In the case of this game, the tokens are mice. The two dice have images of mice, a cat food bowl, or a sleeping cat. If a mouse is rolled, then a mouse moves to the player on the left. If a cat is rolled, the player gets to keep a mouse. If the food bowl is rolled, a mouse has to go into the green bowl. If a player runs out of mice, they remain in the game because they might receive a mouse prior to their next turn. Only when there is a single player left with mice does the game end.

feed the kitty components

One moment a player might have several mice while a neighbor could be down to zero, yet two turns later the tables can be turned. The very quick change of fortunes actually make the game fun and exciting. In its own way it introduces the concepts of probability and luck to kids, and in an engaging way.

I recommend this game to kids who aren’t likely to sit through longer board games. It’s fast-paced, so there is no waiting long between turns, and of course the game elements and theme are fun to handle and even pretend with.

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Hisss

Hisss - boxA 4-card snake, who still lacks a tail

Hisss (Gamewright, 2006) is simple to learn, quick, and fun to play!

Easily playable by 4-year-old, fun for kids as old as 10, and parents.

Sole materials are the cardboard cards, featuring snake heads or snake tails in one of six bright colors, or else a snake trunk with different colored edges. Players take turns drawing a card and matching it by color to existing snakes. When a player completes a snake by adding the final tail or head, they win that snake, which is worth the number of cards of which it consists.

There are a few easily mastered tricks, such as linking two pre-existing snakes together; otherwise, the luck of the draw determines the winner – but since a good draw can win a long snake, it is usually the case that nobody is out until very late in the game, and tensions run high!

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