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  1. Forbidden Island

    Designer: Matt Leacock Players: 2-4 Playtime: 30 to 60 minutes Kael's Scoring: Production Value: 9 - thick cardboard stock tiles, beautiful plastic artifact tokens, and a tin box to carry it all in. Randomness: High Replayability: 8 - The board layout is random, as are player roles. Beginner Appeal: 9 - Straightforward and constrained rules allow for meaningful choices without being overwhelmed. Hardcore Appeal: 4 - Very random in some respects, luck is a dominating factor of the game. Premise: The players are a modern day treasure hunting team, seeking to retrieve some powerful artifacts stored by The Ancients on an island. Of course, The Ancients defended the artifacts well, lest they fall into the wrong hands. Configuration: The board is composed of twenty-four square tiles. Eight of these tiles represent "temples", where treasure cards can be cashed in for an artifact (two temples are available for each type of artifact). Six of the tiles indicate starting points, one for each of the player roles. The landing pad is also the escape point from the island. There are three decks: The treasure deck, which contains treasure cards (5 for each of the four treasures), water rising cards (3), instant action cards (sandbags (2) and airlift (3)). The flood draw pile (a.k.a. the flood deck), which contains one card for each tile on the board. The role deck, which contains one card for each of the six roles. There is also a flood level indicator. The decks are shuffled. Each player is dealt a role card and two treasure cards. The board is laid out (roughly in a cross), and each player places their pawn on the tile indicated as the starting position for that player's role. Six flood cards are then drawn, and the tile corresponding to each flood card is turned over, to indicate it is flooded. Production Value: The board tiles are made of thick cardboard stock, the artifacts are represented with spiffy three dimensional tokens, and the box is actually made of tin, rather than cardboard. Mechanics: Each turn, each player takes up to three actions, draws two cards from the treasure deck, and then draws a number of cards from the flood draw equal to the current flood level. Actions consist of the player shoring up an adjacent tile (flipping it from flooded back to dry), moving his or her pawn from one tile to another, giving one treasure card to another player if both players have their pawns on the same square, or cashing in treasure cards for an artifact if that player has four matching treasure cards, and that player's pawn is on one of the two temples corresponding to the artifact the treasure cards are for. The player then draws two cards from the treasure deck. If the player has more than five cards at the end of the draw phase, that player discards down to five cards. Sandbags and airlifts may be played at any time without taking an action, so they may be useful to save. Sandbags shore up any one tile on the board, and airlift moves any number of pawns from one tile to any other single tile. An airlift is also needed at the end of the game to win. For each water rising card the player draws, the flood level is raised by one step on the flood level indicator, all drawn flood cards are shuffled and put back on top of the flood draw. The current player then draws a number of flood cards indicated by the flood level indicator. The tile corresponding to each of these cards is flipped from dry to flooded, or if already flooded is removed from the game, along with the flood card. Roles: The roles available are: The pilot, who may move to any tile on the board as one of his actions per turn The engineer, who may shore up any two flooded tiles adjacent to his position The diver, who may use one action to move through any continuous area of flooded and sunken tiles to another unflooded square adjacent to that area The navigator, who may move any one pawn two squares for one action The explorer, who may move and shore up diagonally rather than just in the four cardinal directions; and The messenger, who may give a card in his or her hand to any other player, regardless of pawn position. Game End: The players win if the manage to cash all four treasures and return to the landing pad to be airlifted out. Evaluation: This is a good casual game, as it does not require significant thought at easier difficulties. Hardcore strategic players will quickly find the game frustrating because of the randomness. The rules are simple enough and the actions constrained enough that new players can easily get a handle for it. It's a good gateway game to get new players into board games. Domineering players can make the game less enjoyable for shy players or those lacking confidence in their choices. Getting multiple water rising cards early in the first round makes the game substantially more difficult. The game gets more difficult with more players, because the treasure cards are spread out over more hands; on the flip side, more players allow for more role combinations, which can make the game substantially easier. The diver role is the only role that gets better as the game progresses. At higher difficulties, the engineer seems to be mandatory, due to the rate of flooding. I play this game from time to time, but, being a semi-hardcore strategic player, I feel like it needs an expansion to help mitigate the randomness of flooding, which is why I didn't give it an outstanding hardcore score.
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