Tabletop University Play Report: Forbidden Island & Forbidden Desert

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For our latest edition of Tabletop University, a group of adventurers started out the night trying to survive the Forbidden Island by gathering treasures, shoring up (un-flooding) location tiles, and trying to keep their heads above water… The island has been cursed by the Archeans in order to keep their treasures hidden. Legend tells us that their treasures have the ability to control the Earth’s elements of fire, wind, water, and earth. The Archeans would rather see the island submerged than allow intruders to steal them.

The Forbidden Island team consisted of:

  • The Engineer played by Gregg
  • The Messenger played by myself
  • The Navigator played by Katie
  • The Explorer played by Jason G.

The mission: to gather 4 priceless, powerful treasures from the island ( The Crystal of Fire, The Statue of Wind, The Ocean’s Chalice, and the Earth Stone), to rendezvous at Fool’s Landing, and to have a “Helicopter Lift” card available to carry our entire team to safety before the cursed island sinks. No man is left behind, so if one person can’t make it to the helipad, we all lose. If too many island tiles are submerged and our group members cannot successfully meet at Fool’s Landing, we all lose. If island tiles that contain treasure icons are submerged and cannot be used to successfully obtain a treasure, we all lose. If the water level gets too high and covers the entire island in water, we all lose. This game very much requires a cooperative effort amidst all of the possible things that could go wrong!

Our team started out pretty confidant; with 4 able bodied specialists ready for adventure what could go wrong?!?

Each explorer in the group has a special skill that really must be used to the fullest in order to survive the rising tides.

The Engineer’s special ability is that he can shore up 2 tiles for 1 action

The Engineer’s special ability is that he can shore up 2 tiles for 1 action

While the Messenger can give treasure cards to a player anywhere on the island for 1 action per card

While the Messenger can give treasure cards to a player anywhere on the island for 1 action per card

Well, despite our successful efforts to shore up location tiles with lightning speed, it was slightly more difficult to individually gather and/or gift the appropriate number of treasure cards to other explorers in order to gain the much coveted treasures that were needed before escaping the island

Here, our Navigator has collected 2 out of the 4 Ocean’s Chalice treasure cards needed to actually claim that treasure

Here, our Navigator has collected 2 out of the 4 Ocean’s Chalice treasure cards needed to actually claim that treasure

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The water level just kept on rising as we strategically sought out treasures and shored up island tiles. There were some tiles that we shored up OVER and OVER again, that now, they haunt my nightmares, like the Dunes of Deception! And, who can forget the Cliffs of Abandon?!? I’m surprised we didn’t eventually lose that tile to permanent submersion! But it remained an open walkway to Fool’s Landing until the very end.

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The sad reality was that even though we had finally located all four treasures, and even though we kept a clear passageway to the landing pad, and even though we had TWO “Helicopter Lift” cards in reserve…. the waters rose too high and submerged the entire island. We all drowned and died. Boo…

Since we didn’t have much luck on the island, we immediately decided to attempt the Forbidden Desert. What’ve we got to lose?

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Forbidden Desert supports 5 players, so we were able to add one more adventurer to our team!

  • The Water Carrier was played by Gregg
  • The Meteorologist was played by myself
  • The Explorer was played by Curtis
  • The Climber was played by Jason G.
  • The Archeologist was played by Sam

The mission: in the midst of an ever-worsening sand storm, we were to search for clues that would direct us to the locations of 4 vital flying machine parts hidden beneath the sand, to keep the sand cleared from tiles so that we could move around easily, to watch our water consumption, and to rebuild the secret flying machine that is powered by the sun. When the sun beat down, it forced each adventurer to take a drink of their precious, limited water supply. If any of the adventurers runs out of water, he/she immediately dies, and we all lose the game. If the supply of sand tiles runs out, meaning the entire desert has been buried in sand, we all lose. If the storm level gets too high and we all get swept away… we all lose. So, again, much cooperative effort required here!

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Our team was a bit more hesitant to enter the desert after our untimely demise on the island, but we had one extra player, so hopes were high!

The adventurers all scattered and started turning over sand tiles looking for clues. Anytime, sand started accumulating on tiles, someone would volunteer to clear it off. When water started to run low, we were strategizing the best way for the Water Carrier to distribute water to those who needed it. Yet… the team had split up, which made it difficult to keep everyone hydrated. And, instead of each person using their own specialties to benefit the team, each person was trying to do a little bit of everything. We spread ourselves too thin.

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And, sadly, the Climber ran out of water and died… so we lost…

Round 2 – because we needed redemption!!!

  • The Water Carrier played by Sam
  • The Navigator played by Gregg
  • The Climber played by Katie
  • The Meteorologist played by Jason G.
  • The Explorer played by myself
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This time we had a plan: stay close together, travel in pairs whenever possible, allow the Water Carrier to remain close to an open well, and each adventurer DO what you DO best! The Climber was moving herself and a traveling buddy around the desert looking for ship parts. The Explorer was blasting dunes every which way to keep the passageways clear. The Navigator was moving other explorers in need of water closer to the Water Carrier, who was providing plenty of water from the well to all who were thirsty. The Meteorologist was keeping us updated on the direction of the storm and it’s intensity. The team work was astounding!

Even when it was looking like a drought would quickly consume the team and end the game, we persevered!

Even when it was looking like a drought would quickly consume the team and end the game, we persevered!

Even when we had to camp out on a well for an entire turn, we persevered!

Even when we had to camp out on a well for an entire turn, we persevered!

Until, da – da – da – DA:  we built the flying machine and WON!!!!  Third time’s the charm, right?

Until, da – da – da – DA:  we built the flying machine and WON!!!!  Third time’s the charm, right?

Both of these games, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are fun, cooperative games that bring more of a challenge than anticipated. One wrong move, one under-utilized specialty, one forgotten special action card could sink the game. Every little detail must be scrutinized for success. There were several times throughout each of the games when team members were either holding their breath in anticipation, or exclaiming relief, or cursing the table – the intensity was palpable. I’m very HAPPY to report that our last game of the evening was a win! We learned from our mistakes! And, believe it or not, I personally am ready to go exploring again…!