Forbidden Desert – more cooperative family fun!

Forbidden Desert board game

Another fabulous cooperative family board game!

Forbidden Desert is a fantastic cooperative family board game!

There you have it. No need to beat around the bush.

We love Forbidden Island and when Gamewright announced last year that they were coming out with a sequel of sorts, we were super excited. And we’re even more excited now that we have the game and find that we enjoy it even more!

And who better to take us through the Forbidden Desert than the notable explorer who reviewed Forbidden Island a few years ago – Caleb.

Forbidden Desert board game

Packed full of fun for the whole family.

Can the whole family enjoy Forbidden Desert?


That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a great family board game. Young and old alike can enjoy it together.

Cooperative board games can be a lot of fun for families. Instead of competing against each other, everyone’s on the same team trying to beat the game. So even though the game shows recommended for ages 10+, don’t mind that at all and let the youngsters join in.

Typically what that age recommendation means that that people that age could play the game independently. But when playing with adults or older siblings, especially in a cooperative game, young kids can have a great time.

And in Forbidden Desert, 5 people can play at the same time.

What’s so great about Forbidden Desert?

Forbidden Desert board game

The crash site where our adventures start out in this vast desert.

There’s a number of reasons why we think it’s such a great board game – a couple of which we’ve already mentioned:

  • Cooperative Play
  • Wide range of Ages
  • Engaging Play
  • Easy to Learn
  • Fantastic Components and Artwork

As Caleb covered in his video review, the objective of the game is to discover 4 missing parts to the flying machine and get out of the desert from the launch pad. But the cool part of the game play is that the tiles are always shifting around. In addition to getting covered with sand they keep getting blown around.

Forbidden Desert board game

We discovered where the dial was buried.

In addition, it’s like figuring out a puzzle trying to discover where the parts are buried. Each missing part can be found at the intersection of the tiles with its symbol. One tile will show the row and another tile will show the column.

Once both coordinate tiles are uncovered, the part gets placed on that intersection. Then as the tiles move, the part will move with the tile it’s on. But if only one of the coordinate tiles is uncovered, it may shift around as well which will in turn shift which row/column the part will ultimately be found on.

So it definitely takes teamwork to move around the board, uncover tiles, get water, share water, use special abilities, collect parts, and get out of the desert.

Lots of fun!


Which game is more enjoyable – Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island?

That’s a tough question, but one we know will be asked frequently.
Is it a cop-out to say “both”?

Forbidden Desert board game

The end of a successful adventure – now we can fly home.

It’s quite obvious that Gamewright wanted a tie-in to the very fun and now very popular Forbidden Island board game. And for good reason – Forbidden Island is a fantastic family board game that we’ll continue to tout.

It’s hard to call a board game a sequel – and we won’t really go that far either. Our guess is that it shares the name “Forbidden” so people familiar with Forbidden Island will know that it’s similar. If you know Island, then diving into Desert will be a breeze.

But Forbidden Desert also introduces a number of new elements that make the game unique as well.


First some similarities:

Forbidden Desert board game

Everyone gets a cool role to play.

Both games have special roles for each player that provide unique abilities and only a set number of roles will be in play each time. Using those abilities in the best way together is key to winning.

Both games have a variable tile/board set up that makes every game different. Depending on where each time ends up will make for a different game.

Both games also have 1 way to win and many ways to lose. In Forbidden Desert you can lose by a player running out of water, if all the sand tiles get used up, or if the Sand Storm meter reaches the death symbol.

Both games let you choose the level of difficulty you’d like to challenge your team with.

Both are good family fun.


Now some of the differences:

Forbidden Desert board game

There’s quite a lot of sand everywhere.

The first noticeable difference is the theme – a desert over an island. And with that comes the difference in how tiles work. In Desert, a tile will never be removed from the game like it is in Island when a tile sinks. Instead, tiles are constantly buried in sand. And some tiles may get quite a lot of sand tiles on them, taking longer to uncover those tiles to excavate.

In addition, in Desert the tiles move around throughout the game. And with that, like we’ve mentioned, the parts you’re trying to collect will also move around. Whereas in Island, you know from the outset where the treasures are you’re trying to collect, in Desert it’s all a discovery and they move.

Forbidden Desert board game

The poor Archeologist died of thirst.

Another difference that’s somewhat tied to the theme, but also brings in a new game play element is the use of water. In Island a player may drown and in Desert a player may die of thirst. Every role card has a water level mark for their canteen. As the sun beats down, players will use their water.

There are only 3 water tiles in the game and players can only collect more water at the time those tiles are flipped to reveal water (watch out because one is a mirage). So planning as a team when to hit those water tiles is key. It’s quite the balance between venturing out to excavate tiles and sticking close to reveal water together.

Forbidden Desert board game

Special equipment comes in very handy.

Another added dimension in Desert are the special equipment cards. In addition to the special role abilities for each player, players can collect equipment cards that give them special single-time use. And we’ve found that these cards are extremely helpful (necessary) to winning the game. From a Solar Shield to a Dune Blaster, this equipment may save the day – use it wisely.

In then end, we think Forbidden Desert delivers a slightly higher challenge that requires more thinking and coordination as things shift around. Which in turn is a more rewarding and fun experience.

But don’t get us wrong – Forbidden Island isn’t dead by any means. They’ve got a side-by-side spot on our game shelves because they’re both solid cooperative family games that we’ll highly recommend whenever we can.


Forbidden Desert board gameHow does Forbidden Desert score on the “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Forbidden Desert hits another high mark on the “let’s play again” game meter. It’s super easy to set up and play. Just randomly set out the tiles, shuffle cards, and away you go. Which also makes it very easy to set up and play back-to-back. We’ve found that games don’t last as long as the box says and now that we’ve played numerous times, it’s easily played under 30 min. So two games in a row is very doable – especially when you lose one. You’ll definitely hear “let’s play again!”

Thanks Gamewright for another fantastic family board game!

The Board Game Family Game Ratings
Caleb: 4.5 Meeples Caleb
   Has not played Brooke
Jaden: 4.0 Meeples Jaden
Trevor: 4.0 Meeples Trevor
Mom: 4.0 Meeples Mom
Dad: 4.5 Meeples Dad
AVerage: 4.2 Meeples Average
Pick up a copy!

Buy Forbidden Desert from Amazon


Comments: 8

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Ha! I thought it said “Forbidden Dessert.” LoL.




thank u soooooooooooooooooo much




Thanks for the review, after playing Pandemic with my “casual” gamer friends, I decided to check for another great, accessible coop game. Right now, i’m down to Castle Panic, Forbidden Island/Desert and Fire Rescue. I think that Forbidden Desert might have a + on the island because it seems a little more complex (without scaring the people away).




    Sylvain – that’s true with Desert over Island. If you’re looking for a great feeling of pressure, then Castle Panic is the way to go.




They both seem very enjoyable to both of my children, but I only have one question. I was wondering, ( thank you to -Sylvian) it’s true that Island is more complex, but my kids love complex games ( the older one) but my little one will get overwhelmed. So it’s either one or the other! Which one do you suggest to be more in the middle? Thanks! -Kayla




    Since the are both cooperative, it’s a good balance because the older kids can enjoy thinking through options and teaching the younger kids how to think that way during the game.




I work with a game night group in my neighborhood, and both seem like a worthy choice! There will be some people that will be left out if I choose Forbidden Island, and there will be people left out if I choose Forbidden Desert. Which one is the best for a family friendly game night?! – Eli




    Elijah – Either works very well for a family friendly game night. Our preference is Desert because of the additional variety/randomness that challenges us more from accomplishing the goal. We also found more working/reasoning together in Desert rather than one person dominating telling others what to do on their turns.




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