Forbidden Desert – Review

Posted January 16, 2015 by Oscar Russell in Nerdy Bits

Designer: Matt Leacock

Artist: C.B. Canaga and Tyler Eldin

Publisher: Gamewirght

Number of Players: 2-5

Duration: 45 mins

Forbidden Desert is a game that came out way way back in 2013 and is published by Gamewright. It is the second in the Forbidden series designed by Matt Leacock, with Forbidden Island  being released in 2010.

Matt Leacock is no shrewd when it comes to co-op games that want to beat you to a pulp. With the two Forbidden games under his belt and the hugely popular Pandemic series he is certainly no stranger to this genre and game mechanic.

In Forbidden Desert you take on the role of space crew who have unwittingly crash landed in, as the name suggests a Forbidden Desert. The parts of your ship which fell off during landing have been scattered across the land and you and your team need to uncover sand in order to find these missing pieces.

If only it was that easy.

This game is brutal!

On each turn players have four actions which they can use. They can move their character a tile, they can clear some sand from an adjacent tile, they can flip over a tile to reveal either a location of a ship part, a tunnel or a mechanic card and finally they can give water to a player on the same tile as them.

If that’s all that happened you would win every time!

At the end of each players go the Storm Cards are turned over. The game also comes with a storm meter which indicates the number of cards you will flip over in this phase of the game. Say for instance it is on three, then three cards get flipped. These storm cards show the way the in which the storm is headed. For each direction and number of tiles, those tiles move and a piece of sand is placed on the tile.


Now there are a number of ways to die in this game, but only one way to win. You win by getting all the space ship parts and getting all the players to the launch pad. You lose thusly; by running out of sand tiles, one of your team mates dying of dehydration or if the storm picks up to much and reaches the top of the storm gauge.

The game itself is really fun, even if you don’t win it that often. What adds to the fun element, is the little toy space ship and parts that comes with the game. This could have easily been done without any thought and there could have been the use of token to represent the parts, but you really got to give credit for the effort in doing it properly.

Every time you start the game and think that you have a plan and it looks like it is all going well, you deal out a handful of unruly storm cards and the game goes to pot. There is strategy involved with regards to when to turn over the water tiles which will give you additional water, or when to play your action cards which can save you a few moves and potential help you win.

Now my problem with this game is winning. Since getting the game a few weeks ago we must have clocked in close to 6 hours worth of game time, and we have beaten the game a grand total of once. And that was on the Novice level. We have tried and tried again but to no avail. Most the time not even getting close. However, that is really the beauty of this game. We keep going back for me. It’s always one more game, and we will beat it but that win never seems to come.


Maybe the game is broken with two players! It does seem next to impossible on any level but Novice. It also seems even harder in a two player game if you aren’t playing with the Water Carrier or the Archaeologist who probably have two of the strongest special abilities.

Another slight concern I have with this game is the quality of the tiles. They seem cheap and nasty. We did in fact have an issue with one of the tiles being heavily scratched and therefore we were able to remember what was under that tile. You really do feel like you have to be extra gentle when handling the tiles to not cause them to much damage.  However I must congratulate Gamewright on there customer service and replacing this tile without any questions asked, so props to them on that.

I will keep pursuing this until we win with two people. But saying that we haven’t faired that much better when we played with five.




About the Author

Oscar Russell

Comics Editor for WTN, and co-host of the All New Comics Dash Podcast. I like comics and tabletop gaming!