Games Night: Forbidden Desert

Hello everyone, welcome.  Today I am talking about a game I was able to play recently when visiting a friend, Forbidden Desert.  Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game that is the companion game to Forbidden Island, both games of exploration, relic hunting and survival in hostile environments.  In this case, players take the roles of explorers trying to find the missing pieces of their crashed airship in the Forbidden Desert.  And, a Sandstorm is moving in.

The start is pretty bleak in Forbidden Desert


The Forbidden Desert tiles are shuffled and dealt out in a five by five grid each time the game is played, and then sand dunes are added, one on the middle tile of each edge and one connecting these dunes to the two nearest dunes diagonally giving a diamond shape.  The centre space is deliberately left empty to represent the sandstorm.  This will move during the game.

Players then take one of the role cards for the different adventurers. Players can assign roles randomly or they can choose at setup which roles they want to take.  Personally, I liked the Water Carrier as dehydration is one of the various ways you can lose the game.

there are 5 roles to choose from in forbidden desert

Players have a water value on their cards which is their starting water supply.  They also have clips that they attach to the cards to indicate current water level as this changes during the game.

running out of water is just one of the ways you lose in forbidden desert

Players place their meeples on the starting crash site, and are ready to play.


The basics of gameplay are really simple.  Each turn players can take three action.  Move, remove sand, excavate, pick up airship part or role special ability (where appropriate)for instance.  Players need to excavate the desert, which equates to flipping desert tiles over to reveal what is below.

once excavated tiles become much more interesting in forbidden desert

Sometimes they will find tunnels which provide movement bonuses and shade, sometimes they will find gear that can help, or even clues to the missing airship parts.  Excavating takes an action.  However, if there is sand on a tile it needs to be removed first which also takes an action (1 action per sand).  And, if there are multiple sand tiles atop a desert tile then the space is considered blocked and cannot be entered without use of special gear (someone using the sandblaster) or by the Climber who can enter blocked spaces.  Excavating can also reveal oases which allow players to replenish their water supply on reveal.  Though only the water carrier can resupply after reveal.

Once a player has taken their turn, it is over to the Sand Storm.  Players draw storm cards according to the level of the storm, causing it to move and build up more sand on tiles blocking them off.  Of course, the sandstorm moving is the least of the players’ worries.  There are Storm Picks up Cards which increase the level of the storm (the storm level being the number of storm cards drawn each turn) and there are Sun Beats Down cards which cause players to expend water.

If any character reaches Zero water, players lose.  If the storm reaches max level, players lose.

Players must think tactically and even to a point are forced to prepare for the unexpected, knowing that they must find their missing flying machine components before the storm becomes unmanageable, whilst also managing their water supply as it only takes one character death to lose the game.


This game is a lot of intense fun!  It plays similar to Forbidden Island, though where in Forbidden Island, the board effectively sinks causing eventual drowning in Forbidden Desert the board is buried.  Theoretically it can always be uncovered, but time is a factor due to the magnitude of storm and ever diminishing water supply.

Also, the methods for finding the airship components is different in Desert.  There are two tiles for each component with arrows defining an X and Y coordinate for the item.  If you uncover those coordinates, it is as simple as going to that defined space to retrieve the engine or propeller.  I like this as it is less random than the card collection and trading mechanic that is part of Forbidden Island (and the Pandemic Games, now that I think on it).

I was able to play this game a few times on my visit and found it super intense and immensely enjoyable.

Also, apologies for the lack of more detailed photos – I took these when I was visiting a friend and didn’t get as many different angles or box shots as I would like.

Bye for now!



5 thoughts on “Games Night: Forbidden Desert

  1. I’ve seen this one featured on Tabletop, and it really looked amazing. Both the gameplay and the way the game itself looked. It seriously looked like an amazing game. Glad you enjoyed it yourself as well. As usual another terrific post! 😊

    1. Aye it is good, and thank you. I have more experience playing forbidden Island, which is just as fun and plays similar, so when I got a chance to play this (granted, it was a chance I personally engineered) I jumped at it. On a separate note, will be sending you a message shortly via your site.

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