You and your team head into the depths of the desert in search of an ancient flying machine! All the parts are scattered across the land, amongst the ruins of an ancient technologically advanced civilation, all buried deep beneath the dunes.
Unfortunately, on your journey, a massive sandstorm tore your own craft usunder and scattered it across the sands, leaving you stranded with limited water and time. Your only hope is to dig and find the ancient flying machine and rebuild it.
Forbidden Desert is a tile-based, cooperative game for 2-5 players. The box (which is metal! :D) says 10+ and that's fairly accurate, however I did manage to play with my 4, 6, and 8 year olds (I essentially did the 4 year old's turn for him, but he enjoyed moving the little pieces around on his turn). So, as always, take the age limit with a grain of salt - you know your kids.
As the opening crawl relayed, you play a group of explorers looking for this flying machine. As you set up the game, you lay out the tiles in a grid form. The center of the space is empty, although this "Free-Space" isn't quite as fun. That empty spot represents the Sand Storm(TM). The Sand Storm(TM) moves throughout the game, and as it moves, the tiles that shift are piled with more sand. If a regular tile has two sand tiles on top of it, that tile is now "buried" and you - the explorer - cannot cross it without removing the sand first.
As you explore, you get four actions during your turn. You can remove sand, excavate (or flip over) a tile, move to another tile... When you excavate a tile, you reveal what is underneath. This is how you find the location of the ship parts, and it's pretty clever. For each item, there are two tiles - each tile has arrows to indicate the row (arrows pointing left and right) and the other arrows for the column (arrows pointing up and down). So when you reveal both tiles, you can work out where the item is on the board. And the items themselves are fun, because they are actual little pieces of the ship and you *actually* build the ship in the end! Yay, props!
On the tiles are also images for items, the tunnel system, and wells where you can collect water.
The game play involves alternating player turns with pulling cards for the Sand Storm(TM). You pull from the deck to see which direction it moves, but you could also escalate the storm (which means you'll pull more cards the next round) or the SUN BEATS DOWN.
This means you lose some water... if you run out of water, you're dead. If the storm escalates too high, you're dead. If all the sandtiles are used up, you're dead. And if ONE player dies, everyone loses.
But it really is a lot of fun. No, really! It is! We didn't win the first few times, but we have since. Oh! One fun addition, aside from the item cards (jetpack anyone?) is that each player gets a different job, so everyone has something to offer in the game to work towards the goal, together!
I really enjoy co-op games, and when you get to add in little toys too, it's even better. This is very much a strategy game where you're constantly fighting against the board, so there is room for major frustration, but that means that the reward is immense. With the ever changing position of the tiles, and the different character options, it also has extreme replayability. All good things in my book. So.....
Will you survive the Forbidden Desert?