In Forbidden Island the players are adventurers looking to find the 4 treasures on the lost Forbidden Island. Each player has a different profession, and so different special ability. The players start on different tiles. They must go around the board, and collect the 4 treasures on the island while trying to prevent the island from flooding around them and sinking into the ocean. All of the players win or lose together.
All of the players must collectively get the 4 treasures and make it to fools landing in order to play a helicopter lift card and take the helicopter off the island. If any player falls into the ocean abyss then everyone loses. Similarly, there are 2 spaces where you can get each of the treasures, and if both spaces for a treasure sink into the ocean before someone gets the treasure then all the players lose. As the only place the players can take the helicopter off the island, if Fools Landing is Flooded or Sunken the adventurers cannot leave, and so lose.
It is a 2-4 player game. It is much more difficult with more players, as the island sinks quicker, and more players must make it to fools landing and negotiate around the board.
Each time you play the board is different, as you randomly lay out the tiles to form the island. This means that with one game the treasure tiles could be close to your stating point, while in another they could be clear across the island. Similarly, at the start of the game, the professions are randomly handed out, and their special abilities can effect how you play the game.
Explorer: Can move or shore up tiles diagonally
Pilot: Can move to any tile once per turn as an action
Engineer: Can shore up 2 tiles for 1 action
Diver: Can move through 1 or more adjacent sunken or flooded tiles as an action
Messenger: Can give cards to another player without being on the same tile
Navigator: Can move other players up to 2 adjacent tiles as an action
Each turn a player may take 3 actions, moving, giving a treasure card to a player on the same tile, taking a treasure by turning in 4 of the matching treasure cards while on that treasure’s tile, or shoring up a tile so it is not flooded any longer. When moving you can move 1 space up/down/left/right per action. After taking their actions, a player draws 2 treasure deck cards, if they draw a waters rise card then they must move the waters rise marker up a level, and shuffle the waters rise discard cards and place them on top of the deck. This card can be extremely frustrating, because it means that you know that some of the cards will come up again very soon for flooding. If card come up for a tile that is already flooded it sinks into the ocean. This means that if there are tiles that are important that are flooded it become a priority to shore them up so they are no longer flooded. Additionally, it is extremely helpful to have good communication between the players so that you can have coordination between your moves.
I enjoy playing this game. As it is a cooperative game and not as competitive, sometimes it is nice to place a game with friends without trying to beat each other. However, depending on who you are playing with it can be easy to get into arguments on what the best moves are for each person to take if multiple players think they are right and know best.