Forty years in the desert? No, thank you. Forty-five minutes? Yes, please!
Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game for 2-5 players that can be completed in under an hour.
It is an excellent family game, recommended for ages 10 and up.
Players assume the roles of Adventurers whose expedition to explore an ancient city
in the desert has been suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted by the crash of their helicopter.
Now stranded and at the mercy of the hostile environment, they must find and recover the
parts of a mysterious solar-powered aircraft and restore the craft to working order, for this
object of their original quest has become their only hope of escape from the Forbidden Desert.
If the team members are clever and a little lucky along the way, they will discover hidden wells
of water and technological artifacts that can help them achieve their goal. Meanwhile, a
ferocious sand storm swirls around them, threatening to bury them, too, in the sands of time….
The Game Play
Each turn, a player will carry out up to four actions, in any combination—move their token to a
new zone, clear sand, search the zone (excavate), or collect a flying machine part. Then, the
player will draw a Storm card that reveals the direction and strength of the oncoming sand
storm, and modify the playing board accordingly. Some Storm cards make the mission more
challenging by enhancing the intensity of the burning sun, or by increasing the storm’s severity.
To overcome nature’s fury and succeed at their quest before time runs out, the team must
work together: listening to each other’s ideas and suggestions, relying on each other’s
strengths, anticipating the storm’s destructive potential, and making the most of their available
To win the game, the entire team must locate and collect the four parts of the mysterious flying
machine; locate, clear, and rally at the launch pad; and assemble the flying machine to take off
before the sand storm prevents them from ever leaving. The team can lose the game by
allowing any player to run out of water, by letting too much sand to accumulate on the board,
or by taking too long to complete their desperate mission.
The Components: Wooden player tokens in six colors, plastic flying machine chassis and parts,
sturdy cardboard sand markers and board pieces, cardboard Storm Meter, and good-quality
Adventurer, Equipment, and Storm cards. (Hint: To avoid causing wear and tear to the edges of
the cards, shuffle them gently from hand to hand—i.e., not “poker style”—or consider
obtaining 2.5in x 3.5in or 90mm x 65mm card sleeves for them.) The game comes in an
attractive metal tin that stores easily in a drawer or on a shelf, either horizontally or vertically.
Replayability: High. The randomized modular playing board, randomized Storm and Equipment
card decks, various options for team composition, and three different difficulty levels present a
different challenge each game.
For the Parents
Game Type: Cooperative (as in, “Daddy, stop makin’ all the decisions for us! We’re s’posed to
be a TEAM!”).
Skills Reinforced: Creative and critical thinking, patience, resilience, resource management,
strategic thinking, teamwork, verbal communication, and a little reading.
Violence: No overt violence or bloodshed. The game represents the “thematic peril” of a
struggle to survive in harsh desert conditions (e.g., players run the risk of “dying” of exposure,
thirst, or being buried under sand). Each side of the Sand Storm Meter bears a small skull and
crossbones symbol at the top to indicate when the storm has become too severe and the team
has lost the game. Each Adventurer card bears a similar symbol at the bottom to indicate when
the player’s water supply has been exhausted and the team consequently has lost the game.
Sexual Content: None.
Horror/Occult: None. Some game artwork contains extremely subtle hints of ancient religious
practices such as one might see in a museum (e.g., the interior of what could be a cathedral; an
obelisk bearing indecipherable ancient writing; etc.). No depictions of deities, animate forms, or
religious/spiritual activity appear in the game.
Other: Keep small parts, especially the tiny Meter Clips, out of the reach of younger children.