Game Mechanic For Hire

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Design Experiment: Forbidden Island without sinking, 10.14.13

with 2 comments

Io there! We’re starting this game design blog back up with look at a game without one of its key mechanics. (We’ve done a few like this before looking at Monopoly without money and Power Grid without power stations.)

Today, we’re lookin’ at Forbidden Island without the island sinking.

A quick primer: Forbidden Island is a cooperative game where players work together to retrieve four artifacts from a sinking island and get everyone off to safety before:

  • A) an artifact is lost,
  • B) someone drowns, or
  • C) the exit is lost.

Each turn, players move about the island helping keep the island afloat while working to gather the four artifacts. Each player has a special ability nobody else has, and the sinking of the island intensifies as the game continues. It’s a fantastic intro co-op; go get it (or its older brother, Forbidden Desert).

One of the main mechanics that drives the action of the game is the fact the island sinks a little bit each turn. This provides the sense of urgency and danger a cooperative game needs. So if we take it out, what might happen? Here’s one possibility:

  1.  No sinking means there isn’t any danger of losing. Without a threat, the cooperative element falls a bit flat. To keep an element of uncertainty and danger, perhaps the game spawns guards each turn that must be dealt with or avoided. One per player could start in play at the beginning of the game.
  2. Guards could be spawned by the flood cards. Instead of the space listed getting flipped over, it either spawns a guard at that location or moves a guard on that space a set number of spaces with hitting an edge wrapping the guard around to the opposite side of the board.
  3. A hit point system could be implemented. You could take being landed on by a guard X times before you’re caught.
  4. Guards could be removed from play by moving into the same space from the side or behind.
  5. As gameplay continues, you would start drawing more than one card to determine guard movement and placement. Eventually, the players would simply be overwhelmed by the guards and be caught.

Still keeps a rough feel of being Forbidden Island, but with a funky twist. How would you work with the change? Let us know in the comments!



Written by krinklechip

October 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Two things… the first being that Forbidden Desert would actually be the younger brother… as an older brother, it is very important to me that we older brothers always get our dues. Desert may be the bigger, wedgie-inducing, got the better genes brother, though.

    Secondly… One of the best elements of Forbidden Island is that it does everything it does in a very simple manner. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Love Letter is another example of a simple(r) game that packs a LOT more into what it does than the low part count and simplified rules would seem to suggest. Once you start adding maintenance or other moving parts to the mix, you lose that bit of elegance. The mental picture of this also seems to push it further into the ‘game’ category and away from the ‘puzzle’ category it seems to hold; I’d have to actually try it to see if this is true or not, though. Anyway, the simplicity of the elements is probably the one hook that Island still maintains over Desert. I’m quite a bit less interested in Desert for this reason.

    Still, it’s always worth discussion and I think that’s the point here. 🙂


    October 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    • Io Stu,

      Thanks for joinin’ in the discussion!

      You are absolutely right in the simplicity being part of what makes Forbidden Island great. The guards movin’ around (‘specially when there’s lots of ’em) would be fairly fiddly. It could drop into the current mechanic mix without too much mucking about with the core concept, though, and would offer a fundamentally different feel. …almost like Fearsome Floors meets FI.



      October 14, 2013 at 9:21 pm

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