Matt Leacock (game creator)

C. B. Canga (illustrations)

Devir (editorial)

Brief description

It is a cooperative game where a brave group of adventurers must find and bring back four treasures from a sinking island. The game is won if all four treasures are recovered, and all players can escape the island before it sinks.

Recommended ages

Ages 10 and up.


2-4 players

Duration of the game

45 minutes


  • 28 treasure cards (5 cards for each treasure and 8 special cards)
  • 6 adventurer cards and 6 pawns
  • 24 double-sided terrain tiles (each with a unique name and image)
  • 24 flood cards (one for each of the 24 terrain tiles)
  • 4 treasure figures
  • 1 water level indicator



  • With the 24 terrain tiles, the island is created with the coloured side facing up, indicating it is solid ground. During the game, the terrain tiles will first flood (white and blue side up) and then sink (removed from the game, leaving a hole in their place). The game suggests creating an island in the shape of a cross, but other variants add more difficulty to the game. The treasures are placed next to the island.
  • Each player randomly receives an adventurer card that grants them special abilities. Take the pawn of the corresponding colour and place it on the corresponding terrain tile.
  • Shuffle the flood cards and reveal 6 of them. Flood the corresponding 6 terrain tiles (the same image appears in white and blue).
  • Deal 2 treasure cards to each player.
  • Set the water level based on the players’ expertise.

Game sequence

In turns, players take three actions:

  1. Up to three actions to choose from: move the pawn to an adjacent tile, shore up (flip) the terrain tile where the pawn is located or an adjacent one if they are flooded, give a treasure card to another player located on the same terrain tile, or recover a treasure.
  2. Draw two cards from the treasure deck. A player can only hold a maximum of 5 cards. If they have more, they must discard the ones they prefer.
  3. Draw flood cards (as many as indicated by the water level) and flood (flip) or sink (remove from the island, if already flooded) the corresponding terrain tiles. Holes will appear, making movements more complex. When a terrain tile with a pawn on it sinks, the pawn can be relocated to an adjacent flooded or dry tile.

To obtain a treasure, a player – with four treasure cards – must be positioned on one of the two specific terrain tiles that allow for its recovery.

In the treasure deck, there are cards that trigger special actions:

  • Waters rise (3 cards). They raise the water level by one point. The higher the level, the more flood cards need to be drawn each turn. When one of these cards appears, all flood cards played up to that moment are shuffled and placed on top of the flood card deck. This way, the first flood cards to reappear will be those of the terrain tiles that are already flooded.
  • Sandbags (2 cards). They allow flipping a flooded terrain tile without taking any actions.
  • Helicopter (3 cards). They allow moving to any location on the island. Alert: it is necessary to save a helicopter card for the end of the game, allowing all players to escape from the island with the 4 recovered treasures in a single trip. If that happens, the game has been won.

However, the game is lost when:

  • The game is lost if the two terrain tiles that allowed the recovery of the same treasure sink.
  • The game is lost if the terrain tile corresponding to the landing strip sinks.
  • A player located on a sinking terrain tile with no adjacent tile has no place to relocate.
  • The water level reaches the skull.

Work-based on the game

Forbidden Island is a commercial game that allows playing as a team and having a good time with a high dose of tension derived from achieving the objective. It is a completely cooperative game, where players can see each other’s cards, and even agree and plan together different plays or sequences of plays to achieve maximum efficiency. In addition, the difficulty level can be adjusted to the group’s expertise in the game by increasing the initial water level.

However, being cooperative does not mean that everything is rosy, and the situations in the game may not be free of tensions or contradictions. And here opens an educational opportunity around the game. That’s why we propose, after a good game, to analyze and reflect on how the game went and what situations were experienced. What group dynamics have there been? Which leadership styles have emerged? Have they been positive? Have they listened, respected, and taken everyone’s contributions into account? Has there been a search for agreement and consensus, or have numerical majorities or impositions predominated? Has the objective of victory been prioritized over the process? In the end, have we thanked each other for the game? Or the victory? Has the game allowed us to grow as a team?

Some games test us and confront us with ourselves, our way of doing things, our habits, our character, and our values. The existence of a very clear common goal and increasing difficulties make Forbidden Island a fantastic game to bring out all these elements. Let’s make the most of it.

+ information on where to buy it. / Virtual game stores / game stores