Matt Leacock

Schmidt Spiele

No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

In the card game Die verbotene Insel by Matt Leacock the players try to rescue four unique artefacts from an island that is flooded step-by-step during the game. Only in case the players succeed they have a chance to win the game. But securing the artefacts is only the first condition for victory. The players - with all the artefacts in their hands - also have to evacuate the island from the helicopter landing field, and they have to leave the island together. If only one of the characters the players represent during the game is lost, victory is forfeited. Thus, obviously, Die verbotene Insel is a cooperative game and can only be won by the concentrated efforts of all players.


[IMAGE]The game is designed in the style of fantasy themes and features very attractive graphics. All island cards show mystical places, for example the Cave of Fire or Poseidon's Palace. The artefacts are presented as robust plastic pieces and the character figurines are funnily shaped and beautifully painted, too. Each character has his own design and wears typical clothing and tools of his profession. Although Die verbotene Insel is, strictly speaking, a card game, it strongly resembles a board game, not least because the 24 island cards are made from quite solid material and are spread out on the table at the beginning of the game to form the island. This means, the players can create their own 'board' to their liking. For example, you can arrange the different island cards more like a bone or like an atoll. The shape of the island also influences the severity of the game, because once parts of the island are separated by the flood, the only possibility to reach these areas is by help of special abilities or by making use of one of the 'helicopter' action cards. Consequently, an oblong island is more difficult to play than a square shaped island.

During the game, the players move their characters across the island from one card to the other. Each one of the six available characters has its own special abilities some of which affect the ability to move. According to the regular movement, a character is drawn from one island card to an adjacent one. The character may be moved only one step and must not be moved diagonally. But, as mentioned above, some of the characters have special abilities which affect their range and mode of movement. The 'Explorer', for example, may move diagonally whereas the 'Pilot' may fly to any of the island fields once per turn. The 'Navigator', then, may move another character two steps or two other characters one step each. The special abilities of the different characters are perfectly balanced and help the players improve their chance of victory in case they cooperate with each other and reconcile their actions.

Playing the game is quite easy. During his or her turn, a player may perform up to three actions with his or her character. First, the player may move the character to an adjacent island field or to other island fields - in case the character is endued with special movement abilities as described above.

Then, the player may decide to drain a flooded island card as his or her second action. An island card is drained by flipping the card the player's character is placed on or an adjacent island card to the reverse side. But an island card may only be drained as long as it is not completely engulfed by the flood. If one and the same card has been flooded twice and has not been drained in the meantime, this part of the island territory is permanently lost to the water. Thus, it is very important to drain the territory during the game because, for one, for each of the artefacts there exist only two island cards where the respective artefacts can be retrieved. Once these two island cards are ultimately flooded, it is no longer possible to salvage the respective artefact which means that the game is lost. Thus, the players must carefully protect these island cards from the water as long as they do not possess the artefact in question. Furthermore, the island is changed by the flood. In case an island card is ultimately flooded, it is no longer possible to move across this space, the only exception being the character 'Diver' - the 'Diver' may dive through any flooded or lost island cards. As time goes by, it will become increasingly difficult, even impossible to drain all island cards menaced by water. This means, the players must decide which island cards must be saved at any cost and which cards may be sacrificed. Two characters with special abilities are particularly helpful if it comes to draining island cards: the 'Engineer' is able to drain two adjacent island cards at a time and the 'Explorer' has the ability to drain island cards positioned diagonally.


If two characters occupy the same island field, it may also be wise to transfer artefact cards carried by one character to another character. Since, on the one hand, a player has to possess four identical artefact cards in order to detect that artefact whereas, on the other hand, players' hand limit for artefact cards is five, it is very important that the players exchange their cards. Detecting an artefact is the last sort of action players may perform. The artefact is detected in case the player moves his or her character to the corresponding island field and discards the four artefact cards.

After having performed the three types of action, the players draw two new artefact cards. After that, the flood comes, which means that cards are drawn from the flood card pile. These flood cards feature pictures of certain island cards and the corresponding island part is flooded immediately, i.e. the respective island card is flipped to the flooded side. Amongst the flood cards, the card 'The Flood Rises' is a particular annoyance since it commands that all flood cards that were drawn during previous turns have to be taken back and put on top of the flood card pile. Consequently, there is a fair chance that these parts of the islands will be flooded for a second time during the next few turns. If the affected island card had not been drained in advance, it is ultimately lost. But the 'The Flood Rises' card also induces a second effect: the Water Level Indicator (printed on a small extra board) rises by one. This indicator determines how many flood cards must be drawn at the end of each player's turn. As time goes by - and as the Water Level Indicator raises - this number of flood cards rises, too, putting the players under considerable pressure. The Water Level Indicator is also helpful in adjusting the difficulty of the game to the players' level of experience. In case the players want to face a real challenge, they might start the game with the Indicator at a higher level.

Fortunately enough, the flood card pile also contains some cards which wield positive effects. 'Helicopter' cards can be used once to move freely from one island card to another whereas 'Sandbags' help draining any island card on the table.


Die verbotene Insel is a lovely, quick game which is especially funny if played with children or as an interim game if you have not much time. The game will not last much longer than 30 minutes and sometimes the game is lost so quickly that you don't even realise it. The rules, too, can be explained in no time. The beautiful graphics and the caringly designed characters wonderfully match the plot of the game. Of course, you will not expect Die verbotene Insel to be a game of complex strategies. But in order to win the game, players have to debate and interact a lot, as well as to make wise use of the different characters' special abilities. In my eyes, the game is particularly entertaining if played speedily. If the flood breaks in on secluded parts of the island, the characters' special abilities are the only hope. The game is perfect for four players. If only two players participate, the game will not unfold its full potential mainly because the necessity to exchange artefact cards results in the players moving parallel across the island unless one of them chose the 'Pilot' character. Whilst cooperative games often prove rather complex or boring, Die verbotene Insel demonstrates convincingly that flimsy cooperative games can be great fun, too.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany