Can you survive being stranded in the desert?

Credit: Co-op Board Games

Imagine this scenario — you’re stranded in the desert in the middle of a sand storm. Water sources are scarce and the harsh sun is beating down on you. The only way to escape is to uncover and assemble all the missing pieces of a flying ship. Will you be able to find the missing parts of the ship and fix it before the harsh desert elements overtake you?

Find out yourself by playing this board game: “Forbidden Desert: Thirst for Survival

Recently, this has become one of my favorite board games to play! My husband and I were introduced to it by some friends a few months ago. 

The most significant difference between this game and most other board games is that it’s played cooperatively. Similar to Pandemic or Dead of Winter, it’s you vs. the game, rather than you vs. other players. Everyone takes their own turn, but agreeing with the group’s strategy and working together is the key to winning. 

Teamwork is the name of the game — either everyone wins or everyone loses. 

You can play this game with two to five players. Each player embodies an “adventurer” with a special skill: archeologist, climber, explorer, meteorologist, navigator, or water carrier (my personal favorite). Skills include double sand removal, moving to blocked tiles and moving diagonally, taking another player with you on your turn, looking at storm cards beforehand, moving other players during your turn, and giving water to other players. 

I’ve found that the water carrier and the climber are the two most useful adventurers to have during any game, especially if the game is played with only two players. We like to shuffle the five adventurer cards and pick randomly to switch things up every time (though I always hope for the water carrier).

We played this game with four players the first time with the water carrier, navigator, explorer, and climber (if I remember correctly).

The actual game board is made up of 24 tiles that move after every turn depending on where the sand storm hits — the sand keeps piling up! During the course of the game, each tile can be excavated to reveal something that propels the game forward: water, mirages, special gear, tunnels, location clues for the missing parts, and, most importantly, the launchpad for the ship. 

Each adventurer can take four actions on their turn which may include moving to different tiles, clearing sand from the storm, excavating a tile, or picking up parts from the ship. After every turn, three storm cards are drawn: which add sand to tiles, worsen the storm, or reveal the harsh sun depleting the water supply. 

Working together, we cleared sand off and excavated as many tiles as we could before beginning our search for water. After the sun beat down a few times, we decided that we needed more water. There are three wells — two of which are actual wells, while the third is only a mirage. 

After successfully attaining water, we continued to excavate tiles together using our special adventurer-specific skills to combat the elements. Some of the tiles were “gear tiles”, which provided us with precious resources like extra water or special tools. Other tiles turned out to be tunnels which we hid in when low on water (tunnels keep you safe from the sun). 

Eventually, we discovered the location of the missing ship parts. The only thing left to do was pick up the pieces, put the flying ship together (the actual pieces do fit together in real life), and make our way to the launch pad. 

Near the end, the storm became relentless causing us to almost run out of water but, working together, we made it out of the desert! 

My husband and I have played this game several times in groups of two, four, and five. What we’ve experienced is that the less players there are, the faster/easier the game goes. Perhaps less people = less opposing opinions on strategy? 

However, more people makes the game more fun. 

It’s like survival of the fittest with four of your closest friends and family — only you must be fit together or die together.