Forbidden Sky is the latest in a growing line of forbidden-ness. While it keeps a similar flow gameplay to Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island it brings a lot of new mechanics to the series.
Also a MASSIVE plastic rocket ship.
The real delight of this component is when it lights up and emits the blast-off sound when you successfully escape from the game. You see, as part of your escape, you’ll be building a live circuit by connecting metal components such as capacitors and lightning rods.
To create this circuit though you’ll take turns in typical forbidden fashion. You’ll take four actions, then the elements will have a turn. Drawing several cards from the storm deck that can cause lightning strikes or gusts of wind, which will damage your health and rope respectively.
To avoid falling from this platform you’ll need to build upon it by placing tiles while managing your health. Victory is only achieved after you find a launch pad, a number of capacitors and lightning rods. Then once they’re all connected, you’ll power up the spaceship, and with a flashing red light, you’ll escape into the night sky.
Extreme Tile Placement
While the other forbidden titles start you with a board that slowly gets chipped away by the elements. In Forbidden Sky, you create the board as you play. Because of this, tile placement is everything.
First off, within each tile, there’s a copper wire that connects tiles together. If this copper wire ever reaches a lightning tower, then you’ll turn into a roast chicken if you’re on that tile during a lightning strike.
Next, you’ll notice tiles have different-sized circle pieces on them. Connecting these circle pieces gives you a contact point, a capacitor, or a landing pad. These are all good things, and connecting them is vitally important.
Finally, tiles may give you equipment when played or may have other special conditions. For example, a tile that doesn’t conduct electricity or a tile with a lightning tower – which is also needed for your circuit.
Because of this focus on tile placement, the whole vibe of Forbidden Sky feels off compared to the previous two games. Where previously there was an element of exploration and reacting to the elements. Forbidden Sky is on the other end of the spectrum, where risk-taking is shunned and it’s more about careful planning and forethought.
So much so, that there’s little in the way of individual thought to be had. Your best chance at winning is to discuss and decide your moves with everyone else at the table. While not a problem for me, this is ripe for someone to dominate the group’s decisions.
Forbidden Sky doesn’t reach the same heights
The part of the storm we haven’t talked about yet is the high winds cards that push you around like a heavy metal mosh pit. These cards, when drawn, move you one space in a direction you’d rather not go. Even off the platform if you’re not careful. In turn, this causes your rope to fray, bringing you one notch closer to defeat.
Between these two mechanics, the lightning and the wind, Forbidden Sky is the most complex and challenging puzzle of the series.
Part of this is the card that tells you when to shuffle the storm deck so that predicting the long-term patterns of the storm is impossible.
However, even with this erratic storm Forbidden Sky feels flat when compared to the previous titles. Both Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert blend their themes with their mechanics and components making it easy to get immersed and feel like you’re taking part in the adventure.
It’s exciting when you see the island sinking before your eyes, or when the sand covers the desert. Forbidden Sky has none of that. While you build out the map, the only threat comes from individual players ruining out of health, or rope. By comparison, it’s dull.
It’s not helped by its colour palette either, as the game moves away from earthy tones to cooler colours that don’t elicit the same excitement. Also, it may be my middle-aged eyes, but I found it hard to tell the storm level.
The loss of adventure is really what brings Forbidden Sky rocketing back to earth. So instead of it being the all-star game that you think you’d be getting from this series and this designer. It turns out just… fine.
That’s despite all of the great features of this board game.
For instance, the puzzle is the smartest and most interesting yet of the series. The new powered-up items feel great to use and create even more avenues of decision-making and creative plays. While the teleportation tiles free up your movement in ways that we could have only dreamed of.
Yet, at the end of the day, it doesn’t come together cohesively. Delivering a board game where the parts are greater than the whole.
The rocket is still awesome though.
Designer: Matt Leacock
See how Forbidden Sky compares to all of the other board games I’ve reviewed.