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Forbidden Desert Two Player Review

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All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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Forbidden Desert is a pretty cool little co-op game, but sometimes playing it makes you feel like you have sand in your shoes in an annoying way, not like a nice beach vacation.

Forbidden Desert Review

5.5 out of 10
Forbidden Desert Two Player Review A Pair of Meeples

Is it Good For Two Players? : Okay but there’s better alternatives out there in our opinion.

Forbidden Desert is a decent little co-op game that has a lot of cool and unique features, with the best being the shifting storm and desert tiles. It is fairly easy to learn but can be a little complicated at first for newer players. The game length is perfectly reasonable for this type of game and feels just right.

Theme: 7/10
Replayability: 4/10
Components: 6/10
Conflict: 0/10
Fun: 4/10

Husband’s Rating
5 out of 10
Wife’s Rating
6 out of 10

Pros

Straightforward and easy to play

Good game length

Shifting storm and tiles make each game feel dynamic and a little different

Pretty strong theme

Cons

Core gameplay starts to feel a little repetitive after multiple plays

The box is cool and unique but is kind of a pain to store (especially for OCD types)

Gameplay Experience:


Forbidden Desert entered a time when our collection was rather small, and I thought the metal tin board game box was pretty cool. However, now every time I see that little metal box on our shelves intermingled with average-sized board game boxes made with typical materials, it irks me just a little bit.

I’ll try not to let my board game box OCD affect our review of this game to the best of my ability, but I think it is a perfect analogy for how we feel about Forbidden Desert. When we first got the game, we thought it was pretty sweet.

The shifting storm mechanism, the constant tension of piles and piles of sand being built up on the board, and the need to work together to explore, survive the desert, and escape made for a pretty darn good board game, in our opinion.

Forbidden Desert felt like the more fun, lighthearted, and higher-energy cousin of Pandemic, which was a plus at first. But as we got further into the hobby, Forbidden Desert quickly lost its appeal and was rarely, if ever, pulled out to play.

We pulled it out again to refresh our opinions for this review, and it wasn’t too hard to see why it didn’t get played too much. The storm mechanisms that were so interesting, unique, and fun on the first plays no longer had that new and cool factor. Playing the game and the actions taken felt like all you’re doing is going through the motions.

It is quite a contradiction that such a dynamic and shifting game can feel so stale and samey at the same time. We know this is going to make us sound a little pretentious or snobby, but Forbidden Desert is one of those games that players can most likely outgrow, which I think we definitely have.

This by no means means the game is terrible or not worth it. It really is a good game, but how good you think it is is really dependent on how deep into the hobby you are and how many different board games you have played. For somebody just starting out and getting into modern board games, it’s a great purchase, but for somebody with a wide collection, they can probably pass on this one.

Like we said, the initial like for the cool tin board game box when we got the game and the current distaste for how it looks on the shelf now is a perfect analogy for Forbidden Desert. If your shelves are sparse, you’ll think this game is pretty darn cool. If your shelves are full, you’ll be wondering why that obscenely designed box is still on it.

Forbidden Desert Rules Summary:


In Forbidden Desert, players have to work together to survive and ultimately escape from the desert where they have found themselves. The desert sands are constantly shifting, making their survival and search for a legendary flying machine more difficult.

Players each take a unique role card that has its own special abilities. Each role card also shows how much water that adventurer starts with. The five different roles in Forbidden Desert are:

  • Meteorologist: Can use actions to draw fewer storm cards or look at them and place them on the bottom of the deck.
  • Archaeologist: Can clear two sand from a tile instead of one.
  • Climber: Cannot be buried by the sand and can move to blocked tiles. Can take players with them when moving.
  • Explorer: Can take actions diagonally.
  • Water Carrier: Can take additional water from already excavated water tiles. Can also give water to adjacent players for free at any time.
  • Navigator: Can move another player up to three spaces per action.
Forbidden Desert Characters

The game is played on a 5×5 modular tile board with an empty space in the middle. This space represents the ever-shifting storm and will move around the board as the game goes on.

Forbidden Desert How To Play

After setting up the board, players decide what difficulty they want to play on and set the storm meter to the appropriate level. The storm meter displays how many storm cards players draw after their turn, and as the game goes on, this number will rise. If it gets too high, the players can lose.

Players can take four actions per turn, which include moving, removing sand, excavating a tile (flipping it over), picking up a part, trading with another player, or using their unique special actions.

Forbidden Desert Storm Cards and Meter

After a player is done taking their actions, they will draw storm cards equal to the current storm level. These cards depict how many tiles move and in which direction. Each tile that is shifted gets a new sand token placed on it. If two or more sands are placed on a tile, that tile is now impassable until it’s uncovered. Players can also get buried under the sand this way and will have to dig themselves out before doing anything else.

Forbidden Desert Rules Summary
This card made the storm move two tiles down

Players will also collect unique cards by excavating new tiles, and these cards provide tools that can help players travel around faster, remove sand quicker, or protect themselves from the desert sun.

Players will have to coordinate and work together to find and collect all the flying machine parts and escape the desert. As the storm increases and more cards are drawn, players will have to carefully monitor their water levels since this is another way you can lose in Forbidden Desert.

The sun beats down cards make players use up water, but there are a few ways to avoid their effects. They can use solar shield cards or make sure their explorer is in a tunnel tile when the card is drawn. Players can share water with each other, but more importantly, there are three water tiles they can excavate to replenish their water. Players need to be careful, though, because one of these water tiles is a mirage.

Forbidden Desert Water Tiles
Be careful, one of the water tiles is a mirage

Forbidden Desert Too Hard

Many people argue that Forbidden Desert is too hard, and due to the luck factor games can sometimes be quite difficult. The game’s difficulty is very dependent on the number of players though, with two players it’s fairly manageable, but with each additional player, it gets progressively harder, because the number of cards drawn before your next turn increases.

So, how do you win Forbidden Desert?

As we already said, the game will be easier with fewer players so if your chances of winning are going to go up if you play with two as opposed to five players. The game is very luck dependent though so your chances of winning are heavily influenced by the draw of the cards.

Below are some of the things that are important for winning a game Forbidden Desert:

  • Remember you can hide in tunnels to avoid “The Sun Beats Down” cards
  • Don’t hoard gear cards, the longer the game goes on the worse the sands and storm will get so use them quickly and effectively.
  • Some roles are stronger than others so if you’re finding the game too difficult select roles that will help with whichever areas of the game you are struggling with.
  • Remember that you get to replenish two water when excavating a water tile, not just one.
  • You can share water and gear with other players on your tile at any time.

Conclusion:

Forbidden Desert End of Game


Forbidden Desert is a decent little co-op game that has a lot of cool and unique features, with the best being the shifting storm and desert tiles. It is fairly easy to learn but can be a little complicated at first for newer players. The game length is perfectly reasonable for this type of game and feels just right.

Like we said, though, all these things are great for new gamers and people less deep into the hobby. However, for those who have a wide collection, they will likely be longing for more when playing Forbidden Desert.

Even though the game has gotten lower on our own lists, there’s no denying it has its place on some people’s shelves. The shifting storm will always be a memorable and cool mechanic in our minds, but the gameplay and actions themselves don’t keep it feeling refreshing and fun.

One thing Forbidden Desert does, even after multiple plays, is create a constant state of chaos on the table, and this is either something you’ll love or hate. My wife is not a fan, but I think this aspect of the game is pretty great. The sand builds up fast and always remains a major threat to players. This great chaos and tension still isn’t enough, though, to make the game hold up against some of the other similar games in our collection. However, it is definitely an area the game succeeded in.

It’s hard to explain why a game that has such dynamic game mechanisms and boards feels so stale after multiple plays and higher game experience, but it does. It’s probably due to the actions you take throughout the game. After multiple plays, it feels like all you do is move there, pick that up, go there, pick that up, clear some sand so you can go there and pick that up.

Is Forbidden Desert Good For 2 Players?


Forbidden Desert scales quite well with player count, but playing with only two may be one of the reasons why it is not one of our most liked games. The chaos of the storm and shifting tiles feels quite manageable with only two explorers on the board.

The game does have different difficulty settings for different player counts, which does help make it slightly harder, but it doesn’t really help overall with the feel of the game. In a game with more players, more cards will be drawn, the tiles will shift a lot more before your next turn, and players are likely to get buried before their next turn.

For these reasons, Forbidden Desert is a little lackluster with just two players, even though gameplay scales fairly well between player counts. Playing the game with more players will make it more chaotic (and more fun if you’re into that sort of thing) and more difficult, which is worth it in our opinion if it makes it more fun.

For that reason, Forbidden Desert is probably better with more than just two players, but it can still be quite fun for those first few games before it starts to feel repetitive. For two-player light co-ops, there are better options out there in our opinion.

Pros:

  • Fairly simple and a good gateway game.
  • Good game length, not too long or too short.
  • Shifting storm and tiles make each game feel dynamic and a little different.
  • Pretty strong theme that is well represented in gameplay and components.

Cons:

  • Core gameplay starts to feel a little repetitive after multiple plays.
  • The box is cool and unique but is kind of a pain to store (especially for OCD types).

Gamewright Forbidden Desert – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Desert Board Game Multi-colored, 5
Gamewright Forbidden Desert – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Desert Board Game Multi-colored, 5
Gamewright Forbidden Desert – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Desert Board Game Multi-colored, 5

We hope this Forbidden Desert two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


Forbidden Desert vs Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Island Board Game,2-4 players
Forbidden Island – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Island Board Game,2-4 players
Forbidden Island – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Island Board Game,2-4 players

Forbidden Island is a step down in terms of difficulty and complexity from Forbidden Desert.  If you're looking for the easiest and most straightforward version of this game series this is where you would start.  The games aren't really different enough to justify owning them all, just pick which complexity level that suits your needs.


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