Forbidden Island

Quick and Guide on how to play Forbidden Island #

Get my guide on Forbidden Island rules and gameplay #

I cover the essential instructions and gameplay to get your game started quickly.

Suitable for 2 – 4 players | 20 – 37 mins duration | Recommended age 10+ | Game complexity: LOW Genre: Adventure,Fantasy Solo game mode: No Co-op: Yes Online Version: No

Forbidden Island is a:

  • 2 -4 player cooperative board game
  • Recommended fo ages 10 and up

What is the goal? #

You and your friends have to work together to:

  • keep Forbidden Islands from sinking,
  • buy enough time to capture its 4 treasures
  • make it to Fool\’s Landing and escape with your captured treasures

Game setup  #

How to create Forbidden Island? #

  • Shuffle 24 Island tiles and randomly place face-up into a grid as show below:
Forbidden Island Grid
Forbidden Island Grid

Place treasures on Forbidden Island #

  • Place the 4 treasures – Earth Stone, Statue of the Wind, Crystal of Fire and Ocean\’s Chalice around the island
  • Locate the 8 tiles that allow you to claim the treasures
  • Each treasure can be claimed via 1 of the 2 tiles represented by the symbol in the corner
Forbidden Island Treasures
Forbidden Island Treasures and Tiles

Divide Flood, Treasure and Adventurer Cards #

  • Separate Flood deck, Treasure deck and Adventurer cards
Forbidden Island Cards
Forbidden Island Cards

Sink the Island #

  • Shuffle flood deck and place down on one side of island
  • Draw top 6 cards (1 at a time)
  • Place face-up next to Flood deck to form Flood Discard Pile
  • For each card drawn, flip corresponding tile to \”FLOODED\” side
Forbidden island rules - flooded tile
Flooded tiles example

Sink the Island #

  • Shuffle flood deck and place down on one side of island
  • Draw top 6 cards (1 at a time)
  • Place face-up next to Flood deck to form Flood Discard Pile
  • For each card drawn, flip corresponding tile to “FLOODED” side
Forbidden island rules - flooded tile
Flooded tiles example

Forbidden Island - adventurer cardsPlace Adventurers on island #

  • Shuffle 6 Adventurer cards and randomly deal 1 to each player
  • Each will take a role of an adventurer with special powers
  • Read aloud your role and powers so that everyone knows your strengths
  • You need to cooperate and use your teammate’s strengths to win
  • Forbidden Island 2Take a pawn matching colour of your Adventurer and place on corresponding Island tile (has a matching pawn icon in the lower right)


  • Note: You can start on a flooded tile

Hand out Treasure Deck cards #

  • Shuffle Treasure deck and deal 2 cards to each player
  • Place cards face up in front of you so that everyone can see them
  • If you get a Waters Rise! card, take a replacement card and shuffle the Waters Rise! card back into Treasure deck

Set Water Level #

  • Place Water level marker on left side of Water meter
  • Set to appropriate starting difficulty level (according to the difficulty you want to play)

Forbidden Island 3

Gameplay #

Randomly choose a player to start first.

Overview of a round:

  1. Take up to 3 actions
  2. Draw 2 Treasure Deck cards
  3. Draw Flood cards equal to water level

Take up to 3 actions #

You can take up to 3 actions. Teammates can advise you.

Select combination of any of the following actions:

  • Move
  • Shore up
  • Give a Treasure Card
  • Capture a Treasure

Move #

  • Move your pawn to an adjacent Island tile: up, down, left, or right, but never diagonally
  • move onto a flooded tile, but may not move onto (or over) the space of a missing tile
How to play Forbidden Island
Standard movement


  • Explorer can move diagonally
  • Pilot can move to any tile once per turn for 1 action
  • Navigator can move other players up to 2 adjacent tiles per action
  • Diver can move through 1 or more adjacent missing or flooded tiles for 1 action

Shore Up #

  • Shore up (turn over to non-flooded side) any adjacent Island tile or Island tile your pawn is on
Learn how to play Forbidden Island - Shore up
Shore up Example


  • Engineer may shore up 2 tiles for 1 action
  • Explorer can shore up diagonal tiles

Give a Treasure Card #

  • Give 1 or more of your Treasure cards to another player if both of you are on the same tile. Note Hand Limit of 5 cards for each player.
  • Costs 1 action per card.
  • Special Action cards may not be given away
Forbidden Island 1
Give a treasure card


  • Messenger may give cards without having to be on the same tile

Capture a Treasure #

  • For 1 action, capture treasure by discarding 4 matching Treasure cards from your hand if your pawn is on either corresponding island tile
Forbidden Island 2
Capture Treasure

Draw 2 Treasure Deck Cards #

  • Draw 2 cards from Treasure deck and add to hand
  • Draw 1 card at a time
  • If Waters Rise! card is drawn, do not add to hand, follow instructions and discard to Treasure discard pile

Treasure Cards #

  • Aim is to collect 4 of the same Treasure card to capture the corresponding Treasure
Forbidden Island 3
Collect 4 matching treasure cards to capture the treasure

Special Action Cards #

  • 2 types of Special Action cards:
    • Helicopter Lifts
    • Sandbags
  • Cards will help you during the game. Special action cards do not require an action.
  • Discard to Treasure discard pile when played
  • You may use the Special Action card if you are forced to discard
Forbidden Island 4
Special Action Cards

Water Rise! Cards #

  • When drawn, immediately do the following:
    • Move Water Level marker up the next tick mark
    • Take all cards from Flood discard pile, shuffle and place face down on top of Flood draw pile
    • Discard Water Rise! card to Treasure discard pile
Forbidden Island 5
Water Rise! card

• If you draw a Waters Rise! card, you do not get a replacement card.
• If you draw 2 Waters Rise! cards in a row, shuffle the Flood discard pile only once but
move the Water Level marker up 2 tick marks
• If you draw a Waters Rise! card but there are no cards in the Flood discard pile, just move
the Water Level marker up 1 tick mark

When treasure deck runs out, shuffle discard pile and form new deck

Hand Limit #

  • Only allowed 5 cards in your hand (including Treasure and Special Action cards)
  • If you have more, immediately chooose and discard excess to discard pile
  • You may use Special Action card before discarding it

Draw Flood Cards #

  • Draw number of Flood cards equla to current Water Meter Level
  • Draw cards 1 at a time and place onto Flood discard pile
  • For each card drawn:
    • if matching Island tile is unflooded, flip to flooded side
    • if matching Island tile is flooded, it SINKS. Remove it and matching Flood card from the game
  • You cannot play a Sandbag card to save a flooded tile once you\’ve revealed matching Flood card

Pawns on Flooded Tiles #

  • Tile is flipped over and the pawn is returned to tile
  • If pawn is on a tile that is removed, it has to move to ADJACENT TILE. If there is no adjacent tile to move, it sinks and everyone loses


  • Diver may swim to nearest tile, Explorer may swim diagonally and Pilot may fly to any tile

When Flood Pile runs out #

  • Shuffle Flood discard pile and form new pile

How Do You Win? #

  • Collect all 4 treasures and go to Fool\’s Landing
  • Everyone must move to Fool\’s Landing
  • 1 player must discard a Helicopter Lift card for the WIN!

Losing the game #

4 ways to lose:

  1. If Temples, Caves, Places or Garden tiles sink before you can collect the treasure
  2. If Fool\’s Landing Tile sinks
  3. If any player on an Island tile that sinks, has no adjacent tile to go to
  4. Water level reaches skull and crossbones
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