People love the escapism that popular culture brings
From the exploits of superheroes to the adventures of time travelers and beyond, there are a ton of ways you can lose yourself. Films, TV, video games, books, comics, music and art all give us gateways to other worlds. For me I love the excitement and absorption you can get from a good table top game, and Forbidden Desert by Gamewright certainly gives you all of that and more.
Picture the scene. You play as an adventurer who is on a mission to excavate an ancient city in the desert. Unfortunately the trip there does not go as planned and you and your party crash land in the very desert you planned on exploring. Now forced to head through it, your team must band together and try to find the parts to a mysterious flying machine lost within the hidden city somewhere. While looking for the pieces you must also stay one step ahead of the storms that rage through the desert as well as making sure the sun does not dehydrate your crew. The search is on and your very survival depends on your quick wit and team work skills.
Pretty tense hey? The game relies on making the desert seem real to the player, making their quest for survival that much more serious. The games layout is incredibly simple, which probably makes it so much easier to get absorbed in the game. Anyone that remembers the old ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 systems will remember the joy you got from those simple graphics and great game play. The same applies here. That’s not to say that the design of this game is basic. A great deal of care has gone into the look of the game, with steam punk visuals for the parts of the city you unearth, the gadgets you manage to find and the ship itself which is crafted in hard plastic and its pieces left on the board if you are lucky enough to find where they are that is.
The 5 by 5 tile layout is the board for this adventure. Looking under each piece reveals either gear, nothing or vital parts of the flying machine. The great thing is that when the storm kicks in, these tiles are moved around all over the board. Playing the game requires a deal of remembrance on the part of the player, thinking what is under what tile and where was what! The storm is as much a player in this game as you are, taking its turn with perils like sand covering the tiles and causing dehydration to set in. This is all dealt out with cards. When the storm picks up, more cards are dealt leading to a real sense of urgency while playing the game. More cards mean more problems, more sand tiles mean blocked places you have to clear, and no sand tiles mean instant death so be careful out there! If you are not careful your game can end up looking like this and all hope is lost!
It’s odd really. While playing the game you and your friends will feel like you have a handle on it. The planning aspect kicks in very early, using your character skills to help keep the problems at bay. These skills can be invaluable and help to keep more water for use later, moving other people to places of shelter or moving the dreaded sand tiles which will very quickly block up the desert and stop you searching under it until they are cleared. Using the equipment you find while looking for the machine parts play a big part in you not only staying alive, but finishing the game. But the game can knock you sideways and when the winds change and you are lost under sand, your water supplies are low and the sun has almost reached its peaked you have to think pretty blooming quick about how you are going to survive. This can very quickly make a group loose it’s cool and panic! Using teamwork and your own character to the best of their abilities is the only way you are going to survive in this game.
This is the key element of the game and makes it so much fun, the co-operation between players is great as a mini discussion breaks out about what to do not just on your move, but also on the next few moves. In a way the game is like chess, you have to be one step ahead of the storm which you just cannot predict 100 percent. The game can be unrelenting, you can have your whole system mapped out and still not make it to the end. In fact out of all the games I have played we have only won once and that was by the skin of our teeth. There is nothing more exciting than fixing the ship up with seconds to spare, and nothing more devastating than dying just before the last piece is assembled. There is real tension here, you really get invested in the fate of not just yourself, but your fellow teammates. You will use whatever gear you have managed to roundup and any skills you have to keep them safe. Tension, excitement and a sense of adventure all come out of a game of Forbidden Desert.
So if it’s escapism you want this is where you need to turn to.