Review: Forbidden Sky

Designer: Matt Leacock
Artist: C. B. Canga
Publisher: Gamewright
Category: Cooperative Play, Tile-Laying
Players: 2-5
Price: $13.00 Amazon.com

Forbidden Sky is the third installment of the popular Forbidden series of cooperative games, designed by superstar Matt Leacock. In this game, players work together to explore a floating sky-station and construct a real, working electrical circuit to power up a rocketship.

Review

I really enjoy Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert, so I was stoked to check out Forbidden Sky. This newest entry in the series takes place on a rickety docking station 7,000 feet in the air, in the thick of a lightning storm with high winds. So like, no pressure or anything.

Forbidden Sky has a play style similar to its siblings: take actions, draw “bad” cards, and try not to die. Unlike Island or Desert, in which all tiles begin in play, the tableau in Forbidden Sky gets built as the game progresses.

A player may take 4 actions on her turn. These can be:

  • Move to an adjacent space (both spaces must be connected via the platform; players cannot jump across “open sky”)
  • Draw a tile from the stack and add it it her hand (hand limit 3)
  • Place a tile from her hand adjacent to her pawn
  • Make a circuit connection

Many tiles depict part of a capacitor. If tiles are arranged such that they complete a capacitor icon, the corresponding piece is placed there immediately.

Connecting these two half-circles allows the player to place a small capacitor.

Other tiles feature lightning rods, which are also placed immediately when added to the board.

Two connected lightning rods. Orange had better hope lightning doesn’t strike…

These electrical components are the core of the game. In order to win, players need to construct a certain amount of them, build a launchpad, and connect them all with wires to form a single, closed circuit.

Here’s the catch: the precarious sky-station is rife with hazards. After a player has taken all her desired actions, she draws and resolves a number of cards from the deck (the amount she draws steadily increases throughout the game, as indicated on the Storm track).

As a general rule, the cards are always bad. Most commonly, they will either be high winds, which blow players around the board, or lightning strikes, which can electrocute them. Players’ characters each have a special ability, as well as sliders to track their health and rope stats.

When a card causes the wind to blow, players first check its direction, using the dial on the starting platform (certain cards will change the way it’s blowing). Any player who is not protected from the wind gets blown one space in that direction. If this would blow the pawn off the board or across open sky, the player must spend a point of rope to hold on.

Any time lightning strikes, it hits and electrifies all lightning rods, as well as spaces connected to them by a copper wire (either a wire printed on the board or a plastic wire piece). Any player in an affected area loses a health point.

Black and orange will both get zapped for a point of damage. Blue is safely out of the way of the current, so she avoids this lightning strike.

The good news is there are ways to counteract these negative events. Certain tiles grant shelter from wind or electricity, others give helpful items, and still others provide “warp” spots, from which players can jump to any other warp spot. On top of this, character powers are each helpful in their own, unique way.

At some point, players will need to construct and connect the launchpad. When built, the rocket appears along with it.

If players manage to form a circuit using the required components, and they all make it safely to the launchpad to place the final connection, the rocket takes off and they win the game! Alternatively, if any player loses their last health or rope point, or if the Storm track reaches the end, or in the rare, silly case that the rocket takes off without everyone, all player lose.


I like when cooperative games make players feel like they are always fighting against the game system. This is something the Forbidden series does quite well, especially at the higher difficulties. Forbidden Sky is easily the hardest of the bunch, so this feeling of constant beating really comes through here. The event deck is small and stacked with bad stuff, so players almost never get a reprieve from the hazards.

With a strong emphasis on groupthink, players always need to have a unified strategy; trying to “lone wolf” it is a surefire recipe for failure. It is critically important for players to construct the launchpad, but there are very few tiles with which to do this. Therefore, launchpad tiles quickly become a precious commodity.

This is one thing I found to be an issue with Forbidden Sky: a couple of our games started to feel like Go Fish, as we spent multiple turns just searching for that final launchpad piece we needed to progress. I can envision a group of first-time players not realizing the scarcity of these tiles, and accidentally getting themselves into an unwinnable situation. It would have been nice to have a breakdown of the tiles for reference, so all players could know exactly how many of each tile feature appear throughout the stack.

I will say that the theme comes through very strongly here, perhaps more so than in the two previous Forbidden games. I’m not sure whether it’s the physicality of making a real electrical circuit, the imagery of clinging to a frayed rope, or something else entirely, but I really found myself getting into this game-world. The production quality is awesome, as I have come to expect from this series. It’s cool enough that the rocket lights up, but the retro, Atari-sounding noises it makes are the icing on the cake.

#teamwork

I have seen a lot of negativity surrounding this game, but I’m not sure it’s all warranted. Admittedly, it is not my favorite of the series – Forbidden Desert is a tough act to follow – but Forbidden Sky is a fun game in its own right. If it sounds like something your group might enjoy, check it out. It’s only 13 bucks on Amazon right now, which is a pretty unbelievable price! (The rocketship alone is worth that!)

A review copy was provided by Gamewright.

The Bottom Line

Forbidden Sky is an interesting game, but it is not quite as good as Forbidden Desert. It has some cool ideas and a particularly memorable electrical feature, but at the end of the day, I would rather play the others in this series instead.

 

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