We have Pandemic at home. When browsing for some new games I stumbled over Forbidden Island made by the same designer. I thought it could be interesting to have another cooperative game but when I read about the gameplay I got the sneaking suspicion that it would feel too much like Pandemic.

From what I read the selection of flooding tiles works exactly like the infection deck in Pandemic and obtaining the treasures exactly like finding the cures. So my question is: Do these two games feel different enough to warrant buying both?

2 Answers 2


While I have both and definitely notice the similarities, I don't regret the purchase. Here's why:

1) Forbidden Island is easier to teach. Not that I think Pandemic is very complicated, but I've been able to teach Forbidden Island to my 8 year old where Pandemic was a bit too much. Also, the fewer number of bits (cubes and such) has made the game less intimidating to spouses.

2) Forbidden island is easier to vary. Beyond raising the "damage coefficient" (number of infections in Pandemic, beginning water level in Forbidden Island), you can alter the tile layout to form a new challenge.

3) Forbidden Island plays quicker. Faster setup, faster game play, faster tear down.

Having said that, my usual gaming group prefers Pandemic with expansions to Forbidden Island because they feel it is a deeper experience.

So to sum up: I would only get Forbidden Island if difficulty, approachability, or time is keeping Pandemic from hitting the table more. Otherwise, I'd go for another coop game such as Ghost Stories or Castle RavenCroft.

  • 1
    Our family managed to learn Pandemic without many problems and now that we got the hang of it we've never lost on normal difficulty anymore. So based on your answer I believe we would be better served with the Pandemic expansion than Forbidden Island.
    – Kempeth
    Nov 29, 2010 at 22:48
  • I would agree then. I hope my comments helped. Nov 30, 2010 at 15:23

While Forbidden Island is very similar to Pandemic in gameplay, it is worth purchasing both games.

Forbidden Island is definitely easier to teach to new players and has an overall shorter play time. It is also worth noting that this game is dirt cheap, and has been seen as low as $10 on sale. Games are only as fun as the people you have to play them with, so starting with Forbidden Island is well worth the cost.

There is one key gameplay difference in that after the 4 treasures have been found, players still have to meet up at the helicopter and escape the island. This makes the end game strategy slightly different than Pandemic's.

I disagree with another answer here that claims Forbidden Island is more varied due to tile layout. The initial seeding of disease tiles in Pandemic gives that same variety on a fixed physical board. Still, it is worth owning both games.

  • 3
    But forbidden island tile layout has two effects: first, which tiles already "sank" (in Pandemic: which cities infected), but second: which tiles are connected to which. In Pandemic, travel between cities is always the same, as it represents the Earth.
    – Konerak
    Jan 2, 2014 at 12:32

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