D. Talks On Games

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Ruining Cooperative Games with Treachery

Posted by dimitri.horaites on September 14, 2013 at 2:30 PM

So I was playing a very nice cooperative game the other day called Forbidden Island. In this game you play explorers trying to collect 4 ancient treasures from an island that starts to sink below the waves the moment you step foot on it. It has beautiful components, nicely scaling difficulty and is appropriate for kids, classrooms and your whole family. This game is one of the best cooperative games out there right now and its not surprisingly created by the same guy who created the smash hit board game "Pandemic".

There's a lot of reasons to love cooperative games.They are perfect when you are playing with the type of player who gets way too competitive or always gets their feelings hurt. They are great for when you just want to all work together on a puzzle and share a high five as a team. Is your family still holding grudges from the last time you played Risk or Monopoly? Try a cooperative game.

Cooperative is nice...

Cooperative can be challenging...

With a little modification a cooperative game can become downright evil.

Here's how to ruin one of the nicest, prettiest, most family friendly games out there by adding treachery and deceit. For the right kind of person, (wrong kind?) this should be a lot of fun.

Playing "Betrayal on Forbidden Island"

Step 1: Leave a man Behind? That's just more profit for me.

The most important change is to change the win condition. Currently you can only win if all players escape with all the treasures. Not a lot of room for treachery there. In fact, lets change the win condition so it forces treachery.

The New Win Condition: At least one player must not escape the island. If at the end of the game the players that have escaped the island have equal or more treasures than there are escaped players, the escaped players win. Anyone who doesn't manage to escape before one of the failure conditions loses. If there are a  higher number of escaped players than there are collected treasures? Everyone loses. 

If esaped players have all 4 treasures the game is immediately over and anyone left on the island is immediately lost. 

If a treasure type is not available this does not end the game.

The game does not end when a player dies.

If all players escape, everyone loses.

New Rules: Players can escape from Fools Landing at any time by using the Helicopter Lift card. All other players who want to leave who are also on that space may do so. Once the player is gone from the island they stop drawing cards and cannot come back to the island.

A player who collects a treasure holds onto it and the treasure is only scored if they escape. 

Note: So now some of the players must cooperate enough to get some treasures, while betraying each other enough to make sure that some of their "teammates" won't escape.  Also, the escaped players don't need all the treasures, just enough to make a profit. (3 treasures split 2 ways is better than 4 treasures split 6 ways.) Finally, if the players who were left behind manage to escape after you have left them to die? Everyone is going to lose. A spiteful mechanic that forces you to really kill em.

Step 2: Let me hold that for you. (Betrayal Mechanics)

Now its time to give the players some additional rules that allow betrayal. 

- Very Important: Players can't steal a treasure once another player has collected it. This helps prevent players camping at Fool's Landing waiting to snake the treasure that someone else collected. Instead it makes the people who actually get a treasure instantly allied versus the people who didn't



  • As an action: you can take a card from a player with whom you share a space without  their permission.
  • As an action: you can submerge a tile that is completely dry.(but not completely sink a wet tile).
  • When using the Helicopter lift card, you can move a player without their permission.


Also, some of the characters get additional powers. (For balance and fun purposes.)


  • Engineer can submerge two dry tiles as an action or shore up1 wet tile and submerge 1 dry one, once each as an action.
  • Communicator can accept cards at a distance with that players permission (allowing long range trading. This is the "nice guy".)
  • Navigator: can move another player 1 space without their permission. With their permission they can move them two as per normal. Navigator cannot move Explorer diagonally without their permission. 

And that's it! Now go betray your friends


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