A the Geek Market a few weeks ago, I picked up Forbidden Desert. I played once with my 5 year old that week, then again last night with the 3 & 5 year olds. They were not the same experience.
The game is based on Forbidden Island and follows a similar structure. There are 24 cards set up in a grid, with the center piece missing, acting as a sand storm. The goal of the game is to find 4 missing pieces of a ship and reach the landing pad to escape. To find a piece, you need to uncover 2 indicator cards and find their intersection, then go and get the piece. Each turn allows you to take 4 actions, move or dig the sand, and most character can only move north/south or east/west, and 2 levels of sand means you can’t cross but have to dig through. There are tunnels spread about that can speed play, and you do unearth various gizmos to help clear sand, protect from the sun or zoom around. After the 4 turns, you flip over storm cards, and that’s where it gets rough.
The cards move the eye of the storm around the board, and based on that movement, more sand shows up. There are a few cards that increase the storm force, thereby requiring you to pick up even more sand cards. Finally, there’s the sun card, which drains your water (effectively hit points). Too much sand and you die. Not any water and you die. RNG can be a pain here.
The first game was, or felt, like an even spread of storm cards. It was manageable and fun. We barely escaped mind you, but the idea that there was some level of control was key. We needed to refresh our water supplies and working together made it happen.
The second game had horrible RNG. Within the first 2 rounds, the storm had picked up 4 notches and I was down to my last hit point. I tried to get my character to water, but the storm cards had put so much sand on the board it just wasn’t possible to move there. My 5 year old had her turn and pulled out two more sun cards, which wiped 2 of us off the game.
I’m thinking back to Pandemic, which also has RNG, but thankfully places the bad cards in an “even” spread. Back to back epidemics can (will) kill you in the mid game, so a decent spread is very good.
The next run through Forbidden Desert, I will be splitting up the storm pile and distributing the storm/sun cards evenly between the piles, my guess 4 piles should do. Then I’ll shuffle each pile and stack them up. While it’s certainly possible to have back to back poor pulls, it should be an extremely rare occurrence to pull up 3 in a row. Random within limits, because really, who gives a crap about pure RNG except when it’s in your favor?