When comparing Space Alert vs Forbidden Island, the Slant community recommends Space Alert for most people. In the question“What are the best co-op board games?” Space Alert is ranked 3rd while Forbidden Island is ranked 5th. The most important reason people chose Space Alert is:
The combination of several CD tracks along with variant card combos and action options ensures that no two games will be the same, making the game widely replayable. If you run out of the official CD tracks, then you can also download the [Space Alert Mission Generator](https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.boarbeard&hl=en_US) to get some random scenarios, or you can browse the internet for custom missions.
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Pro Each game is unique
The combination of several CD tracks along with variant card combos and action options ensures that no two games will be the same, making the game widely replayable. If you run out of the official CD tracks, then you can also download the Space Alert Mission Generator to get some random scenarios, or you can browse the internet for custom missions.
Space Alert is a cooperative based game, something that is not always the case for board games and can be a refreshing change.
Pro Varying difficulty
Various options can be selected to alter the difficulty level of the game, such as the power of internal and external common threats and serious threats. This makes, for example, the monsters you encounter much stronger, adding a whole new level of required teamwork.
Pro Strong theme
Space Alert has a sci-fi theme to it, and the game executes it perfectly. From the aesthetic look of the game to the actions you take, there’s plenty of science fiction – aliens, spaceships, robots, etc. The soundtrack playing in the background during the planning phase also adds a lot to the immersion. For those that are into more of a science fiction game, Space Alert could easily fit that bill.
Pro Good humor
While slightly morbid, the humor contained in the game and gameplay is quite amusing. The resolution phase is also full of humorous moments as the players watch their actions unfold or fall apart. For example, the tutorial book states that the captain must remember to do the “C” action that represents pressing the spacebar on the ship’s computer to keep the lights on.
Pro 1 - 5 players
Can be played as a single player game, or with up to 4 friends, dividing roles accordingly. If you don’t have a full group of 5 players, then the missing characters are androids, which can be controlled by any player.
Pro Simple rules
The very basics of the game are quite simple. Every player has a role assigned to them – the captain, the communications officer, and the security officer. The players take 12 turns in 10 minutes pre-planning actions while listening to a soundtrack that explains all incoming threats. The action phase is divided into three further parts, each of which has a separate deck of action cards. The soundtrack calls out the threats, the endings of phases, data transfers, and communication disruptions, and you must act accordingly.
After the 10-minute soundtrack is over, all the actions the players planned and coordinated are resolved. If the ship is still alive after that, then the game is won.
Pro Fast gameplay
The game takes around 30 minutes to play through, 10 minutes of which is the intense planning phase with the soundtrack blasting in the background.
Pro No analysis paralysis
Turn speed is dictated by the CD, avoiding some players procrastinating on their turns / keeping the gameplay flowing.
Pro Ranked highly on board game geek
With an average score of 7.5 out of 10 and a rank of 155, Space Alert is a positively reviewed board game.
Pro No alpha-gamer issue
Space Alert effectively evades the popular quarterbacking issue of cooperative board games. There’s simply no way to communicate enough useful information to other players in the 10-minute timeframe, so nobody can control absolutely everything. Everyone must efficiently work together and say what they’ll be doing to take care of the looming threats.
Pro Good components
The components of the game should hold up to multiple plays and regular wear and tear. There are a lot of good quality wooden tokens, and the cards are made of durable cardstock. The gameboard and the tracking boards are also quite thick and should endure well.
Pro Very accessible
Forbidden Island can be taught within a few minutes to absolutely anyone. It starts off slow and progressively leads into more complicated situations, so there’s time to get into the feel of the game. You only need to know how to do four actions, and the result of them is instantly visible, there’s pretty much nothing to micromanage.
The game retails for around $15, which is very cheap for the replay value and quality of the components that this game packs.
Pro Great physical components
The components of Forbidden Island are not only visually beautiful, but also durable, so they should hold up to wear and tear just fine. The game comes in a high-quality tin box and is full of thick and sturdy island tiles, durable cardstock cards, and eight treasure figures made of soft plastic.
Pro Beautiful artwork
The game looks amazing, it’s full of colorful high-quality artwork that really enhances the theme of treasure hunting on a mysterious island. The game’s box already gives a great first impression, featuring a big copy of the “Lighthouse” location tile. These locations that form the island have a huge variety of detailed and great-looking art on them.
On a design note, it is also very well done in the sense that it’s easy to distinguish which tiles are sinking, even in the blue-ish looking locations.
The rules of Forbidden Island are straightforward. After setting up the map and choosing the difficulty, you are randomly assigned one of the six different classes. During your turn you can take up to three actions in total. All actions cost 1 point, you can move, shore up a drowning tile, give a treasure card to another player on the same tile, or collect a treasure. After that you draw two cards from the treasure card deck and take a number of flood cards equivalent to the water level.
The game is won when you play a “Helicopter lift” card on the “Fool’s Landing” tile while you have all players on it and you’ve uncovered all the treasures. There are many lose conditions – you can lose if the water level reaches the highest mark, if both the tiles housing the same treasure drown before you manage to get it, if the “Fool’s Landing” tile drowns, or if a player drowns.
Pro Varying difficulty
Forbidden Island lets you adjust the difficulty, which is great because you can adjust to the group you’re playing, be it a group of experienced gamers or your family. This is done by moving the slider on the water level meter to one of the four sections. Basically, you start with a higher initial water level.
Pro Good replayability
There are many variables to Forbidden Island that keeps it replayable. The cards you draw and the map you create will always vary and the fact that you get a random class makes the game feel different every time.
The six classes have highly different abilities, for example, the pilot can use an action point to fly to any tile on the island, the messenger can give treasure cards to another player anywhere on the map, and the engineer can shore up two tiles on the same turn for one action point.
Con Steep learning curve
Space Alert is not very beginner friendly, and if you don’t properly understand how the game works when you start it up, then you’ll have visible difficulty keeping up with what’s happening in the frantic 10-minute action phase. You’ll also be dragging down the other players because there really isn’t enough time to explain rules when the game is already in progress.
It’s worth reserving an hour to play through the well-designed tutorial book that slowly introduces the complex aspects, so you’ll be ready for the real deal.
Con Requires CD player with speakers
Space Alert is only playable with the included audio CD or downloadable MP3's, without them the game is impossible to play.
Every action you take highly impacts what happens to the rest of the crew, and one tiny misstep can make the whole plan fall apart, which can be frustrating to some. Teamwork and good communication is completely necessary to win.
Con A lot of setup
Space Alert has a lot of pieces to sort through, cards and decks to shuffle and place on the gameboard. It’s not so bad if you decide to play more than one game, but the actual games are very quick in comparison to the amount of setup/takedown time.
Con Can’t be stopped once in progress
Once you press “play” on the 10-minute soundtrack, there’s no interrupting it – no pauses, no rewinds, etc. It’s important to stay focused, not engage in casual banter, and make sure there are no distractions in the background, which can be difficult to manage sometimes.
Con Quarterbacking / alpha-gamer issue
Forbidden Island suffers from the same issue as many cooperative games – a dominant player might make decisions for everyone. Table talk is absolutely necessary in this game to win, and the fact that everyone’s cards are visible, and the discard pile can be looked through doesn’t help the problem.
Con Many luck elements
Pretty much everything that happens in this game revolves around the cards that are drawn. The map itself is set up by drawing tiles, so you can get very unlucky with the placement of the “Fool’s Landing” tile and the distance to the treasure locations you need to reach in order to win. You can also get unlucky with the treasure card deck that has some “Water Rising” cards shuffled in between – if you draw a few of these in quick succession, you might make important locations sink and lose straightaway.
Con Possibly too light for experienced gamers
The game is very similar to Pandemic, but much easier in the sense that it sacrifices many concepts in favor of accessibility. Due to this Forbidden Island might feel repetitive, simplistic, and not very complex to a more experienced gamer because there are not as many strategic possibilities.