Review – Forbidden Jungle
Forbidden Jungle is the fourth entry in the popular Forbidden series of co-op games from designer Matt Leacock. How does it compare to the earlier titles? Let’s find out!
After taking off in a rocketship at the end of Forbidden Sky, the crew of explorers has landed on a strange, overgrown planet in Forbidden Jungle. This game continues the adventure as 2-5 players trek through a dense jungle filled with alien bug creatures.
Like the prior games in the series, Forbidden Jungle is played on a grid of tiles. At the beginning of the game, only the start tile is revealed, so players will need to explore the rest of the map. Their objective is to find 4 illuminated crystal tiles and move them such that they surround a portal tile.
On a player’s turn, they get 4 actions. The available actions are:
- Move to an adjacent space
- Reveal the current tile
- Remove a bug from the current tile
- Operate a machine (i.e. activate the current tile)
Machines are at the heart of this game. There are 4 different kinds, and they allow players to slide tiles, remove tiles from the game, push bugs to an adjacent tile, or activate a portal that has been surrounded by crystals to win the game.
Once a player has taken all their actions, they draw the number of threat cards shown on the threat meter (2 to 5 cards). These cards do things like move bugs, make bugs grow to the next stage, remove tiles from the board, increase the threat level, and cause bugs to spin webs. (Webs are placed between tiles, and they block movement.) The adult bugs can also sting players, which makes those players lose HP. Thankfully, players can find equipment cards along the way, which give them helpful abilities that can be used at any time.
If the players manage to surround a portal tile with the 4 illuminated crystals, they win. (They must also remove all the bugs from that space and get the whole group there together.) There are 5 possible loss conditions:
- If players need to place a bug on the board, but have no more of that type in the supply
- If the threat track reaches the final space
- If a player loses all their HP
- If a tile collapses and players can’t move off of it
- If any of the illuminated crystals are removed
Forbidden Jungle is my second-favorite entry in the series. In my opinion, it is better than Forbidden Island and Forbidden Sky, but it doesn’t quite reach the level of Forbidden Desert. I do see shades of Island and Desert in this design, though, which I enjoy.
The wandering monsters are a nice addition to the series. Their presence is a constant threat, and it’s cool how they grow from eggs to hatchlings to adults. To that end, I’ll note my only issue with the otherwise great production quality—the adult bugs don’t stand up well. Their gangly legs are easily malleable, so they sometimes get bent in such a way that the figures fall over. It’s easy to fix—players merely have to un-bend them—but doing so repeatedly gets tiresome. It would have been much better if the figures had a flat base underneath for stability.
Strategy-wise, I like the decisions in this game. The machines provide opportunities for cool plays, such as luring a bunch of bugs onto a space and then blowing that space up. Likewise, if a tile gets gummed up with webs, sliding it breaks them all, which opens up players’ movement options. Teamwork is of course key, and the different player abilities are critical to success. The game also includes 6 alternate map setups, which add some extra replay value. Each setup lists a difficulty level, so players can scale the challenge as they like. (They can also do this by starting the threat meter higher or lower.)
Forbidden Jungle feels harder to win than the prior Forbidden games, which makes me recommend it more to gamers than to a casual audience. (As an aside, I could see some younger folks getting the heebie-jeebies about the bug creatures, so be aware if you’re thinking about playing with kids who get scared easily.) Following the critical panning of Forbidden Sky, I’m really glad to see another strong entry in this series. Forbidden Jungle is a fun, challenging co-op, and it’s worth checking out.
A review copy was provided by Gamewright.
The Bottom Line
Forbidden Jungle combines elements from the first two Forbidden games to make an engaging fourth entry in the series. With new mechanisms like wandering monsters, it might be the most challenging yet. Recommended for fans of co-ops.