Review: Desert Island – card survivor


We have been looking at the horizon all the time, being on the edge of exhaustion, with no water around. What would we give for having a firm ground under our feet. It would never have occurred to us, that we can feel as helpless on land as well. But we do.

A bit paraphrased popular reality show Survivor comes to us as card game, where adventure and dangers await. All the pitfalls for players were prepared by , the designer of the game. The author of the illustrations is and the game was released in by company as a sequel to game.

A small yellow box contains surprisingly much. The basics are, of course, cards from which each participant draws one of his characters and a card with his / her position (with the same picture). There is a choice of six and each has not only the name and appearance, but also the value of the figure for the team of survivors and the size (determines the amount of food it consumes). Individuals will also receive two cards with portraits – one identifies who they love in the group and the other one who hates the character from their hearts. These cards determine at the same time what the end is the player for whom he wishes. Each of the castaways also gets their set of four tokens.


At the center of the table, players spread the cards from one digit upwards up to the number of players in the pool. The fate cards are shuffled and placed nearby. At the beginning, everyone will only get a starting card from the shuffled exploration package.

Individual rounds, where players go one after the other and always consist of five phases. At the beginning of the round, the new stock of the shipwrecks will always be washed by the sea. A player whose character is currently on the beach will take out a new scout cards (as many as there are participants in the game) and give one to every player. He and he alone determines, who gets which item.

After that, playing order of the characters will be decided. Player, whose hero stands on the beach, always starts. He has the first chance to draw two cards of fate, perform one of the three possible actions, use one of the fate cards and discard the other one. The heroes have a chance to look for food (forage). Its volume is determined by the digits on the used fate card.


As an action, there is also the option to try to steal a card from opponents. The player chooses an opponent, but he can defend himself. Here the numbers on the card come in play in again. To this number, however, both sides add size of their character, which at the same time means strength. The defeated party gets one wound, that the players pick up in the form of a red token, while the winner can steal, what he initially wanted (not only a card, but also food). The last action, that players can choose, is to try to save a whole group of heroes. Players can set up and maintain a signal fire. Here the digit on the fate card does not play any role, but only the existence of a fire on a particular location.

Immediately after the action, the player checks to see, if any of their group has spotted the ship. Players will add the flame counter to the center of the table for each patrol action used (at least one token, even if no one was by fire). Then he turns as many cards out of the deck of fate as there is tokens in their stack. He looks for a symbol of wood and a torch together with the boat. Failure means, that the wood burned, but no ship was nearby. But if a complete combination of icons can be found, the players succeed and see the ship. They will get one ship token for their team. If they collect four, it means, that someone finally spotted them and its end of the game.


So far, players are not yet out of their adventure. During the previous phases, fate tokens are placed on locations and characters. Now an unpleasant situation will meet, who has most of them. This can result in injury due to a bear or disease, loss of the item or food. Tsunami and rats will also touch other participants in the game. Then everyone must satisfy their hunger by consuming so many food cubes, like size of their character. If they do not have enough, the character gets one wound.

At the end of the round, all the fictions of fate return back to the center and the new round begins with another exploration. The game continues until someone successfully calls the fourth boat. But the game may end prematurely by death of all the characters. The winner will be determined by the final scoring, where players are rewarded for the survival and death of some characters (according to their goal cards) and gathered treasures. Whoever scored the most points in this way, wins.

Desert Island is an uncompromisingly controversial game. Players go from the beginning to the end together and still have to cooperate to a certain extent. Salvation can only be achieved by the correct setting of fires and early glance around the floating ships. Otherwise, even the best noisy tactics can not be successful.


But each player has his secret tasks, whether survival or the death of any other hero. However, random handing out cards may also result in a paradoxical situation at the beginning of the game, where the player will love or hate himself. This brings with it special scoring conditions. The game is even more interesting and hard to predict. You never know, what other rivals want. But it’s not about them, you should be looking out for you and trying to push through your own plans.

There are a lot of unpleasant situations happening on the player’s island. More than water. It is still a bit more gloomy. Unfortunately, the impressive experience of the original Lifeboat is a bit bothersome. This new game, although quiet similar, is not as dynamic. In addition, eliminating players may mean, that someone will wait for her to play without the chance to step into action from the middle of the game.


Sometimes, players do everything right, and yet they are punished just like that. The most striking moment is tsunami, where the other players get injuries, plus lose food and all cards! If you do, in addition, your action makes you so upset, that you do not even want to continue.

With the right set of players, you will find get experience. The game has a solid atmosphere and supports a number of alliances, agreements and bargaining among all members of the team. This is the first plus. The second is shipwatching, which is random and you never know how long the game will last. Together with the usual long communication between players, Desert Island takes place in the time frame of one hour and more. And that’s too much for such a crazy charade. Additionally, the minimum number of players is four and for the really good and full experience you need six players (= the maximum).


Desert Island is thus a sequel, that seems like a copy at first. All the basic features of Lifeboat can be found here. Subjects, love and hatred and struggle. Instead of fighting on the position on the ship, however, players move around the island’s location and everything is not as good and smooth as the original. In fact, there is no reason you should choose Desert Island instead of Lifeboat, which is all better. But if you already have a battle on the boat and would like something similar, then this is your chance and you will not be disappointed.

DesignerJeff Siadek
ArtistFred Davis, Stephen K. Ratter
PublisherGen-X Games, Gorilla Games, Magellan
Year Published2015
# of Players4 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6 players
Recommended with players
(2 voters)
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryCard Game, Negotiation
MechanicRole Playing, Variable Player Powers
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Theme: Tropical, Theme: Tropical Islands
Primary NameDesert Island
Alternate NamesIsla Desierta, Необитаемый остров ( Neobitaemuy ostrov)

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Desert Island – card survivor
Final word
Desert Island is a game, that could be just as cool as Lifeboat. And everything suggests it will be. Unfortunately, the dynamics of the game are worse as is the overall impression, because the game is too long. But not everything is bad. You still have your secret tasks in the game, deciding who would you like to survive and who are you trying to throw under a coconut. Players will earn salvation only, if they keep a fire burning. Desert Island is a game, in which the players go for each other’s lives or protect each other, but they always enjoy themselves.
Reader Rating0 Votes
very conflicting
more uses of fate cards
setting fire as a common task
distribution of objects cards
love and hate
emphasis on food
some events can not be affected
unnecessarily long game time
worse than the original game
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