PANIC ISLAND is a cooperative game played on a grid of 25 tiles where the players are attempting to escape from this landmass where there is a volcano, known as Gouga, waiting to blow. If the volcano erupts before you have escaped you lose the game.
The thing is it's not all about you escaping, it's also about saving the Native Islanders, the nearly extinct Dodos, and their precious eggs; but before you can save them you need to locate the Raft and the Paddle.
PANIC ISLAND is a mix up of the olde-time popular game 'Pelmonism', the kid's favourite memory game 'Pairs' and 'Paper, Scissors, Rock'. Creating the tension for this game is the 2 minute sandclock. You have just those two minutes to find all you need and escape before Gouga blows its top; if you run out of time and have already found the Paddle and the Raft you all win as a group, if time runs out and you haven't located both the Paddle and the Raft then you all lose.
Play is clockwise in turns. Each player turns over one card from the grid and then another. If they find the Paddle or Raft they put it aside, otherwise they are looking to find two cards that work together.
Most people know the game where Rock loses to Paper. Scissors beat Paper. Rock beats Scissors. So applying a similar (but different) principle the cards make Pairs in their own way.
Other than the Paddle and Raft, the Pairs also have to be of the same colour; Natives, Dodos, and Dodo Eggs are the three items to be paired and collected.
Natives save Dodos and Dodos save Eggs but to make the pairing the cards have to be the same colour. Therefore Red Natives save only Red Dodos, and Red Dodos save only Red Dodo Eggs. If you turn over one of those pairings then the 'saved' card is given to the players to keep for scoring and the other card is flipped back over. If you turn over any other combination, for example, Red Dodo and Yellow Dodo Eggs then both cards are flipped back over.
Unlike Pairs and Pelmonism, players only turn over two cards in their turn (exception see below) and then it is the next player's turn. Play has to be as fast as possible due to the timer and the need to score as high as possible - because in each game you are also playing against your score in the previous games. As you continue to play it should become easier for you to get pairs because you will have knowledge of where several cards, colour and type, are from your previous rescues and attempted rescues.
There is more to the game than just flipping cards over and hoping for a matching pair though. There are hazards to contend with and believe it or not one of the hazards that loses the game for the players more often than you would believe is the Volcano card. The silly thing is you know where it is as it is always placed in the centre of the 25 card grid at the beginning of the game. It cannot be moved by any other card's abilities because once it is turned over the game ends.
So many times when we have been playing and the timer is running loq on sand we have accidentally flipped over the central card. When other cards around it have been flipped and removed it does meld into the grid, so without wasting precious time to count across and down to find it it is an easy, very easy mistake to make.
When players notice the timer is running low they can change the way the game is played. After all shouting 'Gouga' the collection of cards shifts from matching pairs to matching call outs. On their turn, instead of flipping over 2 cards the player calls out a type of card, say for example "Red Dodo". They then turn over a single card and if it is a red Dodo they keep it, and the next player does the same. If, however, they make an error in the Call and Flip, eg they call 'Red Dodo' and flip over 'Yellow Eggs' then they take nothing and the Gouga call out action stops and all players have to return to the flipping over two cards - they cannot take the Gouga action again.
That all sounds very fine and easy, but as you may recall I mentioned there were hazards. These come in the shape of Obstacles. These have either a Grey icon (immediate effect) or a yellow icon (continuous effect until stopped) on them. Each obstacle's effect is outlined clearly in the rule book. If you are playing with disabled or older players then some of the obstacle effects cannot be activated. These include Standing up and Spinning round, Changing Seats and Chins touching the table at all times - great party game fun but often quite impractical, plus by the time everyone has re-seated and able to continue playing, the timer will have run out.
When setting up the Volcano is always placed in the centre of the Grid. It's easier to place it first and build the 24 additional cards around it. Also, the Paddle and the Raft must be included in and shuffled into the 24 card deck that forms the grid. Generally you will include three obstacles and you can select these or randomly let fate decide.
For additional mind-challenges and variants on play there are additional rules and special Blue cards, all described in the rules. These seem to have been added with gamers, rather than kids and families, in mind, once again proving that ZOCH zum Spielen cares for players of all ages.
There are enough differences compared with similar games to make this a fun game. One of the obstacles prevents all players from talking (we've never managed to keep this up yet) so think about which cards you are going to add and depending on your players, choose your obstacles carefully and make sure younger players do not mark, tear or bend the cards when they excitedly grab at them to flip them over. Do this and there are good fun times ahead.