A mystery box filled with miniatures to enhance your RPG campaigns. All official miniatures and for a bargain price!

Buy Miniatures Box »

Not sure what game to buy next? Buy a premium mystery box for two to four great games to add to your collection!

Buy Premium Box »
Subscribe Now »

If you’re only interested in receiving the newest games this is the box for you; guaranteeing only the latest games!

Buy New Releases Box »
Subscribe Now »

Looking for the best bang for your buck? Purchase a mega box to receive at least 4 great games. You won’t find value like this anywhere else!

Buy Mega Box »
Subscribe Now »

Buy 3, get 3% off - use code ZATU3·Buy 5, get 5% off - use code ZATU5

Top 5 Matt Leacock Games

matt leacock pandemic

This month’s designer spotlight falls on someone who is probably a name most people have at least seen on a box at some point. A lot of his games are ones that are introduced early on for various reasons, and there are a couple which have made it to the top levels of the BGG top 100. Surprisingly, we aren’t going to be talking about a game which really kickstarted a revolution, but it would be churlish to not give a mention to the Legacy Matt Leacock has created. (Collective groan is anticipated here.) Let’s dive in and see which of his games we’ve picked.


Pandemic. The OG. It was a game changer. As well as being spookily prescient, it lit a fire under the board gaming industry. It also inspired one of the most respected, popular legacy series out there (which is still going strong!).

But Matt Leacock started his cardboard revolution in 2008. Coming to our table over a decade later, the 2013 version was our first experience of co-operative, modern board gaming. And it was both an eye and mind opening experience!

If you haven’t played any of the Pandemic games in the series yet, this is a good place to start. Virulent diseases have broken out all over the planet and we are disease busting pros who are trying to contain and ultimately beat the bugs. Saving humanity by finding workable cures. That’s a pretty tall order, but you’ve got expertise Each turn you’ll have 4 actions to take; travel, treat, cure, or build a research station. But not so-simple, doc! Throughout the game, Epidemic cards are revealed which ramps up infection rates to pulse racing levels!

With everybody playing a unique character, containing the ever-spreading diseases is going to take teamwork. Using your own particular set of skills (not Liam Neeson style!), you’ve got to use your special strengths to best effect. Ops Experts can build like pros, but they can’t work a microscope for toffee. As such, you need to synergise with the group and do what works best for the world!

I won’t lie; our first game was intense. It wasn’t long, but it was a full on experience. Cards, cubes and co-op. These were all new to us, and we don’t usually play nice with each other! With set collection, hand management, moving around the board, and of course, teamwork, there’s a lot going on. And as a grounding for co-op play in the series it is excellent, and one that will definitely inspire you to explore more in the planet saving series!

Forbidden Island Natalie M

Forbidden Island is a 2-4 player cooperative game that’s ideal for those sessions when you really only have half an hour left. It’s quick to set up, easy to learn, has treasure and tension and comes in a tin. What’s not to like?

The shape of the Island is prescribed but because you place the tiles it’s constructed from randomly, no two games start the same. As soon as the land is formed, it begins to sink! When tiles become flooded you turn them over to their blue side and initially it’s no big deal as you can still move onto them. Don’t get complacent though – as the game progresses, the tiles begin to disappear beneath the waves completely, blocking movement and cutting you off from the treasure and from your escape route!

Fortunately, everyone in your team will possess a special skill. The pilot, for example, can fly to another tile as an action, and the engineer is able to shore up two tiles (turning them back to their coloured side) in one action.

Your aim is to collect enough treasure cards to retrieve all four sacred treasures and get to Fool’s Landing to be lifted off by helicopter before the Island disappears completely. The treasure cards can only be exchanged for the corresponding treasure on specific tiles. If those tiles sink into the depths, or are cut off from the rest of the land, your mission is over.

This is a game that starts with everyone feeling relaxed and picks up the pace as the island shrinks at an increasing rate and the tension builds. It’s cleverly balanced (like other games by Matt Leacock) to ensure that you never feel like you’ve won easily, and you often fail to win by a tantalizingly narrow margin. It provokes lots of discussion about who should focus on doing what, groans of despair as the waters rise again, and has the sort of fun vibe you’d expect on a Treasure Island. Enjoy!

knitwit (1)

Knitwit - Thom

If you were to look at a list of Matt Leacock games on Boardgame Geek, there is one game on the list of his designs that sticks out a little bit, and that is Knitwit.

Knitwit is an interesting little party game all about words and Venn diagrams with a slightly weird, yarn-based theme. It looks brilliant. If you’re playing this in a public place people are going to be interested in what’s going on. The idea of the game is to place out rings of string with little word tags pegged to them. You then place numbered yarn spools within these loops. Players take it in turn to lay these loops and spools out until there are none left. Once that’s done the tricky bit begins.

The idea of the game is to try and come up with a thing, place, or concept for each yarn spool in the mess of string. The word you’re trying to come up with must be related to the words on the string that encloses the yarn spool. As an example, if a spool was enclosed by strings labelled with ‘massive’ and ‘fantasy’ you could answer ‘dragon’. That was a simple one though. The more strings that surround a spool the more points an answer is worth.

If you don’t like the answer somebody has given you can challenge them, and they then have 10 seconds to justify it. After the 10 seconds you all vote to see if the majority agree that the answer is good for the points or not. It’s a cracking little game and one that you can really steer to the players. The concepts on the tags are vague enough that you can quite happily play it with family for some good clean fun, but, if the group of friends are a little more risqué you can absolutely take into more sordid territory.

Like I said, it’s nothing like his other work but this is a solid little party game to have in your back pocket.

Forbidden DesertLuke Pickles

As Natalie talked about earlier, Forbidden Island is a great starting point for a co-operative game with a variable board and different abilities within each player. But if you’ve mastered the Forbidden Island, you might decide it’s time to tackle something a bit… grittier. In Forbidden Desert, you and your friends have crashed in a desert and are attempting to rebuild your sky ship. Much like in Forbidden Island, you have a grid of tiles set up that you have to explore to find the components buried in the sand. However, you need to find both indicating tiles to find the crossover points to show where the item is. Why is this relevant? Well there’s an ever shifting sandstorm which moves the landmass around, covering tiles with sand, making life much more difficult.

Players have different powers again and you’ll need to make use of them because, as well as trying to dig out the components for victory, you also have to be aware of the sun and your limited water supply. If you run out when the sun beats down, the game is over. If the sand tiles run out, the game is over. You only win if you get all four components and get to the ship to escape.

Forbidden Desert is the second of the Matt Leacock “Forbidden” series and it’s my personal favourite. There’s enough of Forbidden Island there to be familiar but enough extra layers of crunch to really develop the strategic element. If you want a good sequel, that’s exactly what you want to have.

Pandemic: Fall of RomeCraig Smith

When Pandemic was released in 2008, I wonder if Matt Leacock thought that fifteen years down the line, there’d be versions of his game set in the Star Wars, World of Warcraft and Lovecraft universes. There are so many incarnations of that original game, but they’re all different in some way.

My current favourite is Paolo Mori collaboration Pandemic: Fall of Rome. Players are working together to prevent barbarians from bringing the Roman empire to its knees. Whilst there are a lot of similar mechanisms such as variable player powers and set collection, there are some key differences.

The first difference is that when cubes are added to the board, they’re not always added to the city drawn. Cubes are instead added to make a route heading towards Rome, thematically giving the idea of barbarians marching towards the city. Ultimately you are wanting to forge alliances with the five barbarian groups to win the game.

Another key difference is that there’s dice involved. The success of your legions is left down to good old luck. Speaking of legions, you’ll want to recruit those early in the game, as the more the game progresses, the harder it is to recruit.

Finally, and probably my favourite difference of them all, is the event cards. Whilst event cards are not new in the Pandemic world, the event cards in Fall of Rome have two options. A good option and a better option. The caveat is that picking the better option comes at a price, as it moves the decline marker one space closer to losing the game. Players must decide whether pushing themselves closer to failure is a worthwhile risk for ultimate success.

Whilst I do look forward to seeing what Matt Leacock latest title Daybreak is like… I find it hard to believe that we won’t see any more members of the Pandemic family!