This week I’m reviewing Survive! Escape from Atlantis (1982) – by publisher Stronghold Games. I’m pleased to say that this oldie is a real goodie! Looking at the game and its instructions I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go- remember, until recently I only played a limited number of mainstream board games. I had very little experience playing lesser known titles and styles; With a mission to dip my toes into something new, I try to approach every game with an open mind. Games like Survive! make me very glad I went down this path of not only trying new games, but reconnecting with other forms of entertainment that don’t involve screens.
“It’s early in the 20th century- a time of exploration and adventure. The mysterious island of Atlantis has been discovered in the middle of the ocean, and there are rumours of riches! After reaching Atlantis, the explorers are ready to return home with treasures and artifacts. But Atlantis begins to sink! Who will manage to reach dry land?”
Subtle Complexity at it’s Finest
In Survive! Escape from Atlantis, there are many different variables in play that keep your mind cranking out your options and potential opportunities. This is a large part of this games appeal for me.
The island is made up of different hex tiles randomly placed in the middle of the board by all players. There is beach, forest and mountain textures. These tiles also double for “action cards”- on the back of each there are scenarios, actions or attacks. During each turn, a tile is removed from the island to create the “sinking” effect- allowing each player to build their turns around the contents of their hand.
Players are given 10 “meeple” (each with a value between 1 and 6 points) in the beginning in their chosen color, to strategically place them across the island. Players are also given two boats which are placed where they choose as well. On each corner of the game board are small isles – or the “safe land”. The more “meeples” that end up on one of those small isles, the better your chances are of winning… but it’s not as simple as you’d like to think.
The Devil is in the Details
In one turn, the player has multiple steps to complete before moving to the next player. First, the player will review whatever tiles are “in hand” to see if there are any actions they should take. They will then make three moves – whether it be moving 3 different meeple into new spaces or boats, or bringing a full boat over to the safe isle. The third component is to take a tile (beach first, the forest – followed by mountain). If it requires any immediate action (such as placing a shark, whale or sea serpent in its place) – the player will do so. Otherwise, they’ll then roll the “sea creature” die to determine which active threats on the board will be manipulated. It may result in a whale capsizing a ship full of meeple, moving a shark over to the “swimmers”, or even a whirlpool that consumes all in its immediate space. If your opponent’s meeples can survive your turn, they’re doing good.
There is so much going on at all times in this game. You are faced with moving your pieces off the isle, ideally quickly in a boat vs. swimming space to space, turn after turn. You are faced with sea creatures that have the potential to knock out your 10 meeple aka your points! You are avoiding your opponents taking control of the boats, hoping your meeple don’t become swimmers and shark food…You’re trying to create disadvantages for your opponents before they screw you… The island is sinking! There’s a lot happening!
Multi-tasking ability is a must with this one, and it’s refreshing! Too many games have you focused on one or two elements – making long gameplay slightly tedious in some cases. Here, anything can happen at any time in any capacity. You can be screwed long before the final “volcanic eruption” takes place. Sore losers will get discouraged with each loss of their respective pieces, but will hopefully be able to appreciate the concept and relatively fast pace by the end.
I don’t know what I expected but I can safely say this was not what I thought it would be. In a good way! As soon as I understood every role I had to play, the strategy I needed to implement, and the flow of the game- I was very into it. I was impressed with the various layers at work that made the time between your turn extremely welcome and valuable.
You get so involved with what you need to do at times that you may forget to see what your opponents are doing during their turn. Call me the newbie but I really struggle with long instructions- not because I can’t read (hah) but because I’m usually so anxious to get into things I don’t want to work through a pile of papers… Although in this case I had to look up the instructions online (thank you Board Game Geek!!!). That’s the risk you take when you rent games, not all of them are going to come with everything you need. $till worth it though 😉
All in all I was thoroughly entertained by this game. I loved the concept, I felt it was just long enough (around an hour and a half with two people) and the pace was ideal. I agree this game is great with 2-4 people, and ages 8+ definitely seems appropriate. I am glad this game was reissued in February 2011 (the original is just called “Survive!”)
1-4 Too Much Awful
5-7.5- Not so Awesome
7.6-8.5 Almost awesome
8.6-9.4 – Awesome!
9.5-10- Totally Awesome!
Survive! Escape from Atlantis is a family friendly, very fun way to spend an evening or Sunday afternoon! There is a good level of competitive edge, with so much going on at all times that it is impossible to get bored. The artwork/overall presentation is captivating and lovely to look at- and is very interactive. From creating the island to helping it sink, the player can feel heavily involved in the entire process of the game. With such a fast pace, an hour or two worth of gameplay flies right by. This one comes highly recommended!