Game Buzz: Survive! Escape from Atlantis

Stronghold Games is a new company that has been making a name for themselves recently by taking some old classics and republishing them.  Their strategy is to get their company known by finding out-of-print titles, updating them, and releasing them.  This will increase their name recognition so people will be more willing to try their new stuff when they start cranking it out.  The first game they came out with was Code 777, and there are reprints of Confusion, Outpost, and McMulti coming soon from the company.  However, the one I’m talking about this time is Survive! Escape from Atlantis.

Cover - image by BGG user otrex

Survive! originally came out in 1982 from designer Julian Courtland-Smith and Parker Brothers.  A sequel of sorts came out in 1986 entitled Escape from Atlantis.  It was very similar to the original with a few differences.  Stronghold’s version combines the two rule sets.  The game is for 2-4 players aged 8 and up, and takes about 60 minutes to play.  Art for the Stronghold game was done by David Ausloos.  The basic concept is that an underwater volcano is destroying the fabled city of Atlantis and you’re trying to get away.  Now, I never played the original, so I don’t really have anything to compare this game to.  However, people speak of it with such reverence that I’m interested enough to investigate the reprint.

The game comes with a board, 40 land tiles, 40 people tiles, 5 sea serpent tokens, 6 shark tokens, 5 whale tokens, 12 boat tokens, 1 creature die, 1 component bag, 4 dolphin tokens, 2 dive dice, and an 8 page rulebook.  There’s an expansion that came with the first release at Essen, the giant squid.  This includes 5 squid tokens.

Board - image by BGG user otrex

When setting up, you’ll shuffle the land tiles and place them face up in the outlined area of the board.  The sea serpent tokens go in the marked areas on the board.  Each player takes 10 people tokens of a color and 2 boat tokens.  The other tokens are set aside.  Choose a start player and begin placing your people out on the island.  Each person has a number printed on the bottom, 1-6.  Higher numbers are worth more points, so don’t let anyone see the numbers and try to remember them yourself (you can’t look at them after they’ve been placed).  There can be only one person per land tile, so in a four-player game, all land tiles will be occupied.  With 2 or 3, there will be some unoccupied places.  Then, players will place their boats in unoccupied sea spaces.

On your turn, you have several things you can do, but they must be done in order.  The first thing is to play a land tile out of your hand.  This might not make sense at first, but you’ll be acquiring these tiles as the game goes on.  Tiles that show a hand and an arrow are tiles that can be played at this point, and will allow you to get help from dolphins, get a favorable wind, or move a creature.  You never HAVE to perform this step.

Next, you can move your people and/or your boats.  You have three movement points that can be spent over all of your tokens.  So, you can move one piece three spaces, or three pieces one space each.  You can move over land or sea or jump in a boat, but you must always move into an adjacent space.  You may move into spaces already occupied by other player’s piece.  If you leave the island, you can never return.  Once in the water, you are a swimmer and can only jump on a boat if it is in the same space you are.  Swimmers can only move one space on a turn.  Also, if you enter a space containing a shark or a seas serpent, your piece is eaten and removed from the game.  Boats can only hold three people at a time, and whoever has the most people on board controls the boat.  Boats can’t enter sea serpent spaces without being destroyed.

The goal is to get all of your people to the islands in the corners of the board.  Once they are safe, you don’t have to worry about them any more.

The third step is the first one that is mandatory.  Every turn, you MUST remove one land tile.  The tile must be next to a sea space, and you remove beach tiles first, followed by forests and mountains.  Once the tile is removed, the people who were on it are now swimmers.  Look at the tile to see if it should be played immediately, then move on.

The fourth step is also mandatory – you roll the creature die and move the indicated creature.  You can use the creature to attack your opponents.

The game ends when you reveal the mountain tile that shows a volcano on the other side.  At this point, Atlantis is destroyed and all people who didn’t make it to the islands die.  I’m not sure how many mountain tiles there are, but I suppose this means that there can be no more than 40 turns in a game and no one will get more than 10 turns (in a four-player game).  The player with the most points wins.  Get your point total by adding up the numbers on the bottom of the people you saved.

There are different variants included in the rules: placing two people per tile during setup; ending the game when all people are off the board (even if the volcano tile appears); winning by having the most people off the island (no points); ending the game when the last land tile disappears (ignoring the volcano); and adding dolphins and diving rules.

The feel of this game seems like The Downfall of Pompeii.  You’re trying to escape a volcano by running for the exits as fast as you can while everyone else is doing the same and sending hideous beasties after you.  I like that there are a number of variants that could extend the game – I can imagine getting very frustrated if I only have one guy left in the water when the volcano erupts.  I haven’t studied the tile powers too much, but I would hope that they wouldn’t skew the game too much.

Overall, this seems like a light and fun game.  The bits look pretty cool, and I look forward to giving it a try sometime.  You can find out more by going to BGG or by visiting the Stronghold Games site.  The game looks like it retails for $50, and should be hitting stores just after Christmas.  So now you have something to spend all that holiday cash on.  Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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