Survive: Escape from Atlantis! is a game where most questions can be answered by referencing its title. What is it about? – surviving an escape from Atlantis of course! This game is set in a time of expedition and adventure. Explorers, in the midst of returning with riches from Atlantis, experience its descent into the sea. Who will make it out alive with treasures intact?
The box is a nice neat square, slightly leaner than those used in games like Smallworld or bunny kingdom.
Both the components and the box are of excellent quality. While it appears that the majority of this games subject matter is derived from its game mechanics (a disappearing island) it could be the other way around. Proving that already there is a great marriage between how you play the game and its theme. The box cover provides us with the immersive element.
The B-movie style artwork evokes a sense of fun, adventure and mild peril. We can imagine ourselves taking part in a corny adventure movie with epic one-liners and accidental deaths. This really sets the tone for the level of complexity and ease of play it presents us with.
Table Real Estate
Despite the fact the game centres around tiles there is a medium well-contained board with reminders of key elements on its edges.
Number of Players
Survive is a game for 2-4 players. It shines particularly well at 4 players with a full board but 3 is also good. For two players it is recommended that each player play two colours, which cheapens it for me a tad, but some players may enjoy this type of setup. The addition of the expansion of the same name allows for up to 6 players.
The tiles, boats and even the meeples are extremely tactile and satisfying to play with. Nothing beats slotting a meeple into his space on a boat and sailing him off into the sunset (or the jaws of a shark).
The rulebook is short, sweet and straightforward. Most importantly it answers all questions you may have and contains a reminder of what all the tiles in the game do on the back cover.
Game Type/ Similar Games
I’ve just looked up what type of game boardgamegeek.com classifies this as because I honestly couldn’t compare it to any other game in my collection. The first word is family and I’m rather perplexed by this. What exactly is a family game? One would assume it to be a game a family might play together or a game that anyone could play. Surely this should be true of all games? I’ll worry about this term some other time but it does convey how accessible Survive actually is. While unlike anything else I own it is without question a fun, easy and enjoyable game.
How to Win
As the title suggests to win you need to help as many little adventures as possible off the sinking island to safety. The twist here, however, is that it’s not the number of people you save that matters, rather the number of relics they are carrying.
Game Mechanics/ Turn Order
At the start of the game each person receives a set of little people with numbers on the bottom varying from 1 to 6. This number represents the number of relics each person is carrying. Everyone places their people on the board (doing their best to remember where they have put the ones worth the most points) and two boats to help them escape and survive. Each turn a player removes a tile from the sinking island, moves either a boat or the meeples a total value of 3 spaces and rolls a dice to see if a shark, whale or monster will hinder everyone’s plan for escape. Some tiles you look at can be kept private and used at a later date, to prevent a whale overturning your boat or a shark eating your swimmer. The game ends when a volcano tile is revealed and the island explodes. The winner is the person with the greatest number of relics recovered.
One of the greatest aspects of this game is the type of player interaction it creates. Everyone is clearly out for themselves but those moments when you purposefully engage with others in a negative way never leaves you feeling hard done by. Perhaps it is the theme of mock danger and excitement that engenders this. I also enjoy the fact that this game is so accessible without having to be lumped in with games like Ludo or scrabble. Survive may be straightforward but it doesn’t feel like a family game to me and that may be in part due to its theme.
Fun factor of the mechanics/ theme
The core concept of a sinking island is definitely an enjoyable experience. There is a sense of urgency without having to resort to egg timers or phone apps. In addition, the twist of the focus not being on the number of people you rescue but rather their relics add a subtle layer of complexity to all of your actions.
At this point it is probably obvious I enjoy Survive a lot but it does have some downfalls. The two-player mode lets it down, where both players instead become 2 players to fill out the board. The lack of players also diminishes some of the games finer moments that come solely from having the board be more complex with the addition of others. Another point to make is that survive has little variation from game to game. Those games are enjoyable but it is the type of game that shines best when taken out infrequently rather than often.
Overall Survive! escape from Atlantis falls very much in line with its B-movie theme, being a supporting act before the main feature. That may sound harsh but I don’t believe that all games need to have boxes the size of houses or have 6 hour play times to be worth my while. This game is perfect for getting you into the gaming mood. It provides some good-natured rivalries that can inform further gameplay and it can allow you to catch up with buddies while not slowing down everyone’s turn. If anything this game is the popcorn at the movies.
Here at Board Game Inquisition our ranking system for games in our collection goes as follows:
Keep in collection
Trade for something new for the collection
Burn an unworthy candidate
Survive: Escape from Atlantis! remains a firm favourite in our collection and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.