Articles Reviews Get the whole family to hate you with Survive: Escape From Atlantis!

Get the whole family to hate you with Survive: Escape From Atlantis! Get the whole family to hate you with Survive: Escape From Atlantis! Hot

Get the whole family to hate you with Survive: Escape From Atlantis!

I played my first game of SURVIVE! only months before the release of the reprint from Stronghold Games.  Upon completion of the game, a rare thing happened:  I decided that I needed this game and my wife actually agreed with me.

And that's not the only thing that makes SURVIVE a rare case.  There's plenty of games out there that are revered as classics by older gamers, but for younger guys like me, it's clear that those legacies are built upon nostalgia.  But SURVIVE holds up.  The perfect balance between strategy, luck, and lightweight rules makes the game accessible to several different crowds, casual, hardcore, and non-gamers alike.  That is, unless they can't take just how cutthroat it is.  Don't let that shirtless, bored-looking guy or that friendly dolphin on the box fool you.  SURVIVE is a mean game.  You'll laugh with glee as you have sea serpents devour your opponents helpless Atlanteans, and they'll likely return that favor when the chance arises.

The game is incredibly simple in terms of rules.  The island of Atlantis is sinking, and you've got to move your guys off the island and onto the safety of the islands at the four corners of the board.  At the beginning of the game, you choose where each of your 10 Atlanteans start on the island.  Each one of them has a score on the bottom ranging between 1 and 6.  You get more guys with the lower numbers on bottom and only one each for 4, 5, and 6. Once you place one on the board, you don't get to look at the score underneath until the game is over, even if they are removed from play before the game ends.You get three moves on your turn, which you can divide up however you like.  Ideally, you want to get your guys onto the boats since they'll get to safety faster.  If you decide to take your chances with swimming to the outer islands, each swimmer can only move one space per turn.  After that, you remove one of the land tiles that make up the island.  The land tiles have information printed on the back, which populates the board with creatures, can be held to move creatures around later or possibly defend against one if they attack one of your Atlanteans.  Then you roll the creature die to see which type of creature you get to move this turn, shark (which will only eat guys in the water), whale (which destroys boats but leaves people on them safe), or sea serpent (which destroys everything).  The game ends when someone reveals the tile with the volcano on the bottom, or when all the Atlanteans still on the board have reached safety.  The score underneath the Atlanteans that made it to safety is tallied up and the highest scoring player wins.  That's right, just because one player gets more guys to safety does not necessarily mean that they won.

There's plenty of opportunity to destroy your relationships in SURVIVE, be it with the creatures or by moving a boat away while an opponent has a guy who just about to jump on it.  Yet there's an ever so subtle diplomatic angle as well.  Boats can hold three people at a time, and loading one up with nothing but your own is pretty much a guarantee that they'll be serpent food by the time they reach safety.  By allowing someone else to hitch a ride on one of your boats, you're saying, "Hey, don't sink this boat because you've got a stake in it as well."  Of course, they might be sadistic enough to sink it anyways.  One of my favorite things to do is to move the boat to an island, with a sea serpent right next to the boat.  I get my guys off, then if I roll a serpent, I have the serpent eat the guys I shared the boat with.  Murderous fun at it's finest.

Stronghold has, for the most part, done an admirable job with the components.  The larger board and tiles are gorgeous, and I really like the different thicknesses between the sand, forest, and mountain terrains.  The 3D effect is pretty cool.  I don't mind the iconography used for the information under the tiles, but for the sake of playing with non-gamers, the text as it appeared in the 80's version would have been much easier to understand. And I much prefer the old Atlantean figures over the new ones.  The new ones tend to fall over frequently when they're in the boats, which spoils the mystery of what score is underneath it.  The blue pieces have their score painted on in black, and against that navy blue, it's extremely difficult to read.  I immediately painted over the numbers in white.

Despite my small gripes over the components, Stronghold has included enough variety in the box for me to overlook them.  The rulebook has plenty of variants to try out, the best amongst them being the alternate creature dice that are included.  These dice make creature movement much more unpredictable, as one of them determines which creature moves and the other determines how far they can move.  When sea serpents can move three spaces as opposed to their usual one, the game becomes much more bloodier.  And if that isn't enough brutality for you, Stronghold has made a mini-expansion in the form of giant squids.  Squids have the ability to pull one specific person off of a boat, and even worse, off of the island.  I game with some sadistic bastards, and once we tried the playing with the giant squids, we haven't gone back.

SURVIVE flat out rocks.  It's quick, dirty, and while it's a little silly, it still has enough strategy to keep hobby gamers happy.  Stronghold has done a stand up job with the reprint, with plenty of optional rules to outshine a few issues with the components.  Anyone who enjoys a competitive game has a spot for SURVIVE in their collection, and will likely find it being a big hit amongst several different types of long as those people enjoy slaughtering each other.

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Comments (19)
  • avatarscissors

    "You'll laugh with glee as you have sea serpents devour your opponents helpless Atlanteans..."

    I've done that!... and paid the price! I like this game a lot. We've played it a few times since I bought it (we only played with four ever) and it really is fun watching all the bad stuff happen. Trying to swim for the island in shark-infested waters after your boat has been tipped over, and your opponent hoping they roll the 'fin' icon on the die so they can move that shark into your space and cut yuor dip short.

    The production is top-notch. I especially like the whirlpool effect of that tile, sucking down everything adjacent. Once, a bunch of us had some remaining land lubbers hanging on for dear life, thinking they'd make a last heroic jump for it when... wiiiiiissssshuuuuurrrrrrrppp! everything went down the drain!

    I haven't had any problems with the meeples falling over or anything like that; strangely, tho I find the icons in the game simple, nobody can remember what they mean for the life of them and kept asking me, till I realised I was exhausted from saying what each thing meant and tossed the rules their way. Mind you, we had all had a few...

    Great game, and really nice review including the headline.

  • avatarRliyen

    I got this for Christmas many moons ago (PB version). I always played with my sister's college friends. I lost most of the time, but that didn't stop me from playing it. In the end, I donated it (and a bunch of others) to my sister's classroom. Do I regret it? A little. But, since it's available again. I plan to pick it up for my son.

    Great review.

  • avatarMattDP

    Great read.

    I've only ever played this - and its predecessor games - with two. Anyone care to comment on how different it is with more?

  • avatarPat II

    I love this game. I never played the original so I can only speak to the quality of this print - which is great. We have a lot of fun with this. My only gripe is the blue folks with the black numbers on the bottom.

    This is getting more play than anything else in the collection at the moment.

  • avatarPat II

    Matt, with four players you have more jockeying for the boats as the island is very cramped. With two players you have a lot of room to move your folks around without worrying too much. With four you also increase the screw you/alliance dynamic.

  • avatarjeb

    This game is amazing with three or four. It's a total madhouse grab for boats, pushing sharks, pulling whales, blowing up beaches, threatening with the serpent, &c. There's some gamesman ship in your 5 and 6 pieces--do you bring them out early? Everyone is trying to sink those early guys. Wait for a turn or two--maybe have someone else drive the boat they get on?

    Love this game.

  • avatarMattLoter

    "You are the worst game player ever!"

  • avatarvandemonium

    I think the sweet spot is four. I found it a bit boring with only 2 because it was just too easy to ignore the other player. Three is better but four is where I have had the most fun. Absolutely gets cut-throat quick! Fantastic game! I'm looking forward to the [url= expansion/]5-6 player expansion[/url].

  • avatartin0men

    This was the first game that my wife labeled, "mean". It was a revelation that she didn't mind crapping on other players with bad cards etc, but kicking meeples out of a boat and into the mouth of a wooden shark fin somehow crossed the line. :D

  • avatarRyan B.

    This is an excellent review.

  • avatarrog5

    With only two, I prefer having each player control two sets of meeples. Keeps things lively...

  • avatarJosh Look

    Special thanks to Matt Loter for giving me that first game of Survie mentioned. Thanks alot, jerk.

  • jason10mm

    There is a 5-6 player expansion coming.

    Shit is gonna get REAL!

    Add in the kraken and meeples will be dying in droves.

  • avatarcraniac

    Wait--how do you kick people out of boats?

  • avatartin0men

    craniac said:

    Wait--how do you kick people out of boats?

    Whale sinks boat, meeples become swimmers.
    If shark is present in swimmer's tile, meeples become shark chum.

  • avatarJosh Look

    Or use the squid. Squid can yank one person out of a boat.

  • avatarJacobMartin

    Played my first game of this with four players after so long having only two at a time, at my first meeting at the Friday Nights game club held at my university. It was badass - there was always somebody getting screwed over with four players completely populating the island which any area could sink down with at any moment.

    Many a Moby Dick Move was had. It was fun, it was brutal, it was mean but it wasn't cruel mean. It was young people trolling each other and essentially going "U MAD?" at each other in real life.

    I loved it, every moment of it.

  • avatarcraniac

    I had read the squid was broken. I played this a few times with the kids and it seemed a little "meh" but then after I traded it for Galaxy Trucker they told me they liked it, so I'll probably grab another copy and try the extra rules, etc.

  • avatartin0men

    I've played it with 'kid' (my 8 year old), and it was fun, and approachable by him. But man, this really comes into it's own with adults. Esp. non-weenie wives. :P Three or more dudes around a table screwing each other over is a laugh riot, even if you're on the losing end of the whale/seamonster/shark. Bonsu points that it can be whipped through as a light filler. So you can either fire up a rematch to get even, or quickly move onto other games.

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