Survive: Escape from Atlantis! was originally published by Parker Brothers way back in 1982.
Yes, this cut-throat, designer-made, Eurogame / Ameritreasure mash-up with *gasp* movement points was actually brought to us by the same guys who gave us Clue, Payday, Monopoly, and Risk.
Man, I wish Survive! had garnered the sort of pop culture immortality that some of those other games received. Payday, I'm lookin' in your direction.
Unlike its iconic brethren, the original Survive! went out of print and languished in obscurity for many years it. Fondly remembered by wistful Gen X-ers, the game was quick to pop up on Board Game Geek reprint wish lists. Eventually it was picked up by Stronghold Games whoreleased a lovely new edition back in February of 2011. It was an instant smash, earning a well-deserved spot in the "super-conflict-y" section of many game collections.
In Survive! players randomly create a beautiful island using different elevations of Beach, Forest and Mountain tiles and then populate it with Meeples of varying values. The island might look pretty but it has one slight flaw: it's breaking up and sinking into the ocean. Players must compete with their opponents over limited space on the rescue Ships to get their Meeples off the foundering land to any of the four corner islands.
As if this wasn't bad enough, the tiles start introducing dangerous Creatures onto the board. Whales smash occupied Boats, putting slow-moving Swimmers into the water. Sharks merrily feast on these tasty, water-logged flesh-bags. And, finally, Sea Serpents are complete assholes since they smash boats and eat people.
First all the Beach hexes disappear underneath the briny deep, followed by the Forest and finally the Mountains. Eventually one of the Mountain Tiles will reveal a Volcano underneath which nukes everything that remains on the board. Players then add up the value of all their rescued Meeples and whoever has the highest total wins the game.
Looking to find the full rules map to help get you offa this crazy rock? Then click on the following link to start plotting your best escape plan!
Cheryl's mom Sheila came up to visit this past weekend which is always great 'cuz she loves playing games. Cheryl not so much, but since it's two against one, GAMEZ RULE!!!
Contrary to the belief that you should never play contentious games with loved ones, I floated the idea of playing Survive! and they seemed down with the plan. The only thing left was to randomize the island, pick our colors and distribute our l'il plastic minions.
Cheryl jumped out to a quick lead when she managed to beach one of her rescue Ships and crawl its two occupants out to safety, all under the baleful eye of a completely sedentary Sea Serpent. I didn't know it at the time, but this scene would be oft-repeated during the course of the game.
Sheila quickly followed suit but when I tried to pull off the same maneuver I got ganked.
Cheryl continued to add to her momentum by using a "Winds Favor You" Tile plus three Action Points to get another two Meeples to safety! Curse her hide!
Sheila experienced her first casualty when a Shark was drawn to her sinking tile and promptly got its Om, Nom, Nom-on.
I experienced a brief moment of respite when I navigated a fully-loaded boat to shore and rescued three of my people. This seemed to draw the collective ire of my two rivals (as well as the dice gods) who set about making sure that this would never, ever happen again.
They started by siccing a pissed-off whale on another one of my fully-loaded boats.
All of which got flushed down the pooper when Sheila reveled a freakin' Whirlpool under the adjacent Tile. *le sigh*
On more then one occasion there was a beastie sitting right next to Cheryl or Sheila's peeps but I just couldn't follow up with a matching Creature Die roll.
Needless to say they didn't seem to have the same issue. Here they are gleefully curb-stomping yet another one of my manned boats with a Sea Serpent during the very next turn.
And just when I was about to enact some revenge by attacking one of Cheryl's fully-stocked Ships with a Whale, she dropped a perfectly-timed "I-Five-Finger-Death-Punch-'Free-Willy'-Right-In-His- Stoopid-Blow-Hole" Tile on the table. Curse her inhuman luck!
Sheila and Cheryl kept using their hot dice to beat me like a red-headed step-child. On the following turn, one of my two remaining Meeples got gobbled up by yet another Sea Serpent. Where the hell were you guys on my watch?!?
At first, two of Cheryl's people on the high ground were unfazed when a Whirlpool appeared nearby.
In a desperate gambit for second place, I attacked one of Sheila's boats with a rabid Whale, dumping them in the drink. I tried to chum the waters for a Sea Serpent or Shark-A-Licious follow-up, but I just couldn't get the right die face to come up. As a result, she had plenty of time to move a rescue Ship out, pick them up, give them blankies, serve them some hot cocoa and bring them leisurely back to shore. She even managed to get one of these two arseholes to safety before the proverbial lava hit the fan.
Speaking of, I got a tiny blip of satisfaction when I "yoinked" the Mountain tile out from underneath two of Cheryl's remaining Meeples, revealing another Whirlpool in the process. I waved merrily as these two little blue turds circled the commode and then vanished into oblivion. Good riddance!
Unfortunately that would be my last gasp at vengeance. On the very next Tile draw, the Volcano was revealed killing our last remaining Meeples.
Needless to say I wasn't feeling too good going into our final score tally.
As someone who's consistently (and erroneously, i might add) perceived as some kind of "game guru", I often find myself going into games like this with a giant target on my chest. But I honestly don't think that's what happened here. Cheryl and Sheila both rolled exceptionally well with the Creature Die and did what they were supposed to do: kill rival Meeples. Unfortunately they all turned out to me my Meeples. I just wish that I'd had a modicum of their good fortune!
- It's easy! Thanks to a simple turn order, clear iconography on the Tiles and a "cheat sheet" on the back of the rule-book, the game is simple to get into and quick to play.
- It's tense! You're gonna be on edge whenever one of your rescue boats tries to maneuver past a Whale or make a landing on a rescue island with a Sea Serpent lurking nearby. Nails will be bitten down to the quick whenever that Creature Die is cast!
- It's pretty! The current edition in print right now is definitely the best one yet. The board and the Tile art is absolutely gorgeous. Previous editions had unnecessarily-confusing Tile graphics and the Meeple colors were problematic. This new version takes care of all of those niggling issues.
- It's variable! Random island generation, Meeple placement and Tile removal all create a reasonably-varied experience from game to game.
- It's naaaasty! There's something gloriously antisocial about using a Tile to pick up a Sea Serpent, drop it right next to an opponent's fully-loaded Boat and then plow right through it with a matching die roll. Er, so I'm told.
- The game is incredibly cut-throat, so you definitely don't wanna play it with people you owe money to. If your gamer fiends are, shall we say, rather "passionate", then you might want to consider getting them to sign a waiver before they sit down to play.
- As you can tell from this session report, if luck and your table-mates are all against you, then you're in for a pretty rocky ride.
All told, Survive: Escape From Atlantis! is a fun, light game that makes for a pretty obvious choice when your friends want to play a very competitive game of strategy. Yes, luck and rivalries will certainly have an influence on who ultimately emerges victorious, but the game's beautiful trappings, darkly humorous catastrophes and blatantly-aggro strategies are sure to keep everyone entertained over its short n' not-so-sweet forty-five-minute play time.
As such, I give Survive: Escape From Atlantis! four pips outta six with a tilt up towards the top of a Mountain Tile!
***Looking to do your best Booker-T impersonation as one of your lone Meeples waves and pilots a Ship away from the crowded shore? Then click on the image below to learn more about Survive! and help this blog...ahem...survive!