TABLETOP REVIEW: Survive: Escape from Atlantis
Full Disclosure: This review is unpaid and 100% unbiased, and I played this game at the lovely tabletop gaming cafe Draughts in London.
I guess my review type is just gunna be classic games. With the exception of the first one, so not really my review type at all. Right, good start.
Regardless, moving on with the classic theme, today I’m reviewing a game that has again (along with Sherlock: Consulting Detective), been around since the 80s. This game really brings out the evil in people, but in like a cool, fun, ‘I’m gunna just make this shark eat your poor stranded and drowning survivor, sorry mate,’ kinda way. Nice! I love light-hearted shark based violence. That dead survivor probably wasn’t even worth any points ANYWAY. Way to value people’s lives guys.
What I’m really trying to say is that the game I’m reviewing today is ‘Survivor: Escape from Atlantis.’ It’s a board game where you try and escape a sinking island, escape it better than the other players, and end up with minimal shark, whale and seamonster related casualties along the way. The box looks like this! Click on it for the BGG page if you want.
The points today are going to be monsters from the DEEP, because this game has seamonsters obviously, so for starters this gets +20 monsters from the DEEP for the absolutely incredibly executed theme. The artwork is great here, the production quality is decent (+20 monsters for wooden pieces in the shape of monstahs), and the theme absolutely suits the mechanics and gameplay.
So without further ado…
Final Thoughts Up Front
This Game is Good for:
If you want a great game for either the start or end of the night, that isn’t too heavy, plays in under an hour, and looks incredible on the tablet. Also, anyone who likes competitive games and tends to get a bit… carried away with playing aggressively. The type of gameplay here lends itself very well to non-confrontational forms of competitiveness. Even the harshest move against another player isn’t ever THAT harsh, simply because of the amount of survivors everyone has (and their different values). This game is also good for new gamers, people who love games that feature a bit board with lots of moving pieces, and players who are fans of visual strategy rather than abstract or tactical strategy.
This Game is not Good for:
People who prefer more complex or solitary games with less randomness and deep tactical strategy. Anyone who obsessively plans their turn or anyone who is ESPECIALLY touchy when it comes to competitive gaming. Or anybody who prefers games with a large amount of replay value (there is an expansion however).
Things of Note:
One of the best things about this game is that EVERYONE has survivors that survive, get eaten, have to swim, or end up in unfortunate situations, and EVERYONE gets the chance to control the negative aspects of the game (+10 monsters for allowing people to control the actual monsters). It is also gives a lot of visual feedback and is very satisfying when something works out. It also (due to the fact that more than one person’s survivors can be on one boat) allows for a small amount of social tactics when it comes to teaming up with other players for the greater good. That or even sinking a ship with one of your own survivors on because you think the survivors of other players on the boat are worth more points than yours. It’s a lot of fun.
The Bit where I Talk about the Actual Game
So the game itself when in the middle of play looks a bit like this…
Players take it in turns to first set up the island, place their survivors on the island of Atlantis, and then place 2 boats each around the edge of the island. Each player then takes it in turns to first move their survivors or a boat, then remove a piece of the island (starting with beach, then forest, then mountains), then move a sea creature (potentially eating a survivor in the sea, or capsizing a boat — or both depending on which creature). The premise and the gameplay is simple (+10 for low barrier to entry), and that is really why the game works so well. It’s quick, easy to get into, very satisfying to play, and incredibly well designed and presented.
Plus, this game has one of the best mechanics I know of when it comes to entry level strategy. Each of each players meeples has a number on the bottom, and that number corresponds to how many points that meeple scores when (if) they are rescued. Basically some meeples are the Justin Beiber of the meeple world (although I’d question whether or not you leave him for the sharks), and some are just lowly peasants like you and I (+10 monsters for meeple peasants! Rise up peasants! Rise up!). I hate to see different values put on human life but in this instance I’ll make an exception. You’d be surprised how quickly a few drunken tabletop gamers can forget where they’ve put their most valuable meeple, and subsequently spend the whole game trying desperately to save the live of a meeple only worth 1 point.
Mechanics and Gameplay
The game itself flows quickly, everyone is constantly involved, and is a great way to blow off some steam after a marathon 3 or 4 hour strategy game, or even as an intro game for the tabletop session you’re about to dive into! (+20 monsters for easy access monstah fun).
Now, there’s no denying this game does not have a huge amount of depth or replayability (-30 monsters), but the fact is that it doesn’t really need to. Survive thrives on it’s simplicity, and the ease that you can really play it with any type of group is testament to the enduring quality of this game. There is a REASON this game has been reprinted so many times (+50 monsters for reprintability).
Some Other Stuff
That’s not to say this game isn’t without it’s flaws however, and they aren’t many, but it does have them…
Firstly, owing to some combination of tiles you might pick up from Atlantis, occasionally one person will get very lucky and be able to move a lot of the sea creatures out of their way over the course of a few early turns. This is particularly beneficial if they have been very clumped up in their placement of meeple, and can thus lead to a relatively easy path to victory (-10 monsters for luck making the game occasionally imbalanced).
Also, despite individual actions feeling fairly impartial even if you eat an opponents meeple, if one person is rescuing more meeples than everyone else, they may start to feel ganged up on. I mean really in this case, just don’t play with a group of douchey people who would do this, but it can happen (-20 monsters for potential ganging up situations).
The game board could also be a bit MORE 3 dimensional when it comes to the beaches, forest and mountains (like some of the older reprints of this game). However in the grand scheme of things, the board is still amazing to look at when playing, and really I’m just being nitpicky for the sake of it. Shame on you Christopher!
I absolutely love this game, it’s just got the perfect mix of humour, strategy and competitiveness. It’s on the lighter side without being entirely devoid of strategy, and it works perfectly at the beginning AND end of a games night. The theme also means that it’s INCREDIBLY easy to get people interested in playing as well. Who wouldn’t want to escape from a sinking island whilst simultaneously eating other players survivors with sharks, capsizing boats with whales and just generally creating a good old mess. Love a mess me.
Score: 80 Monsters from the DEEP
But Chris. What does that rating MEAN.
Well, it means you should buy it, because this game is just really really good.