Sunday, May 22, 2011

Survive: Escape from Atlantis

Survive: Escape from Atlantis is a cut-throat, take no prisoners board game full of boat smashing, island sinking, your friend just got eaten by a shark fun. Originally published in 1982 as Survive by Parker Brothers, it has recently been republished by Stronghold Games, and includes the pieces needed in order to play Escape from Atlantis (1986). This is a game that has people divided on either never having heard of it when it was originally published in 1982, or this being the coolest game they ever played growing up.

In a nutshell, you and your fellow players are residents of Atlantis and its starting to sink. You must do everything in your power to get your people off the main island to safety while avoiding sharks, whales, sea monsters, and your friends backstabbing scheming ways. Get more of your people to safety, you win.

In the box you will find a beautiful 4-part board covered in hexes, island tiles (beach, forest, and mountains), wooden Atlanteans, wooden boats for the wooden Atlanteans to ride, wooden whales to destroy your wooden boats, wooden sharks to eat your wooden Atlanteans, wooden sea serpents to destroy your wooden boats and eat your wooden Atlanteans, wooden dolphins to help your wooden Atlanteans swim, and some dice (these are not wood).

To begin, players will randomly draw island tiles and place them on the board to form the island of Atlantis, followed by populating the island one person at a time, alternating players as they go. The placement of a players Atlantians can be strategic, as each one has a value ranging from 1-6, which will score the player points if they can get them safely off the island. Some boats are placed out on the board, and the sea serpents take their places. Then, Atlantis falls.

The board, right before it starts to sink

During a players turn, they will get up to three actions that can be used to either move their pieces across the island, onto boats, move boats (empty ones or ones they control), or swim. In a perfect world, a player will move their pieces with the end goal of getting them to one of the four surrounding islands. Unfortunately, evacuating a sinking island is not as easy as you would think.

After they have moved their people, the island will start to sink, and the player will remove one of the island tiles from the board. In order, beach tiles are removed first, followed by forest tiles, then mountains. On the flip side of these tiles, players will trigger events that will either immediately take place or may be saved for them to use later in the game. Some of these immediate effects may be adding sharks or whales to the game board (thats bad), or maybe some extra boats to get people to safety (thats good), or maybe a whirlpool that will suck any Atlanteans, boats, or sea creatures to the bottom of the ocean (thats bad too).

Once a player has sunk a part of the island, they then roll the sea creature dice and will move them accordingly. By rolling the dice, the player will have to move either a whale, a shark, or a sea serpent on the board, most likely into the same hex where another player has a piece, eating their Atlantean or destroying the boat they were on or even both.

Oh Noes, He's swimming!
When the sea creatures actions are resolved, play moves on to the next player, and the cycle repeats. The game will go on until the volcano is revealed once the players get down to removing the mountain tiles from play. Players will add up the points scored from their surviving Atlanteans who made it to safety, the one with the highest score wins.

The game is fast paced and fun, and is best played with friends who don't mind screwing you over, and vice versa. Having never played the game when if originally came out, I was hesitant to play it now 30 years later since games of the era of being a kid don't always hold up/in no way hold your interest. But this game is just fun. Very easy to pick up and learn, and within a turn all of us had a solid grasp on how to play, and were strategizing and plotting each others demise (3 of the 4 had never played).

Everything adjacent to the whirlpool will be removed from the game
Out of the box, it plays up to 4 players, but there are plans to release an expansion that will allow for up to 6 to play all at once. While dolphins are not used in the basic game, they are in the advanced game, which adds some additional rules allowing for a different gameplay. An expansion ot the game is available now, adding giant squids to the mix (ie, more ways to kill your friends).

The game allows for some strategy, as well as making alliances (if you like) but those do not last forever because in the end, its all about you surviving more than anyone else.


More Pictures


  1. Nice write-up and great pictures to go with it. My brother and I played the 80's version growing up and loved it.

    I was on the fence about getting an original or just getting the new version, but I'm leaning towards the updated game.

    If I were to choose a beer for this game it would be a light and crisp beer that would be perfect for sitting on the shores of an island... even if that island is sinking.

    Suggestions would be Goose Island Summertime, Anchor Summer Beer, or Great Divide's Titan IPA.

    As a host of a tabletop games and beer podcast, I look forward to reading more of your reviews!

    -Carl, host of Flagons and Dragons.

  2. I have been wondering about this game. I'm hearing good things about it, and it looks nice, but I feel like we're mostly playing meatier games these days.