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Atlantis

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Amigo/Mayfair Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; $35)

 

atlantisboxThe legendary continent of Atlantis is the setting for Atlantis, a new game by Leo Colovini, where players are compelled to flee to safety before Atlantis sinks into the sea.

Atlantis is a board game only in the sense that you create a pathway of tiles linking sinking Atlantis to the mainland. There are 84 path tiles, in A and B groupings, ranging in value from 1 to 7 in seven colors. Starting with the Atlantis tile, the A tiles are distributed in 10 stacks of two, followed by 10 stacks of one, then by 6 stacks of two and then the B tiles are placed in reverse stacking order, ending with the mainland tile. Separating both tile series is one water tile. All players get one “bridge” (which will come in very handy when the waters rise) as well as 3 “meeples” (in their chosen color) who represent their people of Atlantis who will scurry along the path to safety. But how do those meeples move? Through the use of Movement cards.

There are 105 Movement cards, 15 of each to match the seven type of tiles. The first player (the youngest according to the rules, we just draw a random meeple) receives four of these cards with each succeeding player getting one more card (five for the second player, six for the third, seven for the fourth). Movement is very simple; you play a card and advance to the first tile that matches the color/symbol of the card played. If you land on an occupied tile, you can’t stay. You MUST play another card to advance to an unoccupied tile. Once you’ve reached an empty tile, you collect the FIRST UNOCCUPIED tile BEHIND you! All tiles have a point value and collected tiles are worth their face value in Victory Points – IF you still have them when the game ends. Why wouldn’t you have them? Because Atlantis is sinking, water is flooding the pathway and you may need those tiles in order to cross.

As tiles are taken, gaps in the path are created and filled with water tiles. You need to spend Victory Points to cross gaps. How much you need to spend depends on the tiles bordering the gap. The LOWEST value of the two bordering tiles is the cost for crossing. So, for example, a gap bordered by tiles with point values of 5 and 2 requires the expenditure of 2 VPs to cross. VPs may be spent by turning in previously won tiles (no change is given) OR by discarding cards in your hand (at the rate of 1 card equals 1 VP). As the game progresses – and more gaps created in the path – crossing gaps can become VERY expensive. And that’s where your bridge comes in.

atlantis2A player may place his one and only bridge across any gap he comes across. A bridge makes a gap crossing FREE! The only drawback is that placed bridges make crossings free for ALL players crossing there so knowing when to play them to maximum advantage is important. (Bridges have NO Victory Point value so holding them in reserve too long can be counterproductive.)

When a player has finished moving his meeple, he then draws ONE card (no matter how many played) to end his turn. (If in need of cards, a player may, at the start of his turn, “cash in” a Victory Point tile, getting half of that tile’s value – rounded down – back in cards.) Card draws are increased once a player has moved at least one of his meeples to the mainland. At that point, he ends his turn by drawing one card + a card for each meeple safely deposited on the mainland. Once a player has maneuvered all of his meeples to the mainland, he draws four cards to end his turn and triggers the endgame.

Now, ALL players must move all of their meeples still on the path to the mainland. No cards are played and bridges may no longer be placed but gaps must still be crossed – and paid for – with Victory Points. Once all meeples have made it to the mainland, players add up the face value of all held Victory Point tiles and add to the total 1 VP for each card still in their hands. The player with the highest total wins.

At its core, Atlantis is a race game and it shares some of the characteristics of another Colovini race game, Cartagena. In both games, the driving mechanism is the same as players use cards to match symbols to race down a pathway. Furthermore, each game offers a similar goal with a “time is of the essence” feel: freedom for pirates as they race out of a fortress through underground passages to a waiting ship versus survival for inhabitants of a continent rapidly disappearing beneath the waves. I prefer the Atlantis theme which is nicely realized as water tiles appear to make path crossings costly and challenging. Graphically, the tiles and cards benefit from good use of color and symbols so that identifying matches are easy on the eyes. Because of that and the easy rules, the game is easily accessible for non-gamers – a big plus. Being the first to get all of your meeples to the mainland is important but does not, necessarily, guarantee a win (although getting four cards at the end – essentially 4 VPs – does give you an edge). One of the keys to play is to maximize movement by planning your card play so that a meeple can virtually fly along the path through calculated use of several cards in a turn. Ironically, the makes the game vulnerable to the predilections of more “serious gamers” who may sink into an analysis paralysis funk as they try to eke out every drop of movement from each card play. This paralysis is counter to the game’s theme as it slows the play in a game trying to simulate a sense of urgency to escape the rising waters before it’s too late. The caveat here is to “know your game partners” before bringing this one to the table.

Atlantis is a light to middleweight game that is easy to teach and satisfying to play, an excellent choice to “sink” your teeth into as an opener for an evening of games and fun.

 


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