GOING RETRO: ESCAPE & SURVIVE:
A LOOK AT A CLASSIC: SURVIVE & ESCAPE FROM ATLANTIS
by Chris Kovac
Survive!, also known as Escape from Atlantis, is a 2-4 player family orientated light survival game where you are trying to get your tribe of Atlanteans off the central sinking island of Atlantis to safety on the islands at the four corners of the gameboard. This game by Julian Courtland-Smith has a long and storied history with editions by at least four different game publishers: Parker brothers 1982, Waddington-Sanders 1986 (on which this review is based), a Hasbro 1986 version and a 2011 version from Stronghold Games.
To set up the game, the central island of Atlantis outlined on the board must be built starting with the tallest grey mountain piece in the centre, surrounding this with the shorter grey mountain pieces, then surrounding the mountain pieces with the green hill pieces and finally surrounding these hill pieces with the yellow lowland pieces. (There are 37 plastic terrain hex pieces in the Waddington version, the first version to use plastic pieces; the Parker edition has 40 cardboard island tiles. )
You then place either two or four boats at the edges of main axis of the island depending upon the number of players in the game. Place the creature pieces, extra boats and movement dice to the side of the board. Finally, each player takes a set of twelve Atlantean tribesman pawns in one of the four colours. (Ten in the Parker edition.) After picking a starting player, this player puts one of his tribesman pawns on the central island on any open space. The only restriction being that only one tribesman can start on each of the lowland pieces. Then the next player in clockwise order does the same and this continues until all pieces are placed.
Beginning with the start player, each player does the following three steps in order.
First is to move any combination of pawns of there tribe up to three spaces on either land or sea (they are called swimmers when in the sea spaces). You may move boats with any number of meeples (each boat can hold up to three meeples) in them if you are in the majority, are equal to other players in the boat or the boat is empty as part of this move. If a player pawn reaches one of the four corner island hexes it is safe.
The second step is to choose an island piece starting with the outer lowland tiles and you must sink (remove) it. All tiles of one terrain type must be removed before sinking the next higher terrain types (i.e. all yellow lowland tiles must be sunk before a green hill tile can be sunk). Any pawns on this tile are placed now on the revealed sea hex. You then flip over the removed piece to see a symbol printed on the bottom which indicates if a various sea creature will be placed on the hex or a whirlpool occurs. If a whirlpool occurs all sea creatures, boats and pawns are removed on the hex of the whirlpool and any adjacent sea hexes. The various sea creatures you can encounter are:
Sharks – They eat any swimmers in the revealed hex but not boats or pawns in boats.
Octopus – They destroy any boats in the revealed hex but not player pawns. Any player pawns in destroyed boats become swimmers.
Sea Monster – Destroys all boats and player pawns in the revealed hex.
Dolphin – You can use a dolphin during your movement turn, if you spend all your movement to move a single pawn in the same space as the dolphin to move both the pawn and the dolphin to one of the four corner safe islands.
The final step during a players turn is to roll the two creature movement dice. One dice shows a picture of which creature (sharks, octopus, sea monster or dolphin) can move and the other allows you to move that creature either one, two or, if the D is rolled, any number of spaces. You then apply that creature’s effects to all boats and pawns in that hex.
When all of a player’s surviving pawns are on any of the four corner islands, the game ends. The player with the most surviving pawns wins. (In the Parker version, the pawns have numbers of 1 through 6, values unseen by other players, on their bottom. These values are only revealed when the game is over. The player who has the highest value of surviving pawns wins!)
This is an entertaining if very luck orientated game with only limited strategy. Most of the strategy is trying to load the boats with your meeples then moving them as quickly as possible to any of the four corner safe islands hoping that another player’s creature movement roll or the event from the sinking of an island piece does not derail your plans.
I personally like the Waddington’s version of the game best since the 3-D dimensionality of the pieces really adds to theme and appeals especially well to children. I think that the pawns are a bit small which can make them a bit hard to pick up and move as well as the sail pieces which slide into the front end of the boat and have a tendency to fall off when moving the boats. (The Parker version boats are flat without sails.) Another flaw is that on the creature dice, three out of six sides show a dolphin so they are the most often rolled. This means you do not often get to use the dolphin’s power as dolphins are constantly being moved to another player or away from your player.
Apart from these relatively minor flaws, Survive!/Escape from Atlantis is still enjoyable especially with family and casual gamers when you need a bit of silly fun, impressive for a game rapidly coming up on being forty years old. A good solid eight out of ten. – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac
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