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LOOTING ATLANTIS

[Note: Nick Sauer, designer of Looting Atlantis, has been a contributor to Gamers Alliance Report, including content for our Sid Sackson Tribute issue as well as reviews, the last appearing in the Fall 2010 issue.]

Reviewed by Herb Levy

LOOTING ATLANTIS (Shoot Again Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 30 minutes; $40)

 

The legendary land of Atlantis has been the subject of all sorts of creative speculation including books and films. This time around, game designer Nick Sauer, postulates the end of the doomed continent of Atlantis as the result of volcanic eruption. As he sees it, as lava flows, Atlanteans will rush in their air cars to various cities and attempt to gather up (i.e. “loot”) valuable technologies and then use them – to score points for themselves and against their opponents – in the new game: Looting Atlantis.  lootingatlantisbox

The game board depicts the volcano at its center with tracks leading from it to the circular outer rim. Spaces on the rim are the 20 different cities of Atlantis. The 80 card deck is made of “Equipment” cards, representing the six different technologies in the game. This deck is shuffled and four cards dealt to each of the 20 cities. All players receive an “air car” (player token) and in reverse turn order, place their car on any unoccupied city.

On a turn, players MUST place a lava tile (starting tracks by the volcano are marked with an orange triangle) with further lava tiles placed so that they connect to those previously placed.  Once done, two actions may be performed.

One possible action is moving an airship from a city on the board to any other city that remains untouched by lava. (At this point, players may share city spaces.)  Another possible action is claiming a card at the city where your ship has docked.  Technology cards placed at each city show their colored bars so all are clearly visible. If claiming a card, the TOP card is the one that must be taken (no rummaging through the pile to pick and choose). The same action may be done multiple times in the same turn so it is possible to claim two cards at the city where you begin your turn. Additionally (and this does NOT count as an action), a player may use the power of ONE of his collected technology cards.

All six technology cards will give a player Victory Points (albeit in different ways) and most have powers that may be activated by turning them in. The technologies are:

Mental Amplifiers (Colored brown/rectangle icon) – Worth 7 VPs.  Power: Force a trade with another player, this card for any one that player has.

Quantum Nullifier (Green/pentagon) – The square of the total number of these cards you have at game’s end equals Victory Points. Power: Can nullify any technology card played against you!

Personal Force Field (Red/triangle) – Each set of three of these is worth 25 VPs at the end of the game. Power: Play this card during ANOTHER player’s turn to change lava tile placement.

Mass Energy Converters (Blue/solid dot and “donut” open dot) – Two types of these, one with a solid dot, the other, a “donut” with an open dot. Solids are worth 5 points each; opens are multipliers! One open makes all solids worth 10, two opens make all solids worth 15 etc. but solids, by themselves, are worth nothing. Power: Discard any of these (solid or open) to claim ANY card (not just the top one) at your location.lootingatlantiscomp

Fusion Batteries (Yellow/plus sign) – These start small (1 of them is worth only 3 VPs) but rapidly increase in value the more of them you have (7 are worth 47 VPs while 10 are worth 199!) Power: Discard the card to its current location and take TWO extra actions.

Unified Field Generators (Blue/red/green/yellow bar) – 4 points each but can be worth as much as 20 each if a player has collected sets of the other cards (except for the Mental Amplifiers). No special power.

As the game progresses, lava will reach one or more of the cities. When it does, the game picks up speed. Now, any cards at a city touched by lava are removed from play and that space is no longer accessible to players. If a player’s ship is on that space, it is removed from the board. Three actions may now be done each turn but if you’ve been removed from the board by lava, your first action must be to repair your ship and the second to move it onto the board. Players also have another option to consider.

At any point, a player may flee Atlantis by moving his ship already on the board and, foregoing any card collection or movement, transport his ship to one of the three kingdoms situated at three corners of the board. But these kingdoms are not “big enough” for more than one player so, once occupied, no other Atlantean may go there. And there is a reward involved: the player who occupies Egypt will add 40 VPs to his score,  China will add 30 and Mycenae 20. (Although unable to claim more cards, players who have fled still place lava markers.) When all technology cards have been claimed or discarded or all city spaces have been covered with lava, the game ends and points tallied. The player with the most VPs has not only survived the Atlantis upheaval but wins!

Looting Atlantis brings certain elements of other games into play. As with Downfall of Pompeii (Fall 2013 GA Report) and Survive (Parker Brothers, 1982), a natural disaster (in each case, a volcano) precipitates a “run for your life”, escape from doom, sense of urgency! This urgency rapidly accelerates as the lava flows, cutting off parts of Atlantis and, more importantly in game terms, removing what could be key cards from play and from your grasp in your quest for higher and higher VP totals.

Card set collection, a Euro game staple, is another element: you want to collect more and more cards to score more and more points and first time players will often concentrate solely on that. But set collection is neatly blended here into a two-edged sword: points for cards (yes) but, at the same time, the powers of the cards are so useful and tempting that you ignore them at your peril. You need to carefully consider just how much the cards are worth to you. Does it pay to keep the VPs of a card or are the potential advantages it can provide worth giving up what could be a sizable amount of points? Victory in this game hinges on these decisions.  A plus is the cards themselves: boldly color-coded with icons smartly used to make identifying the cards, even from across the table, easy.

The “push your luck” element is neatly incorporated here too. Since only one player is able to claim each kingdom, knowing when to flee Atlantis challenges your sense of timing. Leave too soon and you leave too many VP cards on the table for your opponents. Leave too late and someone else will grab an extra 40 (or 30 or 20) Victory Points, a significant amount to “give away”, a deficit in scoring you will need to make up if you want to win.

The game comes with slightly modified rules for two or three players but the full complement of four is the recommended way to go. More players ramp up the card competition and offer everyone more targets (and choices) regarding where and when to inflict damage with those technology powers.

Looting Atlantis is a game that looks good, plays quickly and is easy to teach (thanks to one of the better rule books out there) with straightforward and uncomplicated game play. For these reasons, it is the kind of game that families can really enjoy. More serious gamers looking for more depth can bring the game to the next level by pondering “perceived value” – just how much IS a card/technology worth? – and, once you have decided, determine when to pick it up and when to play it before it’s too late.

Sometimes, games are good and sometimes games are bad. Fortunately, in this case, any “sinking feeling” you get means you’re Looting Atlantis and having a great time doing it! – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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