Survive: Escape from Atlantis! Review
Players: 2 – 4
Time: ~45 – 60 minutes
Times Played: 30+
There are so many games that state they’re for the family or that they’re designed for a family dynamic, but Survive really reminds me of something I would have played with my parents decades ago that holds up to the test of time now. This is with good reason though, as it was originally released in 1982. After thirty-five years and countless re-releases, has it Survived the test of time?
Yes. I’m not one for cliffhangers. Survive is easily one of the most played games we have ever purchased and is incredible for novices or experienced players alike.
Survive has you controlling the meeples of Atlantis and trying to evacuate them from the island before the island itself sinks.
For set-up, players will create the island using the modular board pieces to fill-in the marked area on the board.
Before the first turn, players will alternate placing their meeples on land hexes that make up the island. One meeple is allowed per land tile. Once a piece is placed, a player cannot look at the value of the meeple until they are rescued or eaten. Once players have run out of meeples, they will then place one boat two times. Then, the game begins.
Each turn, a player has three movement points to use. Moving from one hex to an adjacent hex is one point of movement. When on land, players can move one of their meemples three spaces as long as they remain on land and they move no one else. Once in the water, a meeple can only swim one hex tile, no matter how many points you have left to use.
Movement points can also be used to move a meeple into a boat and if that player has the majority of their meeples in the boat and movement actions left, they can use them to move the boat.
After movement has concluded, the player will take a tile (corresponding to its height with the shortest tiles being picked first) and resolve the action associated on the back of the tile:
Green borders are used immediately and typically add something to the board, such as sharks, boats and whales;
Red borders are for players to use in later rounds and have various abilities, such as hitching a ride with a dolphin and being allowed to swim further or saving one of your meeples from a shark attack.
Lastly, the player will roll the sea monster die. Rolling the die will dictate which type of sea monster you will be able to move. There are three different types of sea monster in the base game:
Whales, which can move zero to three spaces and destroy boats (but leave the meeples unharmed);
Sharks, which can move zero to two spaces and eat meeples in the water (but leave meeples in water unharmed); and
Sea Serpents, which can only move one space but do both actions. They can eat people in the water, eat a boat and eat meeples in the boat.
Once the sea monster movement has been resolved, that players turn is over and play passes onto the next player.
Play continues like this until the mountain tile with a volcano on the reverse side is revealed, which immediately ends the game. The player with the highest value of meeples saved wins the game.
All in all, this does not seem like much but make no mistake about it. Survive is a tactical game. You have to plan your movements, who to share a boat with, where to move a sea monster, if you should attack with a sea monster and who to attack.
You may have red tiles that could be played and have to decide if now is the time or not. You might want to strike an alliance with a player as you work together to save your meeples.
Survive is another game I would put into my gateway level as it is easy to teach to new players and more importantly, easy to remember. The game plays pretty fast and introduces a lot of interaction between players, good and bad.
This game does include some elements of luck (the drawing of the tile and the roll of the die) but I would not consider either mechanic to be foundations of the game. No tile or roll is overpowered and every meaningful decision in Survive is player driven.
Survive does include a lot of “take that” interaction between players. I have seen this game played where everyone has taken the logical route of not attacking anyone and I have been on the receiving end of what our group calls “Team Chaos”, which entails complete and utter destruction as quickly and decisively as possible.
The tiles are random and some could be incredibly helpful this game for you (such as granting you a new boat or being able to move the sea serpent anywhere on the board) or they could completely foil your plans as a whirlpool devours every meeple adjacent to your freshly drawn tile.
An interesting aside, and we haven’t discovered if this is good or bad yet, is that a player could run out of meeples early into the game (maybe through destruction or lucky both placement, more than likely both) and still be in the game until the end. They cannot move any meeples but they can reveal a tile and roll for a sea monster. This dungeon master setting doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can cause complete chaos.
The game is made to have players get into a ruckus with one another but it never crosses the line like a Lifeboats or Game of Thrones does. There are no hard decisions one has to make and with so much happening between your turn and your next one, having something not go your way is not Jackie’s fault personally, it’s just the way the game played out.
Survive has an easy catch-up mechanic as players can visually see who has saved some of their meeples and typically, players will take actions to ensure that they don’t gain much larger of a (supposed) lead.
The game supports playing from two to four players and honestly? It works at all of them although it is best at four.
At two players, the game has you control two separate colors of meeples. Nothing wrong with that and the gameplay does not change in the slightest (which is nice as you don’t need to learn new rules). But this means that the game is strictly you versus your opponent and you have to be willing to butt heads.
The only real issue we have playing Survive at three players is that there tends to be a moment where someone gets ganged up on. It could be because they’re in the lead or maybe it’s because their an easy target. With a finite amount of meeples to save, a bad turn against you could put you out of the game due to your lack of alliance.
Four players is the ideal player count as alliances and rivalries are created turn by turn. So much can happen before you have the ability to play the role as savior that plans can be changed several times over before you get the chance to do anything. You can play this game at two or three players, but the best experience will be at four.
Survive has a modular set-up so it can change each time you play. It’s no secret that I adore modular board games and just giving players the option to vary the board is a huge boost to the replayability of the game.
We will also incorporate some house set-up rules as well. Our two favorites are:
Don’t look at what a meeple is worth. You just place one blindly; and/or
You can place any meeple except your own.
It adds a new depth of strategy and chaos as either you do not know who you are moving or you know who to target since you placed your opponents pieces.
The components for this game are top notch. The artwork is bright and crisp, which adds to the feel and overall presentation of the game. The game uses heavy plastic meeples and wooden pieces for the boats and sea creatures. The tiles are thick cardboard and the dice is custom with iconography from the game. After an incredible amount of play, the game looks just as it did when we first bought it.
Survive also includes a handy insert that stores all of the tiles and pieces of the game in a way that does not have anything rattling around or at-risk of becoming dislodged.
If you have friends that easily can get their feelings hurt, this is not a game for them. But for everyone else, Survive is one of those games you just have to have played at least once. It provides an enjoyable, easy experience that