Tag Archives: Survive: Escape from Atlantis!

22nd August 2017

It was a quiet night thanks to work and holidays, and for a long time looked like it might just be a clash of colours between just Magenta and Pink, but gradually others rolled in, just in time for the “Feature Game”, Survive: Escape from Atlantis!.  This is a fairly light game, with a vicious edge that only really works if players engage fully in the “take that” elements.  Basically, each player has set of meeples, each with a number on the base which equates to their value.  With Blue away for work, everyone was keen to take the opportunity to play blue for a change, but Burgundy got in first.  The aim of the game is for players to get their meeples safely to the mainland on the four corners of the board before the volcano erupts and kills them.  To this end, the game begins with players taking it in turns to place their meeples on the hexagonal tiles that make up the central island.   There are actually quite a few things to consider here.  Firstly, the tiles flood in order with the coastal low-lying beach tiles sinking beneath the waves first, then the forest tiles, and finally the grey mountainous tiles.  So, starting on a mountain means there is more time to make arrangements before a vindictive player can sink that hex dumping the unfortunate meeple into the drink.  However, the meeple in question may have to travel some distance across the island to get to the coast, which will take time and actions, both of which are limited.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
– Image by boardGOATS

The other major consideration when placing meeples are their value – each player has ten meeples and their values range from one to six.  The winner is the player who gets the highest total value home, so getting a six home is far more important than getting a one to safety.  For this reason, positioning the high value meeples well is critical, on the other hand, placing them first might telegraph that they are the most important meeples, putting them at risk later.  Critically, once they have been placed nobody, not even their owner, can look at the number on the bottom.  So remembering where the high value meeples are also vital to success, as is deciding whether to put the high value meeples together and potentially in the same boat, risking other players attacking it, but ensuring that all efforts can be focussed in one direction.  In general, each hexagon can only hold one meeple, so the available choice steadily decreases during set up.  The base game only plays four, but more can be accommodated with a mini expansion that adds extra pieces in two new colours.  The rules state that everyone should place only eight meeples (returning a one and a three to the box), but we didn’t realise this until people had begun placing so we used the “overpopulated” variant where players place their extra pieces on hexes that are already occupied once the island is at capacity.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the meeples had been placed and were jostling for position, the game began in earnest.  On their turn, each player does four things:  play a tile from their hand; move their meeples; remove a tile (carrying out the action if appropriate or adding it face down to their hand), and finally roll the red Creature Die.  Players have three movement points and can use them to move any combination of their meeples and/or boats up to a total of three land or sea spaces.  There are a few rules associated with these, for example,”swimmers” can only move one space per turn because they tire easily, and once they have left the island, they cannot return.  Similarly, it only costs one point to move a “dry meeple” from land to a boat in a neighbouring space, whereas a swimmer must be in the same space as the boat and then it takes a movement point for them to climb over the side.  While anyone can move empty boats, only the player with the largest number of meeples can move an occupied boat.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the active player has moved his meeples, he then removes one tile from the island, tipping any residents into the sea and then secretly looks at the underside of the tile.  Each tile has different effect with some spontaneously creating whales, sharks or boats out of thin air, while others allow players to hitch a ride on a passing dolphin or cause sharks to magically vanish into the ether.  There are three different types of tile, green bordered to be played immediately; red bordered to be kept for later and played at the start of a later turn; and tiles with a red cross which are also kept but are played on another player’s turn (typically in response to them moving a shark into an attacking position or similar).  Finally, after the tiles have been dealt with, the active player rolls the Creature Die, and then move the creature of that type of their choice.  There are three types of creature.  Whales move fast (up to three spaces) and attack occupied boats, turning them into matchwood, but they leave swimmers alone.  Sharks, on the other hand, move a maximum of two spaces and will happily scoff any swimmers they come across, but can only circle boats looking longingly at their occupants.  Sea monsters are the slowest movers travelling only one hex at a time, but are also the most hazardous, smashing boats and then eating the contents.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

For the most part, everyone had distributed their meeples evenly over the island, but Green went for the mountain spaces first so his were a little land-locked in the early part of the game.  Perhaps it was just as well for him though, as everyone started out aggressively and got more so.  There were a lot of whale tiles early on, so boats didn’t last long and no mercy was shown to swimmers at all. Even being nice and trying to make allies didn’t work, so when Pink tried to be nice by moving his boat towards one of Magenta’s swimmers she didn’t repay him in kind.  It’s true that Pink might have had an ulterior motive thinking it was less likely she would attack his boat it if it had one of her own meeples in it, but setting a shark on two of his swimmers was arguably uncalled for.  He got his revenge though when he used a whale to sink one of her boats and parked a shark in the neighbouring hex.  Meanwhile, there was a brief uneasy truce between Green, Burgundy and Ivory as they shared a boat and, with so many people with a vested interest and Pink and Magenta still at war, all three made a rapid crossing.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t long before all the beach tiles had gone and then all the forest tiles too.  Then everyone was on tenter-hooks waiting for someone to turn over the volcano tile triggering the immediate end of the game.  There are eight mountain hexes, so the probability started out as one in eight, then one in seven, then one in six…  And then Green turned over the fourth mountain tile signalling the end for Pink’s swimmer who had nearly made it to land and Ivory’s boat which disappeared beneath the waves as it filled up with lava.  That just left the scoring.  Burgundy had got three of his meeples home closely followed by Ivory and Magenta who had saved two each.  The number of meeples is largely irrelevant however, as it is the sum of the value of the meeples that is key, and although it looked like a close game, in the end it was much less close than everyone thought.  Almost all of the high value meeples had been eaten or drowned and only Ivory had managed to save any, rescuing both his five and his six point meeples.  That left him with eleven, a clear margin of victory over Burgundy who finished with a creditable seven, taking second place.  It had been fun though, and Pink, who had played it most recently concluded that it was very different with lots of players as it’s a lot easier to end up getting eaten or sunk since it’s a long time between turns delaying the chance to deal with “the impending sea serpent of doom…”.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone hadn’t got the aggression out of their systems, so it was out with King of Tokyo for a bit more “take that” style gaming.  This is another “light, but vicious” game where players are mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens—all of whom are destroying Tokyo and whacking each other in order to become the one and only, undisputed master of the city.  At the start their turn, the active player rolls six dice, each of which show six symbols each of which has a different effect.  The active player gets three successive throws over which they can choose whether to keep or discard each die.  The dice are used to get points, restore lives, acquire energy and attack other monsters.  Lives and points are tracked using a dial and the aim of the game is to be the first to reach twenty points.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

At its core the game uses a three roll, keep or re-roll system similar to that used in Yahtzee, but there is a little more going than that.  In addition to cute standee-monsters and the scoring dials, there is also a small board representing Tokyo.  At the start of the game, Tokyo is empty, but the first player to roll at least one paw (attack) on the dice and choose to use it can move into Tokyo.  Once Tokyo is occupied, it will not be empty again during the game.  Monsters in Tokyo can only damage monsters outside the city and monsters outside Tokyo can only attach monsters inside the city.  This means that a player in Tokyo is a target for all the other monsters.  On the other hand, rolling an attack die while in Tokyo deals damage to everyone else increasing its value.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Tokyo is also important because when a Monster enters Tokyo the player earns a point for doing so, furthermore, if a Monster is still in Tokyo at the start of their next turn then the player earns another two points, and will continue to earn points for every round they stay there.  This is perilous, however, as they will be the subject of every attack someone makes from outside Tokyo and monsters in the city are not able to heal themselves.  With five players, there is room for two monsters in Tokyo, which means there is one less outside, but that is only the case until a monster inevitably succumbs to their injuries.  Once a player is in Tokyo, the only way to get them out again is to keep attacking them, until their nerve fails and they decide to leave making way for the attacking monster.  By this time, of course, it may be too late and too much damage has been done for them to be able to heal sufficiently.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

In addition to attacking and healing, the dice can also yield energy.  For each lightening bolt rolled and kept, the active player gets a green energy cube, which can be used to buy power cards.  These come in two main types,  “Keepers”, that can be used repeatedly, or “one off” cards that are discarded when used for their benefit.  They are potentially very valuable, especially if bought early in the game and can be used repeatedly.  Finally, it is also possible to score points from the dice by rolling three of the same numbers.  For example, rolling three “twos” will give two points, however, rolling two will score nothing which makes going for these quite a gamble.  The game ends when either one player gets two twenty points or there is only one monster left standing.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The game continued the aggressive theme of the evening.  Magenta and Burgundy were first in Tokyo and survived the whole round picking up the bonus points.  Pink then attacked and both Magenta and Burgundy fled with their tails firmly between their monstrous legs.  On his next turn, Burgundy was able to hide and heal, but Magenta was not so lucky being forced to attack and go back into Tokyo.  Sadly, this proved fatal and she was quickly out after accruing just seven points.  At this point Green was looking very strong with a powerful hand, in particular the “Evacuation Orders” which caused everyone else to lose five points.  This meant that when Pink quickly followed Magenta out of the game (finished off by Ivory) he went with no points at all.  Meanwhile, Burgundy was slowly rebuilding his health and was able to keep the other remaining players at a minimum.  Ivory was next, making it a battle to the death between Burgundy and Green, a battle that Burgundy eventually won after much blood was spilt.  Although it was still early, all the savagery had been tiring and everyone opted for an early night.

King of Tokyo
– Image by BGG contributor Schaulustiger

Learning outcome:  Being nasty can be very hard work.

Boardgames in the News: Ten Great Games to Play with the Family at Christmas

With the nights drawing in and the weather becoming increasingly wet and wintery, what could be nicer than an afternoon playing board games in front of the fire?  If you are new to the hobby, here are ten great modern boardgames to play over the Christmas holidays.  These are all readily available online and/or in dedicated boardgame shops.

  1. PitchCar – This superb car racing game is guaranteed to get kids of all ages playing together; the winner is the person who manages to flick their car round the track first. The game plays six people, but you can get more cars from the Ferti website and play a pursuit type game which is also good fun.  You can also get expansion packs to make your track longer and more interesting if you really like it.
    Target Audience: Families & parties; ages 2 to 102…
    Game Time: From half an hour tailor-able to the group, plus time to build the track.
    Price:  Approximately £45 from amazon.co.uk for the base game (also available in a slightly cheaper mini-version for those without a large table).

    PitchCar
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames
  2. Tsuro – Players take it in turns to build a path for their “dragon”, creating a maze for everyone else at the same time. The game lasts just fifteen to twenty minutes and plays up to eight people.  It combines just enough strategy and luck that if you get knocked out early, there is always time to try again.  Don’t be tempted to get Tsuro of the Seas though, it takes all the really good things about Tsuro and makes them slightly less good.
    Target Audience: Friends & Families with ages 8+
    Game Time: 15-20 mins with almost no set up time.
    Price:  £20-25 from amazon.co.uk.

    Tsuro
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv
  3. Bohnanza – This one sounds really uninspiring on reading the rules:  players have to trade beans to make the most money from the biggest and best bean fields.  Despite the unpromising sound, you only need to play it once with a couple of other people and before you’ve gone far you will agree it is one of the best games ever made – never has bean farming been so much fun!
    Target Audience: Older children and adults; ages 10+
    Game Time: 45-60 mins
    Price:  Readily available for around £15-20.

    Bohnanza
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr
  4. Dobble – With five games in the tin, this Snap-inspired game is excellent value.  Since it relies on reactions, it is also one of those games where children are often genuinely better than adults.  And it is so quick to play that it is an ideal game to squeeze in while the kettle is boiling or tea is brewing.
    Target Audience: 3 and up
    Game Time: 2 mins per round
    Price:  Readily available for around £10 or less.

    Dobble
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari
  5. Escape:  The Curse of the Temple – While most Euro Games don’t use dice, in this game players have five each.  This is a team game that is played against the clock, so has the advantage that everyone wins or loses together.  The team of five players simultaneously roll dice to explore the temple and activate gemstones and then try to escape together before the temple collapses around their ears.  This is also ideal for children to play with adults as they can work in pairs or groups learning communication and team working skills.  If the game seems too difficult for the group, it can also be made a little easier by reducing the number of gems the group have to activate.
    Target Audience: age 5+ as long as there are understanding adults playing
    Game Time: 10 mins per game plus a few minutes setting up
    Price:  approximately £25-30 from amazon.co.uk.

    Escape: The Curse of the Temple
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus
  6. Survive: Escape from Atlantis! – This is good fun and really, really nasty.  Not quite so easy to learn, but really not that difficult either and great fun with four people who have a competitive streak.  Each player has a number of pieces that they are trying to get from the central island to the mainland.  Players take it in turns to move a person or boat, then they take a piece from the island, finally they roll a die to move a whale, shark or sea-monster, with potentially devastating consequences…
    Target Audience: Teenagers; not recommended for children under 12 or people who can’t take getting picked on
    Game Time: 40-60 mins
    Price:  Approximately £25-30 from amazon.co.uk; a 5-6 player expansion is also available which makes things even nastier…

    Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman
  7. Dixit – This is a great game to play with the mums and grannies in the family.  Players take it in turns to be the “story teller” who chooses a card from their hand and gives a clue that everyone else tries to match.  Everyone then has to guess which card belonged to the story teller, with points awarded for good guesses as well as cards that mislead other players.  The original base game plays six well, but Dixit: Odyssey plays up to twelve with a slight tweak to the rules.  Extra decks of cards are also available.
    Target Audience: Friendly groups and parties.
    Game Time: 30-45 mins
    Price:  Approximately £15-30 from amazon.co.uk, depending on the version.

    Dixit
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor lacxox
  8. Colt Express – For older children and younger adults, this game is a glorious mixture of controlled chaos.  Players are bandits attacking and looting a fantastic 3D train.  Rounds are broken into two parts, first players take it in turns to choose the cards they will play placing them in a communal pile the centre of the table.  Then, once everyone has chosen, players carry out the action on each card in turn.  The problem is by the time they get to the end, the plans they had at the start have gone terribly awry…  A similar feel can be got from the pirate themed Walk the Plank! which is a cheaper, smaller, easier game that packs a lot of fun into a shorter playing time.
    Target Audience: Young, and not-so-young adults.
    Game Time: 30-60 mins
    Price:  Approximately £25 from amazon.co.uk; Walk the Plank! is available for £15-20.

    Colt Express
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman
  9. Ticket to Ride: Europe – Players are collecting coloured cards and spending them to place plastic trains on map/board with the aim of trying to build routes across Europe.  This game has been around a little while now and is available in several different flavours:  for the typical UK family, the Europe edition is probably best (plays up to five players), but for a couple, the Nordic edition with its gorgeous festive artwork might be more appropriate (only two to three players though).  If it is popular, there are also a number of expansion maps available.
    Target Audience: Age 10+.
    Game Time: 30-60 mins
    Price:  Readily available for available for £25-40 depending on the version and vendor.

    Ticket to Ride: Europe
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke
  10. No Thanks! – A quick and simple little betting game anyone can play.  The game consists of a deck of cards and some red plastic chips.  The first can take the top card, or pay a chip and pass the problem onto the next player.  The aim of the game is to finish with the lowest total face value of the cards, but if woe-betide anyone who runs out of chips as they will be left at the mercy of everyone else.
    Target Audience:  Friends and families; children aged 8+.
    Game Time: 10-15 mins
    Price:  Readily available for approximately £10.

    No Thanks!
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

Boardgames in the News: Twenty Awesome Games according to The Guardian

The Guardian boardgame section has produced a number of interesting articles over the last few months, including one about a French Scrabble champion who doesn’t speak French; an article discussing the impact of political boardgames, and a review of the cooperative war game, 7 Days of Westerplatte, where players take on roles of Polish defenders trying to save their city from attack in September 1939.

7 Days of Westerplatte
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Their latest article is entitled, “20 Awesome Board Games You May Never Have Heard Of” and as well as the inevitable usual suspects, there are indeed a number of even less widely known games.  Popular franchise games are included like spin-offs from A Game of Thrones and Firefly to catch the eye of the general public, but these have a good reputation amongst gamers too.  Twilight Struggle also makes its second newsworthy appearance in a month, as well as the slightly less well known gateway games, Dominion and 7 Wonders.

Twilight Struggle
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor killy9999

More interesting are some of the other inclusions.  For example, Survive: Escape from Atlantis! is an excellent game that is very easy to teach, but has a nasty edge, with players trying to save their meeples while encouraging monsters to attack everyone else’s.  Although it is a great game to play with teenagers and students, for some reason it very rarely makes this sort of list.  Similarly, newer games like the 2014 Pandemic spin-off, Pandemic: Contagion and this years’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Colt Express also get a mention.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

It’s not all light family fare either and games like the well regarded semi-cooperative game, Dead of Winter, make an appearance as well as older “Geek Fayre” like Netrunner and Civilisation.  Perhaps the biggest surprises though are Antiquity and Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia.  These are both much more obscure games:  Antiquity is produced in very small numbers by Splotter (and is currently out of print), and Euphoria is the product of a very successful KickStarter campaign by Stonemaier Games.  The inclusion of games off the beaten track, shows that the Guardian boardgames coverage is from people who know their subject matter much better than those at the Telegraph!  As such, these Guardian articles are always well worth a look and it will be interesting to see what comes of their quest to find the worst games people have played.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Boardgames in the News: Thirsty Meeples on Radio 2

The growing interest in boardgames continues with an item on the Chris Evans Breakfast show on Radio 2 featuring Simon Read from Thirsty Meeples (starts at 1:47:30).  Sara Cox was sitting in for Chris Evans and conducted the short telephone interview discussing the Oxford games Cafe.  Unfortunately she was a bit obsessed with “classics” like Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, Connect 4 and Mouse Trap.  Simon did his best to talk about Survive:  Escape from Atlantis! and The Settlers of Catan, but in truth, while it was a nice little bit of advertising for the Thirsty Meeple, Sara was too determined to move onto Cold Play…

Sara Cox
– Image from bbc.co.uk