Every summer (or at least most summers), we stay at Ravenwood Castle in Hocking Hills in Ohio. It was originally advertised primarily as a quaint, romantic getaway and my wife and I spent part of our honeymoon there. It has gone through new ownership a couple of times since then, and the current owners have turned it into more of a gaming bed and breakfast, while still retaining the original idea of a romantic getaway (although we take our kids with us these days, so “romantic” isn’t usually our goal anyway, at least not on these trips).
So now when we go, the check-in office has a shelf loaded with all kinds of board games that can be checked out (for free!) during our stay. This is how we first had the chance to try out Forbidden Island. When we checked that game out, the employees that were getting our keys and taking our money also suggested that we try a game called “Survive – Escape from Atlantis!”.
The game, in similar fashion to Forbidden Island, places your characters on a sinking island looking for treasure. The difference is that Forbidden Island is a cooperative game, while Survive pits everyone against everyone. We really enjoyed this game and recently decided to buy a copy.
The game starts with each player (up to 4, although there is an expansion that allows up to 6 players) choosing a color, then taking turns placing tiles on the board. Each tile has a back with either sand, forest, or mountain terrain, and a front that gives special moves to players (I’ll get to that later). Each player also places 10 character meeples on the board and then they place 2 boats near the island. Lastly, there are 5 sea serpents that are placed on the board.
The above picture is taken a little further into the game, so there are more creatures than you’d normally see at the start, but you get the idea.
Each player’s turn is divided into 4 parts; 1) play a tile, 2) make up to 3 moves, 3) remove an island tile, and 4) roll the dice and, if possible, move a creature.
The “play a tile” step is only played after your first turn, and only if you have an available tile (you draw tiles in step 3). Essentially, some of the tiles allow you to do things like move a creature across the board or help swimmers move faster. I say “some” because other tiles are played immediately in step 3 while others can be kept for later use.
In your second phase, you can use 3 movement points. These can be used to move a meeple or a boat, and you get 3 total for your turn.
In the third phase, players remove an island tile (starting with beach tiles, then forest tiles, and then mountain tiles). This simulates the island sinking. If you draw a tile with a whale, shark or boat on the other side, you place a whale, shark, or boat token on the board where the tile was drawn from.
In the last phase, players roll a dice that will determine a creature that can be moved. This will be a sea serpent, a whale, or a shark. Each one interacts with meeples differently. Sea serpents eat any meeples and boats that are in their space. Sharks eat meeples that are swimming, but ignore meeples in boats. Whales destroy boats, causing meeples to fall into the water and become swimmers, but never attack the meeples themselves.
Each character meeple has a number on the bottom that represents how many treasures he or she is carrying. The main goal of the game is to get your meeples to safety on one of the corner islands before they are eaten. There is one special mountain tile that has a volcano on it’s face, and the game ends when this tile is drawn. At that point, the player with the most treaures (not meeples) wins the game. Meeples have anywhere from 1 to 6 treasures, so it’s very possible for someone with only a couple of meeples to beat other players who have more meeples but lower numbers on the bottoms.
You may have noticed some white squids in some of the pictures. Those are actually from the Giant Squids expansion set. The squids add a new element to the game by being able to use their tentacles to reach up into a boat or onto an island space to eat a meeple. They can also either kill or be killed by whales (depending on who moved into who’s space).
Survive – Escape from Atlantis!, which continually makes me feel awkward due to typing exclamation points in the middle of sentences, is a really great game. I hadn’t heard of it until about a year ago, but it’s been around since the early 80s. To top it off, the current producer of the game, Stronghold Games, has made a very high quality set with tiles of varying thickness, and nice wooden tokens. The original game was released by Parker Brothers, and from what I’ve seen, while it was the same game and ruleset, the components weren’t nearly as nice as the newer version’s are.
If trying to escape from a sinking island while avoiding being eaten by sea serpents and sharks, while trying to steer clear of whales sounds like your thing, give this game a try.
Thanks for reading about how much fun I’ve had with cardboard tiles and wooden animals.