Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over 18 months and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every other Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

If I could turn back time: Escape from Atlantis Vs Survive!



 










Many people have heard and played Survive: Escape from Atlantis, it has a bit of a reputation as a game that you play when you want to take out frustration on your friends. There’s little more satisfying than dunking an opposing meeple into shark infested water. What a lot of people haven’t played these days is Escape from Atlantis a classic game which Survive was based on which happens to be the same age as me! I let you decide if you think that's old or not... choose carefully!

The classic island set up and ready to go, looking very orderly.
When I opened the box to the vintage Escape from Atlantis I was taken back with how familiar it felt, the big area of sea with 4 islands to escape to, the sea monsters and sharks, the boats and even the 3 tiers of land that the island is made up of. In some ways the component quality even seemed better, large chunky plastic mountains with space for pawns moulded into them as opposed to pieces of cardboard with different thickness, there’s no denying the old game looks good, even if the bright colours give it a more toy-like appearance. The modern game does have better art, and the wooden meeple and boats do feel better in your hand (and these are the components you move the most).
 

The modern island set up, looking much more chaotic
The second thing that struck me was the spinner, now I do think that this is an ingenious way of playing a game and a great alternative to dice... if it didn’t take so long! The metal ball bearing doesn’t always spin right and when it does tends to take so many rotations you could have rolled a dice 10 times! Still it does have the advantage of having space for more moves. After each turn you can end up moving a sea monster 1, 2,or 3 spaces, or even diving it to any empty location, which is a very limited action in the modern remake! In the modern game you either roll sea monster or not and it always moves 1, making it much more possible to tell where is safe. On a slightly more trivial note, there are 4 creatures in the 1986 version, adding octopi and dolphins while removing whale. Of course octopi are just whales with a different mould, so the only real addition is dolphins. These helpful creatures allow you to get someone out at the cost of 3 actions, something which makes the game feel a lot safer, so long as you can pull through to your next turn you know that swimming man is safe, while in the modern remake being in the water is almost always a death sentence.

The end of a game of vintage Escape from Atlantis, the board is covered in all kinds of sea monsters and an almost sickening number of survivors have made it out alive!
Survive: Escape from Atlantis definitely feels more modern and more strategical, the abilities on the underside of sunken tiles can be creature/boat spawns and whirlpools, but they can also be one-shot actions that you can save for future turns. In the older game everything is either a creature, boat or a whirlpool, there isn’t even a game ending volcano, the game continues until everyone on one team escapes! The other most major change is the island layout, in the classic game the island is fixed with the tall landmasses in the center surrounded by the middling pieces then the beach, this means the island falls apart in layers. The modern game suggests a random island setup which means that there may be mountains in more favourable positions, it also means that the island falls apart and can form multiple smaller islands, the sea monster in the middle also makes it dangerous to hang around on inner beaches as you may get trapped with it. Oh and probably the biggest change, in the old game you can’t dunk people! If you sink and island piece with people on it they migrate to safer ground, rather than being dipped in the briny sea! Honestly this removes a lot of the vindictiveness from the game and is a very welcome change in the modern release

So which is the better game? Survive: Escape from Atlantis, the modern version, that is clear in my opinion. Sure they lost a few things over the 30 years between them, but playing the two back to back it is clear that they have made some great improvements while staying faithful to the original release. If you can't stand the vindictiveness in the modern game then you might find the old classic worth trying as it's a bit friendlier, but assuming you have thick skin and can keep grudges in the game then I'd recommend the modern game in a heartbeat! Still I'm somewhat proud to see how little has changed between the two versions, it just goes to show that good games to stand the test of time and not everything to come out of the 1980s was bad, just the clothes, hairstyles, and me!

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