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 the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every 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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Thursday 17 March 2016

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple: Survive: Escape from Atlantis!

GameSurvive: Escape from Atlantis!

ManufacturerStronghold Games
Designer: Julian Courtland-Smith


Survive: Escape from Atlantis! is a re-make of the classic Waddingtons game Escape from Atlantis in which players are trying to escape from the island of Atlantis which is sinking. Standing in their way are sharks, whales and sea monsters, but most importantly the other players who are generally quite selfish in their efforts to find a boat or swim for freedom.

In Survive, each player takes 10 coloured meeple who they need to place on the island of Atlantis. The island is made up of hex tiles representing the beach, the forest and mountains. The beach is the least safe place to be as it sinks first, followed in order by the forest and the mountains. Players take turns to place one meeple each so that they can decide which are the best strategic positions on the island. Once all meeples are placed each player also places two boats which are the quickest means to escape the sinking island on Atlantis. 

On your turn you can make three moves – move a boat one space, move a swimming meeple, jump into or out of a boat on space or walk across the island by one space. You then flip one of the island tiles, which may well drop a meeple into the sea, making it perfect shark bait! Each tile has a special action on the reverse which is either immediate eg. a shark/whale/boat appears or can be saved for future rounds eg. a friendly dolphin who will let you swim 3 spaces. Your final action of the turn is to roll the dice which will allow you to move one sea creature token as per its movement rules; whales move furthest and upturn boats if they land on them, sharks move slightly less and can eat swimming meeple and sea monsters can only move one space but each boats full of meeple or swimmers. Your goal is to get as many of your meeple off the island and to the safety of the mainland as possible, whilst simultaneously killing off your opponent’s meeples or sabotaging their plans of getting anywhere fast.

The reverse side of the hex tiles. Green tiles are played immediately, making elements appear in the game. Red tokens wither give you a boost or can be played to cancel the movement of a sea creature that's about to eat you.
Survive makes a great gateway level game because the rules are not difficult to comprehend and the game looks great on the table. The component quality is fantastic, with the wooden sea creatures, chunky plastic meeple and particularly the three different thicknesses of terrain tile which give the island a great three-dimensional look. In principal the game would be great with families, however the game can be very cut-throat and have a lot of back-stabbing – we always preface a game with new players by telling them that this is a game where you’re mean to each other. I can imagine that kids (and to be fair some adults) may not deal with this element of the game very well, it may not be strategically sound to gang up on only one other player but it’s perfectly possible and would justifiably ruin the experience for one player.

Part way through the game as the sand is starting to sink into the sea and a few sharks and whales have now appeared in the sea.

My other main criticism of the game is the numbers on the bottom of the meeples. The meeples are numbered 1-6 on their base and you have a higher quantity of 1s and 2s than the higher numbers. These represent the points they are worth at the end of the game, which implies that you need to try and remember where you placed your highest scoring meeples and put these at least risk to ensure that your save them. However, this memory element has always seemed to challenging for what is otherwise a lightweight game and I’ve never seen anyone play anything other than ‘winner is the player who saves the most meeples’ – this often leads to ties though and then the score becomes a tie breaker and the score you get is essentially complete luck because you never remembered where you put your meeples in the first place.

We have tried the game with two players where we take two colours each and the player with the combined highest number of meeples wins. Unfortunately the game works, but definitely loses a lot of the fun because there’s only ever one other player to pick on. Sharing a boat in particular just doesn’t work as no-one will send a whale in the direction of that boat. This game is definitely at its best with the full four players so the board is full, sea creature activations are often successful and the victimising is spread around. We have player with the 5-6 player expansion with friends, which was obviously much more chaotic, but didn’t seem to break the game.

The game set up ready to play, each player gets to place their own meeples and 2 boats which they hope to use to survive
All of this said, I personally enjoy Survive, so long as no-one round the table is taking it too seriously. It has to be a light hearted fun experience and you can’t get too offended when people throw you in the water or eat your meeple with a shark. This is one of the games that causes a lot of laughter and table talk which I sometimes envy from across the game room if I’m stuck in a euro game full of downtime. It’s definitely light, but in spite of heavy doses of chaos and luck, your decisions are still meaningful, but not critical, making it good for the end of night if you’ve been playing heavier games. Because we don’t really enjoy it with two players that limits the Yellow Meeple’s rating to 7/10.

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