Survive! Escape from Atlantis: A Classic Resurfaces
As many great new games as there have been which have came onto the scene over the last decade, there’s still something about those old classics. There’s a certain intangible quality from those very thematic games of the eighties through games like Scotland Yard, Fireball Island, and, of course,Survive. They really take the imaginary aspect of boardgaming and run with it. And when those games also prove excellent in their mechanics, like Survive does, its really hard not to admire them.
Survive is a game from the early eighties which saw a number of incarnations until it disappeared into obscurity. However, last year this great game was rescued from the depths and given a brand new release. The result is a board game which appears modern but still has that classic gaming feel.
I will admit that had never played Survive when it was first around as a kid. In fact, I had never even heard of it until the re-release was announced. But playing it know, I know I would have fallen in love with it had I come across it in my childhood. Thankfully, I’m still a kid at heart and thanks to Stronghold’s new release I am able to fall in love with it now.
Survive is a very cutthroat game full of racing to safety and killing other player’s people. Its like a very thematic game of chess, which requires both strategy and viciousness. Survive involves a randomly made island which will be gradually sinking throughout the game. The goal is to get as many of your ten people off of the island and across the ocean. They can use boats or swim, but along the way they must avoid sharks, whales, whirlpools, and even sea serpents.
Since the official title of the game is Survive: Escape from Atlantis, we can assume that this island is Atlantis. But Altantean society is not based on equality, and some people’s worth are valued more than others. This is important to the game as each of your ten meeples have a number value written underneath them (from 1 to 6). These are the amount of points you get if they reach safety, though the other players don’t know where your high-point meeples are.
The cutthroat nature comes through the ability to attack other players by moving sharks, whales, and sea serpents. These creatures attack players in different ways, with the sea serpents being the most vicious as they can swallow boats whole! And often a choice must be made as to who to attack, which means you must choose between two other players. This can create animosity, but in a friend;y gamer way which only adds to the heightened excitement level of the game.
The components of this reprint version as simply fantastic. Even the box, wish its very durable cardboard, is great! The board is functional and has a neat transparent seascape design. The tiles which make up the island (similarly to Catan) are also fantastic. They are actually made at different heights for the beach, jungle and mountain tiles, creating an actual physically 3D island! Now there’s dedication to theme.
What I really love are the wooden figures used as the playing pieces. The sea creatures look great, whether its the black wooden shark fin, the purple sea monster, or (my personal favourite) the blue whales. The islanders are oddly-shaped meeples with the number values written on the bottom of the players. There have been complaints about the blue meeples being hard to read the numbers, but I haven’t found it to really be a big deal.
Survive is one of those games where you can really feel the theme. The scramble to get the hell off of that sinking island is real as players are doing everything they can to evacuate their people. The danger of the sea creatures is also very evident when you see that ominous black fin terribly close to your swimmer.
In a board gaming market dominated by euro games with common victory point scoring tracks and themes which don’t deviate from each other that much, having a reprint from a more innocent and thematic era is really refreshing. Survive is one of those games which can really provide an escape into a different world for an hour or so while having a lot of fun with your friends. Mechanics are important, but so is theme, and while older games seemed to be more about the theme, I wonder if today’s games are focused too much on mechanics and leave the themes by the wayside. Luckily, Survive deals with both theme and gameplay brilliantly. That’s why Survive will survive.