But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal mud which the island created as it settled down.
– Plato, Timaeus
In 1982, Parker Brothers released Survive!, a board game depicting the struggle of a doomed island’s population to escape certain death as they fled the cataclysm overtaking their homeland. It was a great game, but as Yoda said, “There is another.” The best version of Survive! was never published by Parker Brothers at all, and came four years later. That game was the 1986 classic, Escape From Atlantis, by Waddington-Saunders, the same folks who gave us Land Grab and Ratrace.
The rules of the two games were similar: each player has a number of Atlanteans (12 in Escape From Atlantis, 10 in Survive!) that they need to transport off the sinking island and onto one of the four safe haven corners of the game board. The villagers can either walk to another island square, swim in the ocean, take a ride in a boat, or hop on the back of a friendly dolphin (cetacean rides available only in Escape From Atlantis, not in Survive!). Unfortunately, each player can only move three spaces at a time, divided up among all the Atlanteans he or she controls. Each turn one land piece is removed from the island, symbolizing the ongoing catastrophe; imbuing a certain level of time-related stress as soon there won’t be an Atlantean island to stand on at all!
No Atlantean is safe, even if they’ve made it off the island. In Escape From Atlantis, here there be monsters. Atlanteans in the water are prime fodder for sharks; boats are targets for giant octopi to capsize (but the occupants escape into the water); and sea serpents are a constant threat to destroy boats and anyone on board them. Deadly whirlpools that appear unexpectedly increase the mortality rate further. Only the presence of the ever-friendly dolphins bring solace to the poor Atlanteans amidst the ongoing calamity.
All these dangers come from two sources, one random, the other premeditated. As each land piece is removed, a symbol of what replaces it can be found on it underside, which can be fortuitous (if a dolphin appears) or disastrous (everything else!). The other source is from the other players’ roll of the two dice, one of which determines what kind of creature they can move, and the other die determining the distance, with the player determining which direction they can move in. In other words, revenge is can be thine!
The most telling difference between Survive! and Escape From Atlantis is the quality of the game components. In Survive!, the island pieces are simple cardboard tokens (albeit with artwork); in Escape From Atlantis, they’re three-dimensional, hard plastic pieces. The boats in Survive! are pieces of cardboard; the boats in Escape From Atlantis are molded plastic with detachable sails. The creature tokens in Survive! are small, whereas those in Escape From Atlantis are larger and much more detailed. (The best way to explain this is to simply examine the supplied image of the game pieces side by side.)
Escape From Atlantis was designed by Julian Courtland-Smith, and he has stated elsewhere that his original design was slightly different than what was eventually published, which included Weather Cards and everyone’s favorite, pirates (ninjas would have been just too odd). What might have been can certainly lead to endless speculation, but of interest is that Mr. Courtland-Smith was consulted with for the game’s most recent incarnation, Survive: Escape From Atlantis, which has a 2010, fourth quarter, release schedule from Stronghold Games. For fans of the original games, this is both an intriguing and classy move, and certainly heightens anticipation for what kind of game they will deliver.
(Incidentally, should anyone from Stronghold Games want to send me a copy of Survive: Escape From Atlantis for independent review– or any other game company reaching for that retro vibe, for that matter – my contact information can be found here.)
Escape From Atlantis is an amazing game to play, and is suitable for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up. Parker Brothers’ Survive! is fun, but Waddingtons’s Escape From Atlantis is even more so, and is another highly recommended game to add to anyone’s collection of classics!