Stronghold Games is known for republishing old out-of-print games with improved rules options and higher production values, and Survive! is no exception. Good-looking, high-quality components will draw people in to this light (but vicious) game of island escape suitable for the casual gamer.
Time: 45-60 minutes
Designer: Julian Courtland-Smith
Publisher: Stronghold Games
Components: GamebBoard, 40 cardboard Land Tiles, 40 wood people tokens, 20 wooden sea creatures, 12 wood boats, 3 custom dice, 1 cloth drawstring bag.
A large island is constructed in the center of the game board, composed of beach, forest, and mountain tiles, with a single open sea space in the center. Players each receive 10 wooden people of a single color, with numbers on the bottom ranging from 1-6.
Players take turns placing one of their people on an unoccupied island space. Then, each player places a boat on an unoccupied sea space adjacent to the island. The game begins.
Your turn has four phases:
1) Play action tiles.
If you have received a tile in a previous turn, you may play it to take the associated special action, such as moving a shark.
2) Move your people.
You get three moves, which can be moving one of your people onto an adjacent land tile, jumping off the edge of the island into the water, moving one of your people onto a boat, moving an empty boat, moving a boat you are riding, moving from your boat onto the shore at the corner, or moving a swimmer in the water. Swimmers can only move one space per turn.
3) Remove an island tile.
Pick up one land tile on the island and remove it, exposing the waters below. All beach tiles must be removed first, then forest, and finally, mountain tiles. The removed tile will have an event on the underside, which will either be a tile you can save to play in phase one of a later turn, or an event which immediately adds something (like a shark, whale, or boat) to the board in that space.
4) Roll the monster die.
Roll the monster die to see what monster you get to move. Whales can move up to three spaces, capsizing and destroying any manned boats they land on, but leaving the resultant swimmers alone. Sharks move up to two spaces, eating any swimmers where they land, but ignoring manned boats. Sea Serpents move only a single space, but eat all people in that space regardless of whether they are on a boat or not.
The object of the game is to get your people to the safe shores on the corner of the board. One of the mountain tiles has a volcano on the underside, and ends the game immediately when it is revealed. Players count up the values on the bottom of their rescued people, and the highest total wins.
NOTE: This is only a brief summary, with many details omitted.
The Good And Bad
Really high-quality components. Stronghold spared no expense in republishing Survive, and it shows in the components. The wooden shark fins, whales, sea monsters, and dolphin heads are all easily recognizable as their respective animals, and help make the game a lot of fun. And the land tiles are different thickness depending on what land it is, with the result that when you look at the island the beach tiles are lowest and closest to the water, forest tiles all higher, and the mountains all higher still. This is a pretty neat effect.
Easy-to-learn gameplay. Yes, people will need to refer to the instructions during their first game to remember what each of the special action tiles do. But the gameplay itself is very simple and intuitive. You move your people three spaces, you remove an island tile, and you roll the monster die. Aside from playing action tiles, that's the whole game.
Interesting interactions. Each boat can hold three people, so when you get on a boat with someone else, incentives become interesting. Do you rely on them to drive the boat to shore, saving your movement for your solo people? Or if their boatman is low-value, will he drive your potential high-value passenger right into a sea monster? Or do you drive the boat to safety, thereby giving your opponent a free ride?
The more the merrier. Survive increases in tension and fun with more players. Not only is there more competition for space on boats, but each player receives fewer turns before the island sinks, making each move more important.
The numbers printed in black on the bottom of each wooden people piece are hard to read on the blue pieces.
Not much of a game with only two players. It's technically playable with two, but most of the tension and fun are absent from a two-player game. Not only aren't there any alliances or decisions about who to send a shark after, but the extra turns for each player means that both players will have time to get most (if not all) of their uneaten people to safety.
With more players, there's a lot of kingmaking in the game, as you decide which player to send your sea monsters after. The fact that the wooden people have hidden victory points even after reaching safety means it's sometimes hard to tell who is really winning.
Survive can sometimes be a vicious game, with players moving sharks and monsters around to kill many of your people with nothing you can do about it. Most players can easily accept this as part of the fun, but this is not a game for those who can't.
Survive: Escape from Atlantis! is a good-looking game with sturdy pieces and relatively simple rules, making it a good choice for casual gamers. Sharks and sea monsters eating people is a large part of the game, so as long as you don't mind having your pieces attacked, this is a very interactive game you can pick up quickly.