Recently, we played the classic board game Survive!, a game that came out back in 1982 by Parker Brothers. It is a game for 2-4 players, although in general, it is recommended for 4 players. It ranks #154 on the Board Game Geek ratings.
Each player has 10 meeples, each valued from 1 to 6 on the bottom. The island consists of 40 individual tiles which are placed during setup and then players take turns putting down one of their meeples, trying to remember where they place the highest value pieces. During each turn, players try to escape from the island as it slowly sinks, trying to get the most point valued pieces to the surrounding islands and safety. To do this, they can swim or use boats, but they must avoid sharks, whales and sea serpents while trying to attack other players with these obstacles. Once the island sinks, or all meeples are either safe or dead, players total up the number of points they’ve saved and the highest score wins the game.
The original game is a lot of fun, especially if you don’t allow players to check to see where their high-value meeples are. It requires them to remember what they’re doing and play a strategy game to mislead other players into going after their low-value units. If the other players think that you’re moving your 6’s off the island first, they’re going to send the monsters after those boats first and you’ll lose them. It’s a thinking game first and foremost with a little luck on the die-rolls thrown in, but a good player who out-thinks his opponents, protects his own high-value pieces and takes out those of the other players, will have a better chance to win than someone who just moves pieces around willy-nilly.
The game has been resurrected in recent years as Survive: Escape from Atlantis, which includes the original game, a minor variant and rules for an expanded Escape from Atlantis version. It’s put out by Stronghold Games, which recently released a 30th anniversary edition. There have been several expansions for the new version released, including a mini-expansion that allows you to play with 5-6 players, the Dolphins and Dive Dice expansion and the Giant Squid expansion.
I think this is a surprisingly fun game. It’s simplistic but not brainless, it requires a bit of subterfuge and sneakiness to mislead the other players, as well as the desire to see the boats of other players go down into the depths of the sea and the sharks to feast on the remains of their meeples. It’s rated 8+ but I think slightly younger players could enjoy it as well, perhaps in teams with older players until they get the hang of it. There’s a reason it was brought back into print by Stronghold, it’s just a fun family game that can be enjoyed by just about everyone.