Monday, October 13, 2014

Quick Review - Survive!

Designer: Julian Courtland-Smith
Publisher(s): Stronghold Games & Parker Brothers
Quick Review - Survive!
A few weeks ago my wife was able to snag an original copy of Survive! from the resale shop for a buck!  Now we've finally played it.  When I mentioned to a friend that I found the game he said "Awesome!  That's a great game!  There's a ton of carnage!" and frankly, he was dead on.

In Survive! (since re-released as Survive! Escape from Atlantis with an included mini expansion) players control people trying to escape from a sinking island in a sea filled with sharks, whales, and sea serpents.  The island is composed of hex shaped tiles that represent beaches, forests, and mountains and after each turn players sink part of the island by removing a tile (beaches first, mountains last).  On the underside of the tile are instructions to place a shark, whale, or boat into the revealed water tile or sometimes a message that lets the player do something later in the game, like kill a shark, or take some extra moves.  But the sinking island is only half the fun.  Each player also controls 10 people that are trying to escape the island by any means necessary, by running, swimming, and using boats.  Each person piece has a number on the bottom and players try to get their highest value pieces to escape first, thus there's a memory element to the game, trying to remember where the highest valued pieces are located since you aren't allowed to look at the bottoms of the pieces during the game.

It may sound easy enough, but the various creatures surrounding the island make escape pretty difficult.  Whales sink boats, throwing the survivors into the water, sharks eat swimmers, sea serpents eat swimmers and entire boats, and whirlpools destroy everything.  So yes, my friend was right, there is a ton of carnage.  Out of 10 people, I was able to rescue 4 of them.  My wife was able to rescue 3 of hers and our friend Tony was only able to rescue 2 of his.  Tony's wife, Marisa, was able to rescue 5 people for the win.  Although the number of people you save doesn't matter, it's the points total, she was able to save several high value people.

The game plays pretty quickly, ours took about 40 minutes after figuring out the rules, and has a set ending so the game won't go on forever.  One of the mountain tiles is a volcano that ends the game immediately.  For us the volcano happened to be the last tile revealed, but it could have been the first mountain tile flipped, which would have shortened the game by about 5 minutes.  So there's not a huge variance in game lengths.  The game had a number of very fun elements and balanced strategy with luck very nicely.  There was also quite a bit of fun back-stabbing as players sent ocean creatures to attack opponents.  And trying to keep track of the higher valued people was a lot more challenging than you'd think.  I think the only thing that was a little disappointing was the quality of the tiles and boats.  While the quality of the people, shark, whale, and sea serpent pieces is top-notch, in the game I have the tiles and boats are just printed on thin card stock.  I believe in the newer releases the tiles are much more substantial, which would make them a lot easier to handle.  But that's a minor complaint in what is otherwise a very fun game.

Preliminary Rating: 8/10

The exodus begins!

The island is almost sunk.  The waters are treacherous
and the boats are scarce.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  First Play Impression reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first time playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.


  1. Hi George,
    Not read a Parker Brothers 1982 version of Survive! review for many a year. Well written, clear and fair. I'm pleased with your 8/10. I too was not pleased to see cardboard boats,but I guess PB produced them like that to keep costs down. Look forward to you reviewing Stronghold Games latest version of the game, but I think it'll cost you a bit more than a buck and may even warrant a 10/10! :-)

    Julian Courtland-Smith
    Games Designer
    Hastings, UK

    1. Thanks Julian! I love reviewing older games, especially when they're new to me. A lot of the great older games don't have all that many reviews, even though they're still out there, especially in resale shops. That said, I'll never turn down a chance to try out a newer game either!