Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Grab what you can before Atlantis sinks below the ocean waves
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The island and the civilization of Atlantis is the stuff of myth and legend. It’s believed by some that Plato created Atlantis for use as a parable and there are those who believe that Atlantis was real. The ocean that supposedly swallowed it provides no clues, keeping this ancient civilization shrouded in mystery. In this game, you must escape Atlantis before it’s destroyed, but not before you loot a few momentous.
Looting Atlantis, designed by Nick Sauer and to be published by Shoot Again Games, will reportedly be comprised of 1 game board depicting the sinking island of Atlantis, 4 Air Car pawns, 48 Lava markers, and 80 Equipment cards that depict various and highly technological Atlantean loot. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality.
Before the Beginning of the End
To set up the game, first place the game board in the middle of the playing area. Make sure there is enough room for every player to have their own space to hold cards in front of them and all players can easily view and reach the game board.
Second, shuffle the Equipment cards and deal out 20 piles comprised of 4 cards each. Place 1 pile on each of the 20 City spaces that encompasses the island and the central volcano. All cards should be face-up. Organize each pile of cards so the top shape and color of each is visible with the top-most card being the only one that is fully visible.
Third, allow each player to select an Air Car pawn of their choice and place the Lava markers to one side of the game board.
Fourth, determine who will be the first player. The player immediately to the first player’s right now places their Air Car pawn on any free City space. Then the next player on the right goes and so on, placing their Air Car pawns on any City space that is not occupied by another Air Car pawn. The last player to place their Air Car pawn is the first player in the game.
That’s it for game set up. Time to grab what you can before everything sinks into the ocean!
Quick Tour of Atlantis
Atlantis was reportedly a large island, possibly even a small continent. The game board portrays Atlantis as an island with a giant volcano in the middle. From the volcano emerges several Lava tracks that identify the path in which the lava will flow until it hits the 20 City spaces that make up the different sections of the Atlantean city. In the corners of the game board are the Primitive Kingdoms. These are special spaces the players can escape to during the game when the heat from the lava gets too intense.
Loot Scootin’ Boogie
Looting Atlantis is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn consists of 2 steps and 2 actions. Each player will be given 3 actions later in the game. The same action can be taken multiple times during the players turn or they can mix and match their actions as required. The available actions are as follows.
Step 1: Advance Lava
The island of Atlantis is sinking and at the heart of the matter is the giant volcano at the island’s center. The Lava markers track the destructive path of the molten rock as it descends the slops of the mighty volcano, enters the City spaces, and eventually moves into the ocean. There are 4 Lava starting spaces at the mouth of the volcano which are then followed by Lava track rings that eventually lead to the City spaces. After the lava is in the city, it continues to enter adjacent City spaces until it meets more lava.
At the start of each player’s turn, 1 Lava marker is placed on the game board. Lava markers must always be placed next to an adjacent Lava marker. This visually communicates to the players the amount of time they have left to loot the city before it’s swallowed up and destroyed.
A few special rules apply to the placement of Lava markers depending on the number of players in the game.
- When playing a 2-player game, place 2 Lava markers on each player’s turn.
- When playing a 3-player game, place 2 Lava markers per turn after the first Lava marker enters the city.
Step 3: Loot
All players have the following actions to choose from.
For 1 action, the player can move their Air Car pawn to any City space that does not have a Lava marker. The Air Car can occupy the same City space as other Air Cars and fly over sections of the city that are covered in lava.
Claim One Card
For 1 action, the player can take the top-most Equipment card currently residing in the same City space as the player’s Air Car pawn. This card is placed in front of the player, face-up, along with any other Equipment cards they have previously collected.
Once the player has completed their turn, the next player in turn order sequence takes their turn. This continues until the game comes to an end.
Using Atlantean Technology
The Equipment cards are collected to score points by creating card sets. This makes it worthwhile to collect certain Equipment cards rather than others to ensure the players has earned enough points to win the game.
However, the Equipment cards also give the players an ability. If the player chooses, they may discard 1 Equipment card they have earned for the ability it provides. This can only occur once per turn. There are a small number of Equipment cards that allow the player to use the card out of turn to disrupt an opponent’s attempts to plunder Atlantis. The limit of using only 1 Equipment card per turn still stands, but the player can optionally also play an Equipment card on an opponent’s turn if they have a card that allows it.
The player announces they are using an Equipment card, reads it out-loud, and then resolves it. The Equipment card is then placed at the bottom of the Equipment card pile located on the same City space as the player’s Air Car pawn. The used Equipment card can be picked up again and by any player.
The City Begins to Fall
Game play continues as described above until the first Lava marker enters a City space. This triggers the second phase of the game, although the game play itself remains much the same. If the Lava marker enters a City space that is also occupied by an Air Car pawn, the player takes the Air Car pawn and places it on its side next to the game board. This indicates the Air Car is damaged. Any player who has damaged their Air Car must spend their first action to repair it and then a second action to place it back on the game board, for a total of 2 actions.
Each player is now given a total of 3 actions per turn. Players can still move, grab cards, and can optionally play an Equipment card. They also have a new action that exits them from the game, although, technically speaking, players can leave the island at anytime.
Surrounding the island of Atlantis are 3 lesser civilized (from an Atlantean’s point-of-view) continents that the player can escape to. If the player does decide to leave the game, they first place their Lava marker and then spend all their actions to place their Air Car pawn on any free Primitive Kingdom. Each is worth different points (Egypt = 40, China = 30, and Mycenae = 20). These points will be added to the player’s total points earned from Equipment cards at the end of the game. Only 1 Air Car pawn can occupy each of the Primitive Kingdoms. This makes them first come, first serve. Players who have to repair their Air Car cannot do so and escape on the same turn.
- When playing a 2-player game, only Egypt is available.
- When playing a 3-player game, only Egypt and China is available.
It’s important to note that players who exit the game by escaping still keep playing. On their turn, they place 1 Lava marker. Since they are no longer on Atlantis, they do not get to take any actions or use Equipment cards.
Any section of the city that is touched by a Lava marker is no longer accessible. Meaning the player’s Air Car can no longer land there. Rather a moot point since all the Equipment cards that are attached to that section of the city are destroyed and removed for the duration of the game. Since there is no reason to land on the City space any longer, an Air Car has no reason to visit it, but don’t discount the seriousness of the issue. Any City space that is adjacent to another City space that is destroyed by lava could be next. Landing on such a City space is risky as it might mean damaging the Air Car.
The Island Sinks
The game can end one of two ways.
- If all the players escape, there is no reason to continue the game. Begin final scoring.
- If the city of Atlantis is completely consumed by lava (Lava markers on all 20 City spaces), the game also comes to an end.
A player’s score is determined by organizing the Equipment cards into piles of same cards and color. Each card describes how it’s scored in the Scored Guide section that might be just a number of points earned or a summary of the card sets required. For the most part, they are scored as follows with specific rules stated on each card.
- By Point Value: Some cards are worth a set number of points.
- By Total Number of Cards: Some cards are worth a number of points based on how many total cards are collected of that type or specific group of cards.
After scoring the Equipment cards and adding to it the points earned from escaping to a Primitive Kingdom, each player announces their final score. The player with the highest score wins the game.
The majority of Child Geeks had played card games in the past where card drafting and set collecting was the central focus. The game rules are short and the game play itself is intuitive. The only time our Child Geeks had any problems while playing was when an opponent dropped in with an Air Car and took Equipment cards that another player was hoping to get. According to one Child Geek, “The worst thing about this game is that my Air Car doesn’t have weapons so I can shoot at my opponents.” The Child Geeks didn’t let this sneaky card stealing get in the way of their fun. They began to collect Equipment cards out-of-order so as to throw off their opponents and not let them know what they wanted. They also started using their Equipment cards for their abilities, which helped tremendously. As one Child Geek put it, “You cannot win this game unless you use the cards you take.” When the island had sunk below the waves, all the Child Geeks voted to approve Looting Atlantis.
The non-gamer and casual gamer Parent Geeks very much enjoyed themselves, especially with their families. They felt that the visible Equipment cards gave the game a casual feel that required light strategy without the need to count and remember cards. According to one Parent Geek, “I like how the cards are displayed around the game board. Only those on top can be claimed, forcing players to work through and watch several different piles at once.” Even the more experienced gamer Parent Geeks enjoyed themselves. According to one of the veteran gamer Parent Geeks, “There are a lot of card drafting and set collecting games available to players and they feel like they play the same. This game does things differently, making it interesting.” When all the games were over, the Parent Geeks voted to approve Looting Atlantis.
The Gamer Geeks were not fans of this game. As one Gamer Geek put it, “I think this game dumbs down the depth of play a card drafting and set collecting game normally has.” When I pressed for more details, what made the Gamer Geeks feel like the game was too simple was the fact that the cards are always visible. According to one Gamer Geek, “I don’t feel like I need to think too hard when I’m playing this game. All I need to do is focus in on my turn and then I can veg out when it isn’t. It doesn’t grab me. Even the lava is uninteresting.” But not all the Gamer Geeks felt this way. A small number of them found the Equipment card’s abilities to be useful and the challenge of collecting enough cards before the island sank to be entertaining. Unfortunately for Looting Atlantis, not enough Gamer Geeks felt that the game was worthy of their elitist gaming table.
Games like 7 Wonders, where players are drafting cards to create sets simultaneously, can feel a lot more complicated than what they really are. Even when playing a simpler version, like Sushi Go!, players can get lost in the shuffling and passing of cards. Looting Atlantis removes this complication by showing all the cards at all times. One could assume that this “dumbs down” the game, as many of the Gamer Geeks suggested, but I disagree. I found it to be a real challenge to view all of my options and then decide what was the most immediate concern. Better yet, as the game progressed, cards that I had planned to collect were grabbed by other players forcing me to reevaluate and review all over again. I never felt like the game was too easy as a result.
The Equipment card abilities are good enough to make players really pause and consider if they are worth keeping for points or use for a temporary advantage. This push and pull between earning points in the long run and the bonuses to be earned in the short run is where a player’s mind will begin to swirl. While none of our players ever suffered analysis paralysis, it was very clear when a player was stuck between playing or keeping cards.
Scoring is very straight forward and was easy enough for our youngest players to do on their own. Because the cards are visible throughout the game, one can glance at an opponent’s cards to determine what their possible score will be. Escaping to a Primitive Kingdom really throws things off for opponents who are counting points, but players must be careful when they jump. If a player moves too early, they will earn a lot of points, but might be losing more points in the process. This makes sticking it out on the island worth while, but possibly very costly.
The lava isn’t that interesting until the later part of the game. It begins in the middle and slowly makes its way to the City spaces. When it finally does hit the city, it begins to take on a life of its own. Players must now judge the odds of opponents moving Lava markers towards their Air Car pawns and if they will have enough time to move away. The space between Air Car and Lava marker will continue to decrease, making each landing and looting a risky proposition.
The key to winning the game, in my opinion, is playing cards. The classic rookie move in Looting Atlantis is grabbing cards and hanging onto them only for sets and points. Don’t do that. The cards in the game give players the ability to obtain a significant advantage. Timing is important, of course, and the players will have to lose the card they earned earlier in the game, but the payoff is worth it. This is especially true when all the players realize that a card’s value is significantly higher during the game than at the end. That’s when Looting Atlantis goes from a simple game of passively collecting cards to a serious game of strategically playing cards. Always light and casual, mind you, but with a significant uptick in the game’s depth and level of enjoyment.
I’ve enjoyed this game, finding it to be perfect for the family crowd. Casual gamers and non-gamers all gave it high marks, as did the Child Geeks. The more skilled and elite gamers found the game to be too light at times or lacking enough of a challenge to keep them interested. It all depends on what type of game you are looking for and the audience you have available to play the game with. For those who enjoy casual games with a growing lava threat, Looting Atlantis is for you. For those looking for a heavier challenge, you might find this game to be not so hot.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.