The Herald Bulletin

August 10, 2012

Sink or save? Choice is yours

Atlantis Rising is a truly cooperative game

By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin

— Some cooperative board games fail at two different things.

The first is that they fail to completely take the plunge in creating a “we’re all in this together” experience. Often the game will still find a way to crown a winner, which does negative a bit of the cooperative spirit. Secondly, they don’t build drama. There’s no sense of impending doom. There’s no feeling that time is actually ticking and the chance to win is actually slipping away turn by turn.

Atlantis Rising, by z-Man Games and created by Galen Ciscell, doesn’t fall into either of those traps, but if you’re not careful, you and your mates may fall into the ocean and lose the game.

Atlantis Rising is for two to six players with an average game time of about an hour. It is probably for tens and older.

It is a game where players must race to create a cosmic gate before island tiles have been destroyed, the island sinks and everybody loses.

One of the key things that make this game work so well is the modular board. Atlanteans are placed on the board to do the work. The further out on the island that the workers are placed, the greater the reward, but also the greater the danger. The island will sink from the outside in and the game has the risk/reward element nailed.

Another thing that works very well here is the scaling for difficulty. There is really no way Atlantis Rising is easy to win, but there are ways, through variable components, to make the game extremely difficult. So as the players become more proficient, the game can still provide a challenge.

Athenians will also attack the island, so it is necessary for the players to allocate enough resources for defense, while still getting the work done to build the cosmic gate in time.

There really is a sense of urgency as the game unfolds. As that tension escalates, it also becomes more and more important to work in harmony with one another. Without players sharing ideas and resources, it is nearly impossible to win.

Each player plays as one of the six councilors and that will make the game experience feel much different each time through. There are knowledge and component cards to help the gamers as well as misfortune cards that will move toward sinking the effort.

All of the game’s components are top drawer. They are functional, but also substantial and attractive. They support the theme well and do a good job of keeping the players immersed in the theme of the game.

If there is any downside, it is that the game won’t be easily taught. There are about 20 different items in the game that must be identified and explained to get a news player rolling. But it is far from insurmountable.

Atlantis Rising isn’t for players who really want to defeat their gaming partners. But as a game that forces cooperation in a good game engine with a believable theme, this game gets very high marks.