Designed by Galen Ciscell & Brent Dickman | Art by Vincent Dutrait
Published by Elf Creek Games
1-7 Players | 60-120 Minutes
The ancient and mystical city of Atlantis is facing its greatest challenge: the island is sinking! It’s up to the society leaders to implement their advanced technological know-how and other-worldly powers to construct a cosmic gate to send the citizens of Atlantis to safety. Time is of the essence and around every corner is some calamity or natural disaster working against you. Can you work to collect the necessary resources and construct the portal before it’s too late? The future of the people of Atlantis depends on it!
In this cooperative, worker placement game, players will be taking turns harvesting the island’s various resources necessary to create the cosmic gate. Meanwhile, the island will endure misfortunes and the wrath of the gods limiting your abilities and ultimately sinking the island bit by bit. Each piece of the cosmic gate will require a different set of resources. As the island continues to sink, the areas to gather resources become less and less available, upping the tension and forcing you to make more and more difficult and challenging decisions.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
The tension is real. Atlantis Rising is a challenging game that really ratchets up the pressure as you progress. While the rule set and mechanics aren’t necessarily difficult in their own right, the arduous task of constructing the cosmic gate before the island falls prey to the sea can genuinely get your heart pounding.
Atlantis Rising stands unique from the get-go. The player count allows for 1-7 players to face the challenge. Play it solo or in a monstrous group!
Players begin by selecting a leader from a batch of 10 councilors. Each councilor has a male and female counterpart and provides unique abilities that will help you on your task. Each player is equipped with followers to guide.
In the center of the table sits the island of Atlantis. Elf Creek Games have created a truly iconic presentation here. The island is made up of 6 distinct peninsulas, each providing players with opportunities to gather different resources or benefits. Each peninsula is broken into 5 pieces that fit together like a puzzle. Each puzzle piece of the same peninsula provides different ways to gather the same resources. As the game progresses and the island sinks, pieces of the peninsula will be turned over eliminating that gateway to certain resources. Players will find it more challenging to acquire the resources they need as the island sinks inland.
During play, players will place their workers on a specific spot on the island that provides the resources they’re seeking. Each spot has a requirement necessary for successfully gathering those particular resources. The most common challenge is rolling a die to meet or exceed a certain number. Again, as the island sinks inland, the spots become more difficult to achieve (such as requiring a higher die number).
Placing your workers is the first of 4 actions each round. From there, players will draw a specific number of misfortune cards, gather their resources and finally endure the wrath of the gods.
Misfortunes typically unleash some sort of unfortunate incident on the island (hence the name). There may be a plague or panic that affects your ability to gather resources that round. More often, you’ll draw a card forcing you to sink a tile on a specific peninsula. Misfortune card disasters may eliminate a portion of a peninsula with workers on it. These workers are forced to return to the player and fail to resolve their action that round.
After players gather resources, the final action of the round is to endure the wrath of the gods. This means players will mutually decide on a number of island tiles to sink that round. As the game progresses, the number of island tiles the wrath of the gods eliminates increases, constantly raining more havoc and building more urgency.
While you are at the mercy of the ultimate impending disaster, players aren’t necessarily helpless. While each player’s councilor has their own unique abilities, there are a number of additional ways to mitigate the oncoming doom. Players can build a mystic barrier temporarily retaining a piece of the island, play library cards that provide benefits and play cosmic energy that could even resurrect a lost island tile.
Of course, the goal is to build the cosmic gate and save the Atlantians. Made up of 9 component tiles and 1 power core tile. Each of the component tiles require a single player to fully satisfy the resources needed to build it. Once the 9 component tiles have been individually built, players come together to cooperatively build the final power core.
If the power core can be built prior to the final island tile sinking, the players save the people and win the game.
Simple stated, the components are WOW! The resources are all uniquely shaped and painted acrylic gems or resin bars. The mystic energy tokens have a transparent-blue glass like feel. All the cardboard pieces (player boards, cosmic gate tiles and island pieces) are all thick cardboard. You will not feel cheated here at all.
The unique shape and functionality of the island board is worth the price of admission alone. It is so satisfying to flip each tile and visibly see the island sinking into the ocean. It’s certainly one of those times when you hate to see them go, but love to watch them leave.
The game features wooden council and worker markers. There are 8 uniquely shaped councilors, each with their own color. It isn’t necessary for each player to have a unique player maker, but it’s a nice touch that further proves this production is a winner.
The game’s card decks are all satisfactory along with 2, chunky, oversized dice to enhance your rolling flavor.
Vincent Dutrait proves once again why he’s one of the best in the business. The artwork throughout the game is nothing less than enchanting. The combination of quality components and artwork combine to create one of the best board game presentations I’ve ever played. Graphic design is equally engaging. Instruction is clear and complements everything superbly.
While all the artwork is fantastic, I’d like to highlight both the individual player boards and the central island. Each double-sided player board features a beautiful rendering of both a male and female Atlantian under that specific title. They all have a sense of danger, mystery and personality giving them each their own voice. The island board serves as both a functional space for the workers to be placed as well as a wonderful, central piece of art. Each peninsula, seamlessly segways from one source of resource to another defined by the terrain. It’s all top notch.
I’ve had the chance to play Atlantis Rising 8 times now with a variety of player counts. I think it’s also important to mention I’m not a huge fan of cooperative games. I can’t stand letting other players determine my success and failure… and that’s where Atlantis Rising transcends the genre. It doesn’t bother me for a minute that Atlantis Rising is cooperative. There always seems to be plenty of opportunity to contribute on your own terms. While we are in this together, in some small way, success (or failure) still rests on your own shoulders. While it’s necessary for efficiency purposes to communicate your plan of action with your fellow players, you still are responsible for your own actions.
I’ll start with the obvious: The presentation of Atlantis Rising is amazing. The artwork and components suck you right in. I love just setting the game up and letting it sit on the table. The components look and feel great, the island board has a great shape and unique mechanism and the artwork is brilliant. Irregardless of gameplay, this is a game that calls to you based on production alone.
Fortunately, the game isn’t style over substance. There is a tension in the game that builds as you move forward. While there might be small victories over the shroud of impending doom, the end is closing in and you feel it. That tension creates more emphasis with each roll of the dice. Every decision becomes more important than the last. All-in-all, this creates a thoroughly engaging experience.
So, it’s clear that I’m a fan of Atlantis Rising, but will you be? One the game’s primary mechanics can be a source of division. For the majority of the game you’re placing a worker and resolving that action with a die roll. This means there is a decent amount of luck in the game and that can weigh on some people’s enjoyment. I know some of you hate games with luck. It is what it is, but I will say Atlantis Rising does a good job of providing plenty of avenues to alleviate those bad rolls. You have the opportunity to spend tokens giving you additional points to your roll. Many of the councilors have abilities that allow you to validate a failed die roll or re-roll entirely.
One way to keep luck on your side is to play closer to the end of each peninsula. The further from the center you place a worker, the easier the goals are to achieve. Sadly, this is where nature first takes its toll. Placement on the tips of the peninsula can lead to the ground sinking right beneath your worker, leaving you empty handed. This push-your-luck element can lead to big rewards and painful failures.
DIFFERENT PLAYER COUNTS
While the heart of the game doesn’t change with different player counts. A solo game feels very similar to a game with 4 and 5 players. The only major changes are managing the personalities of the people in your game. Sure, a 2 and 3-player game gives you additional workers up front, but the game still functions the same. Since much of the game is simultaneously executed, the length of the game really rests on the people involved.
Replayability is high here. The rulebook provides a number of different variants to the game, allowing you to adjust the difficulty as you see fit. The game includes 2 additional AI characters that can be tacked on to your game to create a slightly different experience. There are also a number of different cosmic gate tiles, so playing with a new set will create different goals. The misfortune deck can also be adjusted for an easier or greater challenge.
I don’t typically love cooperative games and I’m usually not a fan of luck-based games, but I’m a big fan of Atlantis Rising. The beautiful production is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The simultaneous gameplay and the elevating tension keep everyone engaged at all times. There are a number of interesting decisions and they all feel important – I never wanted to waste an action. The game’s difficulty is highly adjustable and the player count is diverse at 1-7 players. Despite its perceived complexity, Atlantis Rising is a relatively simple game that is easy to teach and quick to learn. It is never overly complex, but still feels rich. I also appreciate that, for it’s number of components, it is pretty easy to set up and tear down. Some may not enjoy the amount of luck in the game, but I think it does a fair job to give the player plenty of opportunity to get out ahead of it. Atlantis Rising is a quality game that provides a huge value for its cost. I highly recommend it.