Cardboard Children: Survive!

Hello youse.

I’m often asked to suggest a good family boardgame that can replace the likes of Monopoly and Cluedo in dad’s secret porn closet. When I get asked this question, there is only one possible answer.

Settlers of Catan.

Only joking. No. Not Settlers, as fine a game as it is. No. See, when I picture a family sitting round a table, a mum and a dad and a son and a daughter, I picture them playing a game with a bit of bite. I like to think of a little boy screwing over his dad, and getting that feeling inside, all “fuck you, dad, you inferior me, you!” I like to think of a little girl proving that she is the dominant female in the home by blasting her mother right out of the game within half an hour, and mum storming off to the bedroom to curse and swear at that positive pregnancy test she kept as a memento.

Family games need to be fun, and memorable, and dramatic, or they don’t get played.

And that’s why I recommend Survive!

Survive! Has been around for a long time. UK readers might remember it as Escape From Atlantis! US readers will know it as Survive! And the newest edition, the most beautiful edition of the game you’ll ever see, is called Survive: Escape From Atlantis! So there’s no way you can possible miss it when you see it on the shelves, particularly if you get turned on by exclamation marks.

It’s a game for 2-4 players, but you need that perfect unit of 4 to have the optimal game of Survive! Here’s how it works. Each player has some little people, and printed on the underside are some values. So you have some valuable people, and some less valuable people. It’s just like real life. Think of the valuable people as musicians, and the less valuable people as politicians. All of these little people start the game on an island in the centre of the board. The island is made up of individual tiles. These tiles are either low lying beach, or higher lying forest, or high lying mountains. Each player takes turns placing their little musicians and politicians on the board, choosing a tile to start their escape from. Around the island are some boats. And in each corner of the board is more land – little safe islands you need to get your guys across to. Oh, and there are also sea serpents on the board. Sea serpents.

Each turn, a player has three action points. He can move his little guys around. He can also move a boat if no-one is on it, or if he has the most little dudes on it. Then he removes a tile from the centre island. The first tiles to sink are the beach tiles, then forest, then finally mountains. On the reverse of each tile there will be some instructions printed. Some of these will tell the player to keep the tile until he needs to play it (the tile might defend him from a whale attack, for example) and some will demand that something happens instantly – like a shark spawning at that point and eating any swimmers. Then, you roll a die and the die tells you which creature you can move. Shark, whale or sea serpent. You move them.

And that’s pretty much the game. It’s THAT simple. Get your guys to the safe islands. Add up the values of the survivors at the end. Highest score wins.

Let’s now look at the many ways this game can cause a family to shout abuse at each other.

1. You sink mum’s beach tile. Her little guy falls into the sea. You check the back of the tile. It asks you to spawn a shark. You place a shark. The shark eats mum’s musician. Morrissey dies.

2. You see that your daughter is moving her people towards a boat at the north of the island. You move a sea serpent towards that boat, and then smile at your daughter. She detests you.

3. You are in a boat. You see that the man you married is floating in the sea, and a shark is heading his way. He begs for help. You move your boat in the opposite direction. A turn later his Stephen Jones is dead.

4. Your sister has three people in a boat. She has almost made it home with them all. You’ve never seen your sister so happy! You smash a whale right through her fucking boat. That’s life, sis. That’s life.

5. Dad is doing really well. He has two people in one boat, one person in another. Two boats sitting alongside each other. He’s moving more people in. You sink a tile. Your dad shrugs. The tile had none of his people on it. Big deal. The sinking makes a whirlpool open. Your dad’s entire game gets sucked in. Boats, people, everything. Every member of MGMT, dead.

6. You move another sea serpent right in front of the island that your son is fleeing to. There is just no way he’ll get those little guys home before the volcanic eruption that ends the game. He changes course, and says “I think I might still be able to get to that other island.” You can see tears in his eyes. Delicious.

7. Your mother, who carried you in her womb, who loved you all her life, has one little guy left. She’s been protecting this little fella. He must be very valuable. You, a good daughter, have two of your people in a boat. You smile at your mum. “Okay, mum.” You move your boat over to your mum’s little fella, and let him climb in. She thanks you. You both chuckle. Your brother and dad moan about the girls clubbing together. You just smile. And then you sail that boat right down a fucking sea serpents throat. Your worthless Cameron and Clegg, eyes wide with madness, leading mum’s maximum value Todd Rundgren to his death.

The beauty of Survive is that it’s maybe the most brutal game in existence, but it still holds onto that family game charm. Be in no doubt – every SINGLE turn you are most likely doing something that works against your opponents’ wishes. If you move a shark away from you, you are moving a shark towards everyone else. If you jump a boat with one guy, and cheese it out of there, you’re leaving your opponents behind. It’s BRUTAL. But it’s so brutal that it starts to get funny. And then it gets hilarious. And then it’s game over. In an hour or so.

No downtime. Massive amounts of interaction. Huge fun. Short playtime. SHARKS. SEA SERPENTS. It’s the perfect family game, and I suggest you all pick a copy up. If you had one of the earlier editions, it’s still worth picking up the new Stronghold Games edition – it’s full of wooden components and is of a production standard in keeping with high-end Eurogames. It’s just beautiful.

I guarantee you’ll love Survive! It’s a classic design, and never fails. NEVER. Guaranteed.


You might have noticed that the big HBO Game of Thrones series is starting soon. To tie in with that, I’ll be taking a look at some Song of Fire and Ice board games. I’ll certainly be covering Battles of Westeros and its expansions. Battles of Westeros is a Game of Thrones wargame, based around Richard Berg’s brilliant Command & Colors game system. I look forward to digging in. I’ll also be looking at the Game of Thrones boardgame (if I can find a copy) and maybe the card game too. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you a good steer towards the good ‘uns.

By the way – I’m still working through the books, so no spoilers in the comments PLEASE. Cheers.


There’s an FAQ for Mansions of Madness available for download now from the Fantasy Flight website.

It contains a lot of errata, and answers a lot of questions players might have.

Here’s a question. When will Fantasy Flight do something about the proofreading of their rulebooks and components? Playtesting of the final product would have exposed these issues (such as the misprinted map). It’s really not good enough. A premium product, at a premium price, shouldn’t have these basic issues.

Having said that, the game’s fucking amazing, and they’ve fixed the issues now – so GET IT BOUGHT.


Me saying cheerio.



  1. Bhazor says:

    Finally a bit of Babybird from the guy who got me into them in the first place. Albeit a track from their worst album.

  2. DainIronfoot says:

    I played this as a kid! I don’t remember it being quite such a brutal affair though.

  3. fuggles says:

    Having watched some youtube reviews then this looks like a polluted, poorer version of Escape from Atlantis. I have owned two copies of EoA in my time, the first when I was much younger had a fairly simple 3D board consisting of yellow sand, green land and grey mountains which were undetailed. The pieces were pawns and the monsters moved by virtue of a handheld spinner, a bit like a roulette wheel which had monsters and movement values on it.

    The second copy I bought in the last few years and this time has a detailed 3D board, with textures and little buildings and detailed tiny men and women rather than pawns. Monsters are moved by the two dice system where one die has monsters on and one die has the numbers 1-3.

    Crucially things are simpler – monsters can move what is on the dice with no differences, each man is worth one, not random numbers on the base to make victory/defeat much cheaper and you don’t get to store cards to gank people with. I naturally haven’t played the game, but the pieces and board look horrible and I really do not like the idea of each piece being worth an arbitrary value. Also, I am not happy that they changed squids to whales and charge you $5 to get squids back in an expansion.

    Escape from Atlantis is definitely one of the best board games ever made – so much so that I bought a new copy as I so deeply regretted giving away my childhood copy. It is a perfect game for families and for friends because it is so simple – At the start you set up the board in concentric rings and then place your men and on your turn you move 3 spaces, take some land and do what’s on it before sorting out creatures.

    Anyone can pick it up in the first turn and you can do proper maths to calculate how to steal victory, so if you dive into a sea monster with your 1:2 ratio boat then you have not accidentally killed 6 of your men to 2 of his owing to hidden numbers, you just have killed 2 men which might be enough to stop them winning overall.

    Again, caveat, I have not played the survive! version but it is clearly the origins of Escape from Atlantis and I have watched the video reviews to form my opion – perhaps Rob has played both, but this really looks like a bad version of a good game.

    • Rab says:

      NO BABY.

      That alternate monster movement thang is in this edition too. But it’s down as a variant. So that’s that.

      You can keep tiles in hand to play on players at a later time. So that’s still there too.

      The varying values is ESSENTIAL for me. Being able to sacrifice your low value dudes to protect a higher value one makes the game much more strategic, with no great increase in complexity. And it’s good fun when you forget where your most valuable person is.

      As somebody who has played the other editions, please believe me when I say this is the best of all of them. I love plastic as much as any Ameritrash freak, but these wooden components are beautiful.

    • fuggles says:

      I was under the impression you are not supposed to know which man is which, but I see now that I misinterpreted that. I still disagree about the aesthetics, but heck that’s just our opinions!

      link to

  4. Ba5 says:

    Goddamnit Robert Florence, you already made me buy Castle Ravenloft and Mansions of Madness. I have no more money! What more do you want from me? WHO SEND YOU?

  5. McDan says:

    Wow, Another boardgame I must buy! Why must you have such excellent taste and force me to buy so many brilliant games!

  6. BunnyPuncher says:

    Escape From Atlantis is one of the best games I’ve ever played…
    – simple
    – interesting
    – controversial/funny

    Also: “whales”? what the hell happened to those friendly green octopusses? :(

  7. Alexander Norris says:

    Tsk, Rab. It’s A Song of Ice and Fire, not fire and ice.

    Survive! sounds like serious amounts of fun, though. I played Space Alert last week, as CC has inspired a few people I know to start looking into boardgames. Space Alert is insane.

    • Rab says:

      Fucksake. Hopefully one of the proper RPSers will fix that for me, or I’ll need to hand in my geek card,

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      All you should of said is
      Winter is coming.

      Wed all know what that ment.

    • Saul says:

      Also, MGMT only has two members, so “all the members of MGMT” is technically incorrect. /pedant

  8. cluddles says:

    I played Escape From Atlantis when I was younger. I don’t think the people had different points values in the version I remember. Also, there were squids instead of whales, and there were dolphins that… did… something. I think they protected your boats and swimmers from the nasty monsters, or something like that. These days, dolphins versus squids just makes me think of Red Alert instead.

    • Rab says:

      Dolphins are in, as a variant.

      The Squid are in an expansion. The wooden squid are gorgeous!

  9. AwesomeOwl says:

    Awww, man.. Morrissey dies? :/

  10. Deme says:

    Well, I for one always play Settlers of Catan with my family.

    I guess it started with only parents playing against each other when friends visited. Because there was so much talk and drama around the game, most of the kids soon got really interested too. Eventually, at about age 10-12 the kids would start participating more than just “helping mom”, and by 14 anyone is a competitive player.

    Incredible game.

  11. JB says:

    I loved EfA as a kid, and now I have kids of my own it’s still heaps of fun. I become a complete bastard when playing it though, so it generally ends up as 3vs1 (got to look after my tribe at the expense of EVERYTHING ELSE).

    I’m now feeling a bit gutted, I saw Survive! in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago, didn’t know about the differences, I just assumed it was new packaging. =(

  12. Erlend M says:

    no spoilers in the comments PLEASE

    Oh yeah?


  13. Kefren says:

    I have a copy of the first Escape From Atlantis that a friend gave me. He used to be a binman and found this in a rubbish bin one day. The box is worn but it is complete and in good nick inside. It doesn’t smell.

  14. Kefren says:

    Laying out the island board reminds me of setting up Kings & Things* (one of my all time favourites).

  15. jeremypeel says:

    I reckon this could be KG’s favourite article ever. Shame he’s too busy getting married to read it!

  16. Klarkash-Ton says:

    This sounds similar to Forbidden Island, which I played with my family last christmas. FI bored them (mostly I think the concept of cooperative play is alien to them) but this seems much more exciting.

    • Rab says:

      It’s a world apart from Forbidden Island. It has more in common with a knife fight.

  17. Hallgrim says:

    It’s pretty frustrating to read that errata for Mansions of Madness. The game ALREADY comes with 7 ‘replacement’ cards in the box (so you’re throwing away 7 bad cards from the get go). Reading stuff like:

    “Witchcraft Keeper Action Card: The second sentence on this card should read “Action: You may discard 1 Mythos or Trauma card to gain 1 Threat.” (The keeper may not discard as many cards as he wants to gain threat).”

    How am I supposed to change that? Keep a copy of the errata laying around and refer to it every time I read any card? Sharpie all over the components of my brand new $80 board game? Rules clarifications/corrections are one thing, but I’m going to have to dig out and write on 6 cards to correct major mistakes. Not cool.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Reminds me of the error in Chaos in the Old World (also FFG) where the reference card for Slaanesh only requires one corruption token to be placed for the wheel turn condition when it should be TWO.

      It’s more important than it sounds people.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Which reminds me.
      Does anyone know if Rogue Trader or Dark Heresy are on second revised editions yet -I mean reprinted with the errata updated?

    • Lightbulb says:

      Yeah its pretty crappy. I bought Civilisation and it was FULL or errors, rule ambiguities, omission and misprints.
      Also they cannot write rule books to save their lives. General to the particular, general to the particular! Tell me what I am trying to achieve before you tell me the minutiae of the process.
      The rule book of Space Hulk (the card game) was even worse. I still have no idea if I am playing the game right!
      Good games, TERRIBLE rulebooks. Not rules, the rules are good. Its the terrible way they try and explain them. Also they are totally devoid of fluff. The Space Hulk one I am tempted to rewrite just to put online for other people. Could have been 100 times better.

  18. Temple to Tei says:

    Valley of the Dinosaurs is probably the closest I’ve come to this type of game. Cannot even remember if that was co-op, sure I remember attacking someone with a ptera- with a flying dinosaur.

    Interesting news from FFG is they are sort of re-releasing a few of the original Battlelore games in case anyone wanted to pick one up. I cannot recommend it enough.

    Though from the comments thread I imagine you would all prefer Battles of Westeros
    link to
    Never played that version myself, presume it is the same base rules.

    • JB says:

      @Temple – Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs was most definitely not co-op. That’s another cutthroat game. Still got mine somewhere.
      Mmmmm lava flow.

  19. JohnArr says:

    Internet! Please tell me your favourite games which support 5 players. Ideally on the lighter end, my group isn’t ready for Mansions of Madness (yet).

    • harmen says:

      Powergrid, but to call that light might be a bit much.

    • Pantsman says:

      Cosmic Encounter is best played with five, and it’s not very heavy, though one could be forgiven for thinking otheriwse from looking at all the stuff. Games can go fairly quickly – after a few games, you should be down to an hour and a half per game, on average. Rab turned me onto it in previous editions of this column. Check it out!

      Also, if you haven’t played it, Citadels can be played with up to seven players, or even eight with the included expansion. It’s pretty simple, but quite good.

    • Rab says:

      Cosmic Encounter. Yep.

      I did a video about it –

    • jalf says:

      Battlestar Galactica? It’s best with 5 players, and it’s a ton of fun.
      And it seems/sounds much heavier than it is. Mechanically, it’s a pretty simple game. But socially, in the inter-player conflict and suspicion and paranoia, it’s brilliant.

    • Hastur says:

      For five players, one of my favorite light games is Santiago.

      You and the other players bid on the rights to develop and farm an island. The first person to drop out of the bidding (and thus get the worst choice of tiles) becomes the Overseer. They get to choose where the precious water flows for irrigation; if your new farmland doesn’t get irrigated it dries up. Other players may cajole, threaten, bribe, or beg the Overseer to get the water to flow to their part of the island.

      Playing the Overseer is really the only way to get enough money to bid, so part of the strategy is knowing when there is likely to be competition for water.

      It’s a terrific screw-you mechanic, and it plays in less than an hour. (It’s also much less fun with fewer than five, just because of how the board is laid out.)

  20. GrinningD says:

    Hey Robert I think I’ve still got my copy of Game of Thrones kicking around in my parent’s loft if you are having trouble finding one I’ll post it to you.

    Great article too, brings back some good old Christmas memories…

  21. Temple to Tei says:

    And now I’ve done a little research -Dark Heresy is (or is being) reprinted and it has an ‘updated’ notice on the announcement. Cannot tell if that is errata correction or not though.
    But I may hold onto my pennies as: suitable-expression-of surprise-and-excitement new rpg on the way where you play Chaos.
    link to
    Weeeeeeee, I get to be a fat, pestilent, ugly fiend.
    And IN THE GAME!

  22. Auspex says:

    The definitive version of “Can we still be friends”:

  23. Bfox says:

    You’re really selling these boards games very well, but will you ever review a really REALLY bad game sometime?

    • Rab says:

      I’m a recommendations guy. If I hate a game, I just won’t talk about it.

  24. Whosi says:

    While Richard Berg is an awesome and prolific game designer, the person you are thinking of is Richard Borg(BattleCry, Command and Colors, Memoir ’44, BattleLore).

    Tei, that reminds of the old AH game Dinosaurs of the Lost World.

    Awesome article as usual.

    • Rab says:

      I do that all the time. Believe me, I know my Borg. My room full of C&C, Memoir 44 and Battlelore is proof of my assimilation.

      I’ll need to ask the guys for proper wordpress access so I can fix my typos and mistakes and delete all their posts.

  25. Maldomel says:

    I knew that top pic reminded me something. Good memories, good times.

  26. Jubaal says:

    Ah thanks for that, I’ve been thinking about a decent board game to play with the kids and this looks like it will fit the bill. Just purchased it on Amazon. I shall hold you personally responsible if my wife and kids disown me after playing this though!

  27. jalf says:

    Small World is definitely not a bad pick as a family board game either.

    Each player picks a randomly generated race + special ability combo (which can be wonderfully obscure, like flying orcs, or bivouacking wizards, or berserking halflings), and basically has to conquer and hold on to as much land as possible for as long as possible. As your gets worn down (you only start with a set number of units, and gradually get spread out and lose them when attacked), you can choose to abandon your race, basically turning your remaining units into passive/neutral ones, while you get to pick a new, fresh race/ability combo. You get victory points for controlling land, and the game ends after a fixed number of turns, and the person with the most points wins.

    Fairly simple rules, very cute art and a fun theme, and a lot of fun to play.

  28. Torgen says:

    Rab, whenever possible, please give us photos of the game board/pieces/a game in progress. Thanks!

  29. veerus says:

    Can’t wait to see your take on AGOT the board game. I like to describe it as “Risk without dice”. It has the Risk-like troop movements to take over territories but adds a ton of tactical elements, non-dice combat resolutions and an excellent bidding mechanism for some key gameplay advantages.

    Edit: Try to also get A Clash of Kings for your review copy. It adds a much needed 6th player and fixes some game imbalances introduced by the first game.

    • Hastur says:

      I like to think of Game of Thrones as “Diplomacy done better”.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Sounds good. I have a copy of Diplomacy but have never played it. Never had the necessary 5+ players…

  30. bill says:

    My family is 2 people and a tiny baby. This doesn’t work well for Catan. Would it work for this in a good way?

    People say Carcassonne isn’t as good as catan, but it does work pretty well for 2 players, which a lot of oter games don’t.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Baby in the equation means shorter games nay?
      Go for card games maybe?
      Jambo, San Juan, Catan the card game and Lost Cities are all ones I’d recommend (mileage may vary depending on how much you conflict you like -all of those are competetive like sprinting not like fighting, ie minimal screwage)

      If you are lucky enough to have a partner who likes combat games try Memoir ’44 (WWII) or Battlelore (Fantasy). Not so short, but smallish table space that you might be able to leave and come back to as necessary.

      Alhambra might be do-able as there is an option for a ‘third’ player playing; you have some auto moves to make, just name the character after your baby and you are set :)

  31. fuggles says:

    Atlantis typically takes about 20-30 minutes as most people get annihilated by the island sinking and the board isn’t very big.

    I’m waiting for reviews of Mysteries of Old Peking and I’d love to know what is generally known as THE definitive version of Risk. I do like this column, even if the products are always far too expensive to buy!

  32. Coins says:

    I vaguely remember a digital version (kind of) of this. What a shame I didn’t see this article earlier. Let me look around for it.

  33. Ribonizer says:

    Sounds great. I’ll keep an eye out for it at my hobby store.
    Btw my buddy bought Mansion of Madness and I finally got a chance to try it. It’s really nice. We played that level in the science building? It was pretty unique because beside for two witches and the end boss creature. There’s no monsters in this story. But the Keeper has some twisted power that makes us attack each other and stuff like that. If I hadn’t picked Joe Diamond we all would have lost. I threw myself on the end boss, which had like 23 health and was one move from meeting it’s victory condition. I used Joe’s ability a lucky shot (Once per game, test luck (currently 3) if you pass, kill a monster in your space) rolled a lucky 2 and killed him. Really do or die!

    And yes, like it was mentioned earlier. Small World is really worth a review if you want the short but fun griefing game.

    • Ribonizer says:

      I just picked it up!
      Can’t wait to try it. Really is a gorgeous little game.

  34. thatman says:

    I had always skipped this section because I thought they were posts on extremely obscure card games that I would never be willing to play, but reading this one I have realised that I was very wrong and that I’ve got to read the rest of them because if they are as interesting as this one it will certainly be worth it. RPS never stops surprising me with its content. Thank you so much :D

    • Hydrogene says:

      Exactly the same! I thought cardboard wasn’t for me, but this post reminded me of all the GREAT memories I have playing carboard games with my friends and cousins as a child. I hope I can do the same with my kids soon! Thank you Mr Florence.

  35. Fumarole says:

    Chalk me up as another kid raised on this game. It was always great fun sending sharks after my friend’s tiny little men once they were dumped into the sea.