Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Marcin Welnicki


No. of Players:
2 - 5

G@mebox Star



The fabled continent of Atlantis is one of the greatest myths of ancient history, and so it is no wonder that it has been adapted as a background story for quite a few boardgames released over the years. Just entering the term "Atlantis" for a search in the Boardgamegeek-database reveals over two dozen titles, and one of the newest among these is End of Atlantis from Polish publisher GALAKTA.

As the title suggests, End of Atlantis focuses on the final days of Atlantis, shortly before its destruction by an unknown disaster. The crumbling of three mighty stone pillars will mark the end of the once proud city, and so the city's population is trying to evade their impending doom by leaving the city and travelling to the Promised Lands. As Atlantis was a continent by itself, the escapees must use ships to get to the Promised Lands, and so the game sees the players trying to position the population cubes of their colour on the ships leaving the Atlantean harbour. However, whilst the government of Atlantis still is technically working, order in the harbour is slowly lost, and so there will be fights for getting on board of the ships, and in all this chaos some ships even will leave only half-filled with refugees.

[IMAGE]In regard to this general background the beautiful circular gameboard is set up between the players. The upper half of the board shows the harbour, the ocean and the Promised Lands, and in the harbour a total of five ships will be placed which are waiting to be boarded by the Atlantean population. The ships are of different shape, but at the beginning of the game they only differ concerning their capacity, so that some ships may carry more population cubes than others. Talking about population cubes, each player places two of his cubes at two different ships at the beginning of the game, and during the course of the game the ships will leave the harbour, moving in a first step to the ocean and in a second step to the Promised Lands where the refugees will disembark.

The lower part of the gameboard shows the Atlantean Senate, a huge arena where the remains of the Atlantean government have gathered together with the representatives of seven important Atlantean factions, and it is here where the final decisions for the city are made. Thus, a player with the majority in the Atlantean Senate will have certain benefits in the course of an ongoing round, and, in addition, the representatives of the factions can be hired to perform some special actions.

An important element of the game is the fact that each player possesses a limited stockpile of 20 influence cubes, and these cubes must be used during a round of play for different purposes. Each round begins with the players marking their influence in the Senate, and so all players choose secretly how many of their influence cubes they will send to the Senate. When everybody has chosen, all players reveal and place their influence at the Senate at the same time, and depending on the number of influence placed by each player the player order will be fixed. As indicated, the majority in the Senate means certain benefits, so that a player with an earlier position in player order will be allowed to hire a faction earlier than later players, and also all ties in the game will be decided by the player order in the Senate.


On the other hand, placing too many influence cubes in the Senate may weaken a player for the rest of the round, since the influence cubes are not only used for placements in the Senate. The influence cubes also represent the members of the player's family, and all refugees which the player wants to place on one of the ships to send them to the Promised Lands in essence are influence cubes coming from the player's stockpile. Thus, it is important to balance the use of these cubes between the Senate and their use as refugees, since the Senate brings certain powers whereas the arrival of refugees in the Promised Lands will bring victory points.

This situation gets even more complicated by the fact that all player actions are decided by a voting procedure which uses - as might be guessed - influence cubes. Once the Senate has been decided and factions have been hired for the ongoing turn, a voting phase will be entered in which each player simultaneously places a row of five action cards from his hand in front of himself. Corresponding to the number of cards placed by each player, a total of five action rounds will happen in which these action cards are used (from left end of a player's row to the right end). However, not all of the player action cards will be performed, but in each action round only the cards of the two players who have bid most influence for their card will be used. Thus, following a procedure similar to the placement in the Senate, each action round begins with an open or secret bidding phase in which the players take some influence cubes from their stockpiles and place them on their action cards for the current round. As indicated, only the actions of the two highest bidders will be performed, but all the influence cubes of all players must remain in place until the whole voting phase with all five action rounds is over. So, the players are forced to use their scarce stock of 20 influence cubes as economical as possible, since otherwise their play will get quite ineffective.

While this mechanism of using limited tokens for different types of actions is not new, its implementation in End of Atlantis was done in a very convincing way, since it blends well with the other elements available in the game. Thus, the direct use of the cubes only forms a first "layer" of a player's action pattern, since much also depends on the choice of the right action cards and on hiring the right faction at the right time. Each of the seven Atlantean factions available in the game offers its own special power, and so it may be wise to make a high bid for the Senate to chose a faction first in order to get access to its special power. Even more challenging is the voting process by which the players' actions are determined. Each player secretly chooses the five action cards for the ongoing turn, but when it comes to bidding for each action round the players will be able to see which kinds of cards all others have played as well. Thus, there is a lot of speculation how important the other players might deem their own cards, and this will create a lot of tension when the bids for actions are revealed.

The action cards are used for loading the ships with refugees, moving ships onto the ocean or to the Promised Lands, or even for sending saboteurs which may kill refugees on board of a ship or sink a whole ship. However, they are not the only type of cards available in the game, since each player starts the game with a hand of two special cards which may be used for different types of extraordinary actions. More of these special cards can be acquired during the course of the game by playing corresponding action cards or getting a specific faction, and the timely play of such a special card may give the player some benefit in his flight from Atlantis. The third and last type of cards available in the game is a random deck of Event cards, and during the Doom phase at the end of each round a new event card will be revealed. The event shown on this card will be performed by the players, and in addition the card also displays the type of voting (secret or open) which will be applicable during next round's voting phase.

Among some other events, the most drastic type of events which may happen during the Doom phase is the crumbling of one of the three stone pillars, since the destruction of the third pillar marks the end of the game. However, the loss of the first two pillars also influences the gameplay, since it simulates the effect that some time is passing and the Atlanteans are putting more and more efforts towards the evacuation of their homeland. Thus, the removal of each pillar leads to an upgrading of some ships of the Atlantean fleet, and from that point on the upgraded ships will possess some unique powers. So, fore example, the advanced warship cannot be targeted by a saboteur action, whereas the advanced airship is very fast and bridges the two-step distance between the Atlantean harbour and the Promised Lands in just one step. So, the ships now differ both in capacity and abilities.


This brings up the question how victory points can be scored. Whenever a ship lands at the promised lands, all refugees on board disembark and each player scores victory points depending on the number of his own refugees cubes on board plus the total number of different player colours on board. In addition, a bonus point is awarded to the player whose action was used to make the final move of the ship. All cubes then are left in the Promised Lands, whereas the ship is directly returned to the Atlantean harbour where it waits for the next groups of refugees. As can be seen, it is important for a player to spread refugees on more than one ship, since - apart from the fact that a concentration of cubes is an easy target for a saboteur - even single cubes can create a nice haul of victory points.

A round of play ends with the Doom-phase, and in this phase some additional victory points are awarded to the players with most influence cubes in the Senate and the Promised Lands. This is also the phase when the current Event card is revealed, and in addition the three ships with most refugees on board will make a free bonus movement during this phase. When all these aspects have been dealt with, the turn ends with the players getting back some of their influence cubes - all cubes from the Promised Lands and half of the cubes from the Senate. This replenishes the individual stockpiles for the upcoming new round.

As indicated, the game uses some mechanisms known from other games, but all of these mechanics have been assembled to a rather unique new creation. Coming virtually out of nowhere, Polish author Marcin Welnicki has created a rather challenging strategy game which should be able to convince the global audience of seasoned gamers. The right balancing of the use of a player's influence cubes takes some time to get used to, especially since the cubes are not only used in the Senate and as refugees, but also as votes when it comes to the decision which player actions will be performed. This makes it difficult to decide on the best use of the cubes, a factor which is increased by the fact that the ships need to make two steps to get to the Promised Lands. If a player fails to initiate two movements within one round, all cubes will stay on board and cannot be used for a different purpose in the following round. These factors create a lot of competition between the players, since everybody wants to keep his stream of refugees going, and End of Atlantis can score especially by the fact that there is a lot of player interaction through this competition.

Even more, the game also brings up an interesting dilemma for the players, since they are forced to cooperate to a certain degree. While it is worthwhile to have many refugees on board of a ship, a good mixture of cubes from different players also will yield some victory points upon their arrival at the Promised Lands, and so the players usually follow a strategy to spread their cubes among several ships. On a final side note, the balancing of the game also seems to be quite well, since the players draw an almost completely new hand of action cards each round and have to adapt their gameplay accordingly. This prevents a player from implementing his own winning strategy right from the beginning.

The Polish boardgames scene has gathered some incredible momentum over the past few years, publishing lots of interesting new games at a very high production standard. Examples from recent years are K2, Magnum Sal or 51st State, and now these ranks are joined by another promising newcomer. Not only the rules but also the artwork chosen for End of Atlantis is outstanding, and with these factors in place it seems to be certain that the game will find distributors in other countries!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany