Today I’m gonna talk about a board game. It’s so “indie” that it hasn’t even been commercialized. I’ve been taught how to play it a few years ago by a friend of its creator and I purchased a copy from him. He told me that his friend didn’t want to copyright it or commercialize it. I want to be absolutely clear: I haven’t invented this game, but I also don’t know the name of the inventor. If you are the inventor and want me to take down this post, please contact me.
- Name: Atlantis (I guess, but I don’t know why)
- People: 2 to 6.
- Difficulty: easy to medium (I would put it in the same ballpark as checkers).
- Time: About 15 minutes for a 2-player match, up to 1 hour for a 6-player match.
What do you need to build this game
- 75 stackable pieces of 6 different colors, plus white.
- 50 black markers
- 20 laser-etched wooden tiles (called “islands” from now on)
As you can see in the photo, in my case the pieces are little pyramids. The only thing that matters is that they are stackable. Each player will have pieces of a different color, so if you only plan to play between 3 players or less, then you can only buy pieces of 3 colors (plus white, those are needed no matter what).
You probably don’t need as many pieces and markers. The only important thing is that they must be enough to not run out on the middle of a game, 75 per color are way more than enough, I’ve never came close to finish them.
The wooden “islands” are the most difficult element to build. I personally don’t know where would you get those pieces of wood (or plastic) laser-etched, but it’s not rocket science. The measurements need to be precise so when several islands are put together, their circles align in a straight path. These are the measurements I’ve put together, they aren’t exactly the same as in my physical board but they also produce straight lines:
- Angle deviation (a):
- Radius of each circle (r): Radius of the island / 4.5
- Distance of each circle to the center of the island (D): Radius of the island / 2.65
The amount of islands needed depends on the amount of players. 20 islands will allow 6 players to play with an island-size “hole” in the middle of the board. If you don’t like that, just build 21 instead of 20.
Depending on the number of players, arrange the islands in the patterns shown in the photos above. The bigger the board, the longer the match will be, and also the general strategies will be allowed more room to develop. So, if you want, you can add a few islands more at your discretion. The obvious rule is to keep the board symmetric so that no single player has an advantage. A 3-player variation I usually make is to simply make the board be a bigger triangle (5 islands per side instead of 4).
Each player starts with 7 pieces, each one occupying each position on a corner island.
Objective of the game
Note: I’ll refer to the player as a “his” / “he”, for simplicity of language. I feel that using “his/her” every time or using “they/their” makes this harder to read. That doesn’t mean that women can’t play this game. If you somehow make that interpretation, you’re free to close this page right now.
The objective of the game is to control more land than your opponents. An enclosed area of land is “controlled” by a player if there are only pieces of that player in the area. If, at the end of the game, 2 or more players have the same amount of controlled land, then the tie-breaker will be the number of pieces each player has.
Each player turn is composed of these phases:
- Movement: The player moves his pieces according to the rules. A player is never forced to make all the movements available to him, he can finish his turn whenever he wants.
- Explosion: According to the explosion rules detailed bellow, some of the player stacks of pieces will explode, maybe provoking a chain reaction.
- Growth: Once all the explosions have been performed, the player’s growth towers will generate a single player piece each.
After a player completes his turn, the next (clockwise) will start, and so on.
- At the start of the turn, the player must look at all the islands where he has at least one piece of his color. He can do at most one movement originating from each of those islands.
- The player can end his movement phase at any time.
- If a piece lands on other piece (or stack of pieces) of the same color, it will be simply dropped there, adding height to the stack in that position.
- If a piece (or stack of pieces) land on one or more enemy pieces, they will cancel each other out. That is, for example, if 2 blue pieces land on 2 red pieces, the position will become empty. If 1 blue piece lands on 2 red pieces, only 1 red piece will stay on that position. The “cancelled” pieces are discarded from the board.
- One piece can be moved one position in any direction.
- A stack of 2 pieces can be moved 2 positions in a straight line in any direction. A stack of 3 pieces can be moved 3 positions, and so on.
- A stack can be broken. That means, if the player has a stack of 3 pieces in a position, it can take 2 of them and move them 2 positions in a straight line in any direction, and the other piece would be left behind.
- The same piece can’t be moved twice in the same turn.
- A piece can’t land on a growth tower or burned earth.
- A piece can’t jump over growth towers or burned earth. Note that the this means that a series of burned positions or growth towers will create effectively a permanent barrier. That’s the way to divide the board into multiple “areas”.
After the movement phase, the explosion phase takes place. It happens automatically, that is, no player has any control over it. Only the current player’s stacks and growth towers will explode in his turn.
If a player stack has the same number or more player pieces than alive adjacent positions, it will explode.
- Growth towers of any player are not considered alive.
- Positions with a black marker (burned earth) are also not considered alive.
- Empty positions and positions with player pieces of any color are considered alive.
When a player stack explodes, one of the player pieces that form the stack will be put on each alive adjacent position (if there are more pieces than alive positions, the remaining pieces will be discarded). After that, where the stack was, a growth tower will be put instead. If in some of those positions there were enemy pieces, they will be cancelled out, the same way as when a piece is moved onto an enemy piece.
Since a growth tower will receive a new player piece each turn, it will eventually explode again. When that happens, the rules are the same, but instead of putting another growth tower there, the position becomes “burned” with a black marker.
Every time an explosion happens, you need to check if because of that explosion, some other stacks are set to explode. That’s the key of the game, to provoke chain reactions and control them before they burn half the board.
This is the simplest phase, and it also happens automatically. On each growth tower of the current player, put an additional player piece. Note that this doesn’t trigger any additional explosions until this player goes through an explosion phase again.
Hints and conclusion
I consider this game to be quite entertaining. I don’t recommend to play it with many people right away, I’ve found that starting with 2 or 3 players while you learn is the best thing to do. Some playing hints:
- Ideally, an explosion doesn’t make the player lose any pieces, and it creates a growth tower which will add a piece per turn until it eventually explodes. This is the only way to create new pieces, so it’s important to provoke a few explosions early in the game.
- It’s easier to start creating growth towers in the edges of the board, because a position there has less adjacent positions that one in the middle of the board (6 in the middle vs 2, 3 or 4 in a side).
- If you reach to a point where you know you aren’t going to win, “Mutually Assured Destruction” is a perfectly valid strategy. Try to explode uncontrollably and burn the whole board to the ground. That way nobody will win, but you won’t lose either.
- A better strategy usually involves trying to control a piece of land, no matter how small, and after that area is secure, try to burn the rest of the board.
- The result of an explosion chain is exactly the same no matter the order in which you perform the explosions. So don’t spend time overthinking that, if you’re gonna accidentally burn the area you were trying to secure, that will happen no matter how much do you think about it.
- Once an island is fully “burned” (that is, full of black markers), you can remove it from the game. Do that to remove distractions or if you’re running low on black markers.
This is not the last time you’ll be hearing of this game if you follow my blog. I’m preparing a web-based version of it. It’s a side project and lately I don’t have much free time to code, so I can’t give any time estimates, but I’ll keep you posted.
That’s it for now! I hope some of you try to build it, let me know how it went in the comments! Also, if you know me in person and you want me to bring the game the next time we’re going to meet, say that too 🙂