Essen 2010: Games to keep an eye on
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Essen 2010 is a mere 43 days away, so it's high time to try to come up with a list of games to keep an eye on in the weeks leading up to and coming out of the convention. Obviously, BaSL's Canonical List and BGN's Spiel Preview are fantastic resources for this, but with hundreds of entries (and growing), they're sometimes just too much to reasonably wrap your mind around.

I thought I'd start by posting the 15 20 or so games and expansions that have most pinged my radar so far, but I'd appreciate if others could: (a) comment on the games I list and add any relevant links to previews, rules, designer diaries, etc. that I missed; and (b) add additional games of note to keep an eye on.

These aren't necessarily games that you want to buy or think you're going to love, but just noteworthy games that seem like they may be of general interest. Hopefully this distilled list can help inform myself and others as we peruse the massive Boardgame News preview, consider games to pre-order, and formulate our lists of new games to try at the fast approaching BGG.CON in Dallas.
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1. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:19]
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Designer: Antoine Bauza

Previous Games of Note: Ghost Stories, Mystery Express, Pony Express

Reviews: BGN

Rules: Repos

Essen Video: U-Stream

7 Wonders seems to be the Essen 2010 game generating the most pre-show buzz so far, but of course that's not always an indication of what will be the biggest game at the actual show or in the months following. For months now though people seem to have been talking about, anticipating, and trying pre-production versions of this impending new card game by Antoine Bauza. Since Bauza designed my 2008 game of the year, Ghost Stories, I'm highly anticipating his next game. I also recall reading something a while back about Bauza doing a second expansion to Ghost Stories (something like Black Urn, to complement White Moon), but that doesn't seem to be getting any follow-up lately, perhaps it's a 2011 thing. Eric Martin wrote a great review of 7 Wonders over on BGN that is definitely worth checking out. And Repos has posted the rules if you're into that sort of thing.
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2. Board Game: Stronghold: Undead [Average Rating:8.14 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.14 Unranked]
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Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek

Previous Games of Note: Stronghold, Witchcraft

Announcement: BGN

Blog Posts: Portal

Since Stronghold was my game of the year in 2009, I'm definitely anticipating the Stronghold: Undead expansion announced for Essen 2010. Above I have linked to the announcement of the game on Boardgame News, and a blog post by the designer on the Portal website. The blog post was actually a very interesting read and something I highly recommend checking out, and I'll leave it at that since it's a bit of a surprise that you should see for yourself. I'm still not sure Stronghold needs an expansion and after 16 plays am not particularly dying to have one (unlike Pandemic or Mr. Jack for instance), but I'll certainly be willing to at least check it out and see what it has to offer.
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3. Board Game: London [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:172]
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Designer: Martin Wallace

Previous Games of Note: Age of Steam, Automobile, Brass, Liberte, etc.

Company Page: Treefrog

Announcement: BGN

Interview: Kris Hall

Preview: Larry Levy

Rules: Treefrog PDF

Essen Video: U-Stream

Martin Wallace is very hit or miss with me, but London has been on my radar ever since Kris Hall's interview with Wallace back in January of 2010 where I first heard about the game. Since then, I've read a bit more on the company's page and on BGN, all of which has made me very interested in trying London. Personally I'm a big fan of Age of Steam, Byzantium, Liberte, and Last Train to Wensleydale, but don't enjoy plenty of other popular Wallace games, such as Automobile and Brass, so who knows if London will be my cup of tea, but it's one I'd like to investigate for sure.
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4. Board Game: Luna [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:284]
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Designer: Stefan Feld

Previous Games of Note: Notre Dame, Year of the Dragon, Roma, Macao, etc.

Photos: BGG Gallery

Rules: Z-Man PDF

Essen Video: U-Stream

The rules to Luna were just recently posted to the Z-Man page so I haven't had a chance to read those yet and thus don't really know much of anything about this game except that it's designed by Stefan Feld, which alone is enough to get it on this list I believe. Feld has designed a stable of solid games in the past few years so anything he does now is worth checking out in my mind. I'm definitely not a fan of all of it - I'm looking at you Rum & Pirates - but on the back of Notre Dame and Roma alone, I'm willing to overlook any missteps. Luna is being published by H@ll Games, who did Loyang, and by Z-Man, so if we're lucky they will do a joint production that gets the game to the U.S. as quickly or quicker than Dungeon Lords last year, although hopefully with a game more enjoyable than Dungeon Lords this time around.
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5. Board Game: Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked]
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Designer: Andreas Steding

Info: SpieLama, GeekList

Rules: PDF

Announcement: BGN

Very little seems to be known so far about the Hansa Teutonica Expansion, but basically it sounds like a new map, which I'm all for. A comment on the GeekList linked above translates the essence of the SpieLama page to explain that the Hansa Teutonica East expansion will involve a new map where: "(1) there will be one big, easily reachable city, where two attributes are offered to be developed; (2) small single-cities can be collected easier, as to speed up the game; (3) one or more green cities have no jobs to offer; and (4) next to the last picture it says is the least finished but most interesting concept: sea-routes. You need wholesalers for this to establish routes. Finally the author states that he was afraid an expansion would mangle an already perfect game; that the expansion does not try to change the main concept though but pepps up the game." Consider me interested!
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6. Board Game: Tikal II: The Lost Temple [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:969]
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Designer: Kramer & Kiesling

Previous Games of Note: Tikal (duh), Torres, Maharaja, Java, Cavum

Announcement: BGN

Photo: BGG

Rulebook Adventure Story(?!): BGN

Rules: Gameworks PDF

Essen Video: U-Stream

The announcement of Tikal II came out of nowhere back in June, over TEN YEARS after the original release of Tikal, one of the heaviest games to win the Spiel des Jahres, and the most famous of the duo's Action Point trio. Very little is known about the game still, but this can't help but be one of the most anticipated games at Essen 2010 given its designer pedigree. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm sure we'll learn more in the weeks ahead.
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7. Board Game: Key Market [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:915]
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Designer: David Brain

Developer: Richard Breese

Previous Games of Note: Reef Encounter, Keythedral, Aladdin's Dragons, etc.

Artist: Juliet Breese (mentioning here because her art is awesome and pretty much justifies a purchase regardless of game play)

Rules: BGG File Page

Announcement: BGN

Everything You Need to Know About This Game: GeekList Extraordinaire

Essen Video: U-Stream

Just read that GeekList. Read it. It's all you need to know about Key Market, really. Unlike most other games on this list, we actually have good, solid information about Key Market on which to base our anticipation. I don't have anything else to add or speculate on sadly, but I know I'll be trying the game in November.
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8. Board Game: Merkator [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:611]
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Designer: Uwe Rosenberg

Previous Games of Note: Agricola, Bohnanza, Le Havre, At the Gates of Loyang

Prototype Photo: BGG Gallery

Essen Video: U-Stream

Lookout Games is back to publishing Rosenberg's games after a brief hiatus with Loyang last year, and this time they're bringing us Merkator. You can check out that prototype photo, but I'm not sure it's going to tell you much. Then again, it's about all you have to go on for now regarding the game, so read those tea leaves and let me know what you think we should be expecting here. The only thing we really and truly know about the game is that its name is spelled with a K, not a C, but I'm not sure that will help with deciding where to prioritize it on my BGG.CON list of games to try.
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9. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:98]
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Designer: Mac Gerdts

Previous Games of Note: Imperial, Antike, Hamburgum, Princes of Machu Picchu

Portuguese Rules: BGG Files

Announcement: BGN

Mechanics: Post by Designer

Essen Video: U-Stream

PD Verlag will continue publishing Gerdts games in 2010 with the upcoming Navegador, and Gerdts will continue using the rondel it seems. I love Imperial, but I'm not so sure that the rondel continues to have legs 5 years after its debut. I suppose we'll see when the game gets released, but for now I remain skeptical, despite the fact that I give Imperial a 10 rating. I still haven't gotten around to trying Gerdts' 2008 offering - Princes of Machu Picchu - so I suppose I should get to that before I jump to Navegador. Then again, I did recently manage to sell off Hamburgum, so perhaps I should cut my losses and stick to playing Imperial and 2030. More information will be necessary to make an informed decision. Someone needs to get those Portuguese rules translated stat!
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10. Board Game: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:89]
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Designer: Kevin Wilson

Previous Games of Note: Descent, Game of Thrones, Arkham Horror, Android, etc.

Official Website: FFG

Announcement: BGN

First Impressions: Jayolas, Engelstein

Designer Diaries: Remaking History and On the Shoulders of Giants

Essen Video: U-Stream

Like Key Market above, there is actually lots of good, solid information out there about this newest Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game because it has been demoed at Gen Con. Check out those two great First Impressions articles by BGG users Jayolas and Engelstein for detailed information about this game. Make sure not to mix up Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game by Kevin Wilson and Fantasy Flight to be released in 2010, with Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame by Glenn Drover and Eagle Games released in 2002. The latter is supposedly not so great, but the former is supposedly the greatest thing since sliced bread. We'll have to see if that really pans out, but consider me intrigued. As a Through the Ages fan, I'm not sure if I'm up for changing my civ game allegience, but as a Civilization II fan, I'm not sure I can hold myself back from anything with Sid's name on it. Plus you've got the designer of Descent bringing his talents to bear on the age old civ board game dilemma, so that's got my attention for sure.

Note: I think I read somewhere that this may be a Christmas 2010 release, rather than an October 2010 release, so it may not quite be an Essen game, but close enough for our purposes. Turns out I gather there were copies for sale at Essen after all so never mind this outdated note.
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11. Board Game: 51st State [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:608] [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked]
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Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek (yes, I have to copy and paste that last name every time)

Previous Games of Note: Stronghold, Witchcraft

Ignacy's Column: Lunatic, Judging a Prototype

News: BGN Details

Game System: Part 1, Part 2

Essen Video: U-Stream

You should read Ignacy's columns on BGN, they are really entertaining and informative as to his design process. Yet another game with lots of information out there on which to base your opinion/anticipation/buzz/etc. What's up with all these designers and publishers actually telling us about the product they're planning to try to sell us? It's a strange and wonderful phenomenon that some designers and publishers seem to be embracing, but not quite all of them, yet. Anyway, 51st State looks like an interesting card game, which seem to be all the rage these days, what with Dominion and Race for the Galaxy, perhaps because of the easier numerous expansion potential than traditional big box board games. Anyway, I'm willing to try out 51st State based on the quality of Stronghold alone, even if I didn't love Witchcraft, and based on the quality of the designer's writing, which worked for Krakow 1325, so maybe there is a tangible result from designer diaries and the like.
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12. Board Game: Sneaks & Snitches [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:1980]
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Designer: Vlaada Chvatil

Previous Games of Note: Through the Ages, Galaxy Trucker, Prophecy, Space Alert, Dungeon Lords

Announcement: BGN

Enders Review: Comprehensive Pictorial Overview

Video Review: Ted Cheatham, Dice Tower

Essen Video (general chat with Vlaada): U-Stream

Vlaada continues his trend of designing completely different games every time, this time with a fast-paced (20 minute) psychological/bluffing card game! I'm amazed at how this one guy has brought us such diverse and excellent game designs over the past few years, and thankfully he's the gift that just keeps on giving. I haven't always personally loved his games (I'm looking at you Dungeon Lords and Space Alert), but I've really appreciated how different each one is (unlike some other designers who shall remain nameless, but designed the ninth game on this list), and I have really liked two of them (Through the Ages and Galaxy Trucker) and enjoyed Prophecy too. Vlaada is easily the most promising designer in Europe, which means the Czech Republic is giving good ol' Germany a run for its money, not to mention Poland (Trzewiczek), France (Bauza), and the UK (Wallace/Breese). Even if Sneaks & Snitches doesn't end up being my cup of tea, Vlaada has secured a solid place on the watch list.
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13. Board Game: Asara [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:566]
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Designer: Kramer & Kiesling

Previous Games of Note: Tikal, Torres, Maharaja, Java, Cavum

Photo: BGG

Bruno Faidutti: Best Game Ever?

According to Bruno, "Asara might well be one of their best offerings, if not the best." That's a mighty high bar given the previous designs of this duo, but I always enjoy reading Bruno's website and seeing his pick for game of the year, so perhaps Asara needs to be higher on this list. For now it's stuck down here because we don't really know enough about it, but at least it's got a place on the list based on the designers, Ravensburger publishing it, and Bruno's praise. I'm sure we'll find out more at some point, but it's hard to get as excited about Asara as some of the other games with lots more info available, such as 51st State, 7 Wonders, Key Market, and Sid Meier's Civ.
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14. Board Game: Antics! [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:1448]
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Designer: Fraser & Gordon Lamont

Previous Games of Note: Shear Panic, Snow Tails, Hameln, Antler Island

Publisher Page: Fragor

Announcement: BGN

Designer Diary: Angle of the Butterfly

New Mechanic Description: Build Your Hill as There's Prey to Kill

Interview: Cliquenabend

Rules: BGG File Page

Essen Video: U-Stream

Frogs, Sheep, Rats, Stags, Sled Dogs, and Ostriches... what comes next? Why ants of course! The Lamont brothers have consistently brought us game after game centered around a particular animal, and 2010 is no exception with the impending release of Antics. Check out the designer diary above where Gordon provides some entertaining insight into the game development process. The designers are also promising a novel mechanic in this game, which is intriguing, if a bit hard to entirely believe without any proof, but I suppose that's why I'm a quintessential Thomas. The Lamont brothers seem like such great guys and have such a zest for the game they bring to Essen every year that it's infectious. I haven't always loved their designs (such as Snow Tails and Antler Island), but I do definitely enjoy Shear Panic, and look forward to trying out their next game each year.
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15. Board Game: Spectral Rails [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:3280]
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Designer: Morgan Dontanville

Previous Games of Note: Chupacabra, Recess

Could this finally be the year that Spectral Rails sees the light of day? It's moved to Z-Man so I have hope. I've learned not to hold my breath when it comes to board game releases (ever since the debacle of the Goa and El Grande reprints of 2005 and 2006, where my face turned very blue). Anyway, I should note that Morgan is a friend of mine, so take all of my praise with a grain of salt, but Morgan is awesome, so you have to go out and buy his game if/when it ever comes out
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16. Board Game: Wok Star [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1148]
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Designer: Tim Fowers

Previous Games of Note: None

Reviews: Tcollett

Rules: BGG File Page

Photo: BGG

This game was actually available at Origins in June 2010, so I'm totally cheating by putting it on this list, but it was available in very small quantities, so it's not readily and generally available yet. Plus it sounds super excellent so it should go on this list just because of that fact. It's a cooperative, real-time game where players are working together in a Chinese restaurant to prepare and serve food. It sounds like those addictive video games and it sounds like frantic fun! I've decided it deserves an exemption and a spot here because of potential awesomeness and limited availability.
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17. Board Game: Cleopatra's Caboose [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:7299]
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Designer: Steve Zamborsky

Previous Games of Note: None

Rules: Z-Man PDF

Essen Video: U-Stream

Bringing up the rear is Steve's Cleopatra's Caboose, a train game based in ancient Egypt?! This game sounds rather hilarious. Zev has posted that the game may even make it in time for Essen 2010. I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether this one arrives in time to merit its place on this list. Whenever it shows up though, I'm sure to try it out.
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18. Board Game: Norenberc [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1101]
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Designer: Andreas Steding

Previous Games of Note: Hansa Teutonica

Announcement: BGN

Game Preview: BGN

Rules: BGG File Page

Essen Video: U-Stream

Added to the list at the prodding of Matt and Greg below. After Hansa Teutonica last year, I don't take much convincing to add an Andreas Steding game to an Essen watch list. And just look at all that juicy info out there in the announcement, game preview, and rules. Go forth and read about this game. While you're at it, buy a copy, come to my house, teach it to me, and if I like it, leave the game behind when you go home. Sound like a plan? Excellent.
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19. Board Game: Defenders of the Realm: The Dragon Expansion [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked]
United States
Redford
Michigan
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Designer: Richard Launius
Previous Games of Note: Arkham Horror

Announcement: Boardgamegeek

Game Previews: Boardgamegeek

Love it or hate it, Defenders of the Ream has caused quite a stir among the forums with its artistic style, rulebook, and Pandemic-like gameplay. Richard has stayed with us the whole way, answering questions, and coming up with new variants that we can download from the files section of BGG, Since I am one of the ones that love it, I am definitely looking forward to this expansion. 3 new dragon generals, an updated original general, new minions, ways to mix and match them altogether with the base game baddies, new optional variants, and a booklet of scenarios help take Defenders to the next level of difficulty (as if I needed it). Just check out the forums for the base game for his announcement and descriptions of what this expansion has to offer.
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20. Board Game: King's Vineyard [Average Rating:5.56 Overall Rank:8922]
dave haslam
United States
Utah
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Designer: Dave Haslam & Sandeep Kharkar

Photos: BGG Gallery

Rules: BGG page

The full rules for this game are posted on the game's bgg page. Take a look. King's Vineyard uses a novel and unique card mechanic and is quite fun. Please take a look.
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21. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:9]
Tom Rosen
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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Designer: Stefan Feld

Previous Games of Note: Notre Dame, Year of the Dragon, Macao, Roma

Announcement: BGN

Prototype Video: Cliquenabend

Alea Big-Box Game #14, on the list you go! It's a shame that the Alea Big-Box series has gone from a diverse array of world-class designers to a single designer (at least it's a very good designer), but nonetheless what would an Essen list be without the latest Alea Big-Box game? The latest word is that this will not actually be released at Essen, which isn't surprising since there has been no word of it until very recently, but that the prototype will be there, as was the case with Notre Dame back in '06. Sounds like Burgund uses dice in a clever way a la Macao yet completely differently, so that makes this an intriguing one to check out whenever the opportunity to do so ultimately arises.
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22. Board Game: Kaigan [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1570]
Tom Rosen
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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Designer: Kenichi Tanabe

Previous Games of Note: None

Backstory: Road to Ascora Part 1, Road to Ascora Part 2

Announcement: BGN

Essen Video: U-Stream

After reading Scott Tepper's Road to Ascora articles on Boardgame News, consider me intrigued by Kaigan (originally titled Inotaizu). Check out those two articles and you may find yourself similarly intrigued. Not a game I'd heard of before, but now I'm hoping to try it out sometime soon. Looks like a ton of thought and work have gone into this reprint! Also make sure to check out that Essen video explanation on U-Stream, very informative.
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23. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:174]
Paul Incao
United States
Upper Montclair
New Jersey
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Designer: Julian Courtland-Smith

Publisher: Stronghold Games http://www.stronghold-games.com

Rules: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/60065/survive-rules-2-...

Essen Video: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/3727/survive/survive-demo...

Pre-order online: http://store.stronghold-games.com/index.php?main_page=produc...

As per the Stronghold Games website:In Survive: Escape From Atlantis!™, you try to lead your people from the sinking central island of Atlantis to the safety of one of four islands nearby. Your people can get there quickly by boat (if they find one) or more slowly by swimming.

But it will be a perilous journey as they must avoid Sea Serpents, Whales, and Sharks! When the volcano on Atlantis explodes, the game is over. The player with the most survivor points wins.

Survive: Escape From Atlantis!™ has sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide in its previous versions, but has since been out of print for over 10 years. To illustrate the legacy of this great game, optional "Challenge Rules" and additional components (the cute little Dolphins, and the treacherous "Dive Dice") have been added.

All of the components have been upgraded to the highest-quality levels, including slotted wood boats to carry the wood People tokens, as well as Land Tiles of 3 different thicknesses to give Atlantis a 3-D look. The Beach tiles are 2mm thick, the Forest Tiles are 4mm thick, and the Mountain tiles are 6mm thick (first ever that thick in a board game)!

ALSO -- With each copy of Survive: Escape From Atlantis!™ that you preorder, you will also get for FREE one copy of "The Giant Squid", a mini-expansion for Survive: Escape From Atlantis!™. "The Giant Squid" mini-expansion is a $5.95 value... yours FREE with your preorder!


 
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