Monday, December 24, 2018

Atlanteon is an abstract is basically just good enough

I hadn’t thought about Atlanteon for years until I was looking through my abstracts. And now I want to play it some more :D

In Atlanteon, each player has eleven tiles numbered zero to nine, plus a king tile that’s also a zero. They take turns placing the tiles on a five by five grid that has three neutral castle tiles that they took turns placing at the start. When a tile is surrounded on all four sides by other tiles or the edge of the board, it’s scored. Whoever has the most value in tiles around it gets it. Opponent-claimed tiles still count for their player for claiming the tiles they’re next to.

Atlanteon can end in three different ways. You can win by capturing your opponent’s king or by capturing all three neutral castle tiles or by capturing eleven tiles and having your king on the board. 

I’ve skipped over some rules (you place a disc in captured tiles but don’t get to do that for the two white castles and the black castle has its own, quirky set of rules and there are tie breakers for capturing tiles so I think it’s impossible to tie the whole game) but that’s the basic idea of Atlanteon.

While the game has the theme of undersea warfare, the theme has absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay. Atlanteon could work with just about any theme or no theme at all. A cyber punk hacking theme would have done pretty well and given us better artwork to boot.

I’ll be honest. There’s nothing particularly special about Atlanteon. It’s a little quirky but the overall structure is basic stones-on-the-board, count-the-numbers. However, it ticks off a number of boxes for me.

It’s a short abstract, probably around fifteen minutes, and it’s a dynamic one. With only eleven moves each, every move count and every move changes the board. Atlanteon isn’t a slowly developing game. It’s a knife fight in a phone booth that someone just tossed a hand grenade in.

And there is the simple thing that the game works. All the pieces fit together and it all balances out. And the variable starting positions of the castles helps keep Atlanteon from getting too formulaic and too quickly solved.

Last of all, I own the thing. I got Atlanteon when I was in my buy everything stage. I don’t know if I’d buy it now but it’s not leaving my collection. It’s not a brilliant abstract but it’s a nice little snack of one. It’s comfy.

Atlanteon is a workman-like game that honestly isn’t anything special. It’s definitely not one of Knizia’s best games. Wow. I went this long before mentioning it’s a Knizia. But it does what I imagine he set it out to do. Be a quick little game with real if light choices.

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