Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Atlantis Rising from Elf Creek Games.
What is this game about?
Atlantis Rising is a cooperative worker placement game in which Atlantis is sinking, and you are trying to escape. To get away, you will need to salvage resources, build components, and ultimately activate a power core that will allow your people to flee their drowning homeland.
The resources you need stretch out from the island's center like the spokes of a wheel. In the mountains, you can get precious ore, but you'll need to go to the forges to process it into Atlanteum, your society's most impressive metallurgical development. Other parts of your island offer gold, crystals, spaces to recruit more workers, and a library where you can discover helpful skills and artifacts to aid you. Each turn, players will place their leaders and workers on tiles they hope will yield good results.
To get resources, you'll need to roll a die and hit a certain minimum number to succeed—and the spaces with the highest success rate are furthest from the island's center. This reality is the main tension in the game, because after you place your workers, but before they can take actions, you must suffer misfortunes by overturning cards that will cause various parts of your island to sink. If a worker is at the edge of the forest and the forest sinks, then that worker returns home empty-handed. However, works placed nearer the island's center may still fail because they don't get the die rolls they need. And the clock is ticking.
There are, however, ways to modify your die rolls. You'll be able to acquire "mystic energy" throughout the game that will allow you to add to your roll's total. Various cards from the library will be able to help you. And each player's leader has a special ability that should be used to the greatest possible effect during the game. As you build components leading up to the activation of the power core, you'll get additional bonuses and even new action spaces to exploit. But to win, you'll need to make the most of everything you get.
How does it play solo?
Atlantis Rising has a dedicated solo mode, but is also a cooperative game. That means that a solo player has choices when deciding how to play. In a purely single-player game, you'll have access to more workers at the beginning of the game, as well as to a special worker called the Automaton that takes no actions of its own, but does contribute to die rolls in areas where it is placed. You'll also have a special leader called "The Hologram," which rotates through special powers available in the multiplayer game and lends you a different one each turn. In a two player game, you control two sets of workers yourself and have access to the Hologram, but not the Automaton. It's also possible to just play a three (or more?)-player game by yourself, controlling three different sets of workers but without the Hologram.
Atlantis Rising is an excellent game, and I was really impressed with it. Its production values are stellar with or without the deluxe components, and everything works well together, from the components, to the art, to the clean and clear layout of the rulebook. Normally I don't pay much attention to art or components, because gameplay is king, but the quality of Atlantis Rising is exceptional enough to grab even my attention.
Most importantly, the production values in Atlantis Rising support riveting gameplay. The entire game is tense and dramatic, as you hope for high rolls and wring your hands over the most recent chunk of your island to sink into the sea. You'll be thinking pretty hard about which workers to place where, how to use your leader powers, and how to make the most of cards you got from the library. There's a lot to think about and a lot to do in this game, and events will turn out differently each time you play.
If you hate submitting yourself to a roll of the dice, however, Atlantis Rising might really frustrate you. You need good die rolls to get the resources you need, and you might not get them, especially early on. That means you can lose actions, or even have multiple stages of your plan go awry after you didn't get the right resources. While most of my games of Atlantis Rising have been delightful nail biters, particularly unlucky games can be very frustrating. If you don't like this kind of gameplay, Atlantis Rising is not your kind of game. However, I found that with the various player powers and opportunities to adjust my die rolls, the game was great fun for me overall.
I'd also like to note that, while I appreciate that Atlantis Rising has a dedicated solo mode, I actually do not recommend it over multi-handed play with two or three leaders. Two-player games are great because you have two sets of workers plus the hologram, while three-player games are also enjoyable and more like the "standard" game. I found that pure solo eliminated the fun of having different leaders cooperate by lending their powers to each other and by combining their resources to build components and, ultimately, the power core.
Do I recommend it?
Yes, I definitely recommend Atlantis Rising. It's exciting, fun, and immersive as a solo game, and I'm looking forward to playing it with my group when it's safe to have game day again.
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars
5 stars — I love it.
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.