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Subject: 'Undersea Conquest' = 'Boring Math Game with Sea Monsters" rss

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Matt Drake
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My last review was for Maginor, which I really like. It's a Reiner game, and I'm willing to admit that he makes some really good games. What I want to emphasize, however, is that he also makes some of the most horrible, overrated crap you'll ever have the misfortune to hate.

Which brings me to Atlanteon. I will not beat around the bush here - this game really, painfully sucks. It blows my mind how many people say they like this game, because I couldn't find anyone to play with me who didn't think it was horrid.

I came to own Atlanteon when Fantasy Flight Games sold a whole pile of games really cheap, right around last Christmas. It was a great sale, and I scored some really fun games. When the box came it was like Christmas - which was a weird coincidence, because it really was Christmas.

I punched out and played the games as quickly as I could, so I could decide which ones I loved. A few rose to the top. Some were OK. One in particular sticks in my mind, the way images of starving African babies stay with you until you die. That one is Atlanteon.

The box says that Atlanteon is a game of undersea conquest. The theme for this game is so weak, however, that it could be a game of dogs marking trees, or bums taking each other's subway vents in the middle of a New York winter. In fact, you could strip the theme off the game completely without affecting it in any way at all. The box ought to say that Atlanteon is a game of boring math with some pictures of sea monsters.

The fact that there's a theme at all is almost an insult, except that the art is really cool. The board is a grid with this kick-ass painting of an Atlantean city, with a mean-looking mer-dude perched on either side (yeah, it's the same merman, they just colored him different). Even the pieces look like there should be quality in the box - they're heavy-duty cardstock and wooden markers, and they're classy.

Too bad Reiner Knizia couldn't have been bothered to make some rules that actually went with these pretty pieces. Instead the game is a sleep-inducing math class. What you do is, you get someone who you're pretending is your friend, and the two of you take turns putting down numbered tiles to try to surround spaces. You don't want to leave room for the other guy to surround a tile, and if you do have to leave room, you want to make sure your tiles all have bigger numbers than his. When a tile is surrounded, you add up the point values for every tile around it, and the one with the higher point value gets to say that tile is his.

That's pretty much it. If you've ever played that stupid game where you connect the dots and try to block off squares while you wait for your dental appointment, Atlanteon should be a snap. You put down tiles until both people are out of tiles or one dumb bastard gets his king tile surrounded, and then the game is over and you see how many tiles each player owns. There's some lame crap about who surrounds castles or what-not, but it's irrelevant - the game sucks.

I wanted to like this game. I bought it, paid money for it, and I hate it when I pay money for horrible games. I can tolerate a mediocre 'meh, we'll break that out when family visits' game, but 'hide this crap so nobody knows we own a copy' games really bother me. So I wanted to like it, and to make sure I hated it, I played Atlanteon four times. I had to find four different people to play it with me, because nobody else had paid for it so nobody else was willing to subject themselves to the game twice.

After four failed attempts, I had to admit that I really hated Atlanteon. I didn't just hate it because the theme was completely pointless. I didn't just hate it because the dark tiles used the exact same art as the light tiles. I hated it because it was more boring than long division.

Some people have asked me why I don't like Reiner Knizia. In all fairness, I don't entirely despise Reiner games. That's why I started this series of reviews with Maginor - that's a really fun game, and I don't want people to think I just dislike the man's games in general. He's obviously a clever guy, and when he puts his mind to it and does a little playtesting, he can make a great game.

But I have little patience for a man who could make great stuff and settles on making garbage he can sell. At this point, Reiner trades on his name, and manages to sell perfectly legitimate game companies total crap because they can put his name on it. When a game like Atlanteaon can be purchased at nearly every game store in the country, someone is a little too big for his britches (I mean Reiner, in case that wasn't clear). And when stupid suckers like me will buy these rotten chunks of mucal fungus because of his name, someone is too dumb to know not to buy a game just because it's on sale (in this case, I mean myself).

Now maybe I'm being too hard on the guy, but I tend to think that if Atlanteon had been Reiner Knizia's first game, there would not have been a second. I tend to think that Reiner's early games had to be better than his later games, because otherwise nobody would know who he is today. He's the Quentin Tarantino of board games (seriously, did anyone like the last half of Grindhouse?).

So now you know why I don't like Reiner games. I don't actively avoid his games, it's just that I don't really care if his name is there or not.

Join us next time when I'll review Beowulf, another Reiner game I enjoy. Then I'll wrap with one more I hate because it's as cathartic as beating rude children.

Summary

Pros:
It's from Fantasy Flight, so it's pretty
You can get it real cheap
Finished in five minutes, so you can go play a game you like

Cons:
Boring math game
Theme is completely worthless
Recycled art
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That's Karl on the left. Eternity on the right.
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I love Melissa, but don't tell her. It's a secret if she can find this. Shhhhh....
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Atlanteon Me! You are completely right.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
This game blows so much I think I may start using Atlanteon as my new cuss word.
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Fraser
Australia
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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If anyone ever offers either of you two a game called Revolution, just say no
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Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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It seems you are trying the worst rated Knizias here (so it's even a great surprise you did like Maginor). Of course tastes differ but you will find (including expansions) as much as 183 games that are Knizia and rated better than Atlanteon. So I suggest you try the better ones instead
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Laszlo Molnar
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Checking your reviews you really seem to be specialized on weaker Knizias (even High Society, Masters Gallery and Money aren't among his best 20).
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George Leach
United Kingdom
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lacxox wrote:
Checking your reviews you really seem to be specialized on weaker Knizias (even High Society, Masters Gallery and Money aren't among his best 20).


Wooah! Wait a minute, many Knizia lovers swear up and down these are fantastic games even if they aren't top 20. I'm interested to hear more about what to avoid from Reiner.
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Bob Kohut
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Re: Atlanteon/Revolution
I liked Atlanteon in its older Revolution form. Rules are the same, but the pictures are simpler, less "busy." I thought it was a pretty good game. The only Knizia game that I didn't enjoy was BLACK SHEEP. The little animals were too hard to tell apart.
 
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John Shortall
New Zealand
Christchurch
Canterbury
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Just read your review. So a free copy isn't really worth getting, BUT would it be useful for my 8 yr old's maths homework.......?
 
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Laszlo Molnar
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Having read the rules at last it seems Atlanteon is not a bad game. It's simply an abstractish game that got a FFG-retheme that obviously makes AT-players rather upset when they find out it's not what they expected (other examples: Maginor, based on Vegas, Kingdoms, based on Auf Heller und Pfennig, King's Gate... well, based on a Lord of the Rings game)
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Fraser
Australia
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
mbmbmbmbmb
jshortall wrote:
Just read your review. So a free copy isn't really worth getting, BUT would it be useful for my 8 yr old's maths homework.......?
For free? Worth it, especially when combined with the 8 year old's homework.
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David Y
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Fun review to read.
Unfortunately for me, I also added this game in with my recent FF Christmas sale order. Wish I had read your review first...

Oh well, it's only $5. Who's up for GG auction??
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