Atlantis Rising 2nd Edition - Alternative After Years of Pandemic?


Unlike what the title suggests, Atlantis Rising 2nd Edition (2019) is a co-operative worker placement game in which players must band together to save their fellow Atlanteans from certain doom. The island of Atlantis is sinking and facing the wrath of the gods for turning toward technology over worship of its deities, and it's a race to the finish to gather all the necessary resources to build the Cosmic Gate and transport the civilians to safety.

Unboxing Atlantis Rising 2E

  • (+) The production is absolutely superb. It was my first time opening up a box and seeing a plastic cover over the top. First of many clues indicating there's a lot love poured into this game.
  • (+) Gorgeous illustrations by Vincent Dutrait, undoubtedly one of the top 5 illustrators in the industry.
  • (+) Fantastic insert that addresses common pitfalls. There's a finger slot for accessing cards. The hole is deep enough so that you don't have cards floating around. The housing area for the main tiles have another small indent at the bottom for smaller cardboard tokens. Intuitive organization for ease of teardown. It's clear the publisher has given plenty of thought on how to efficiently house each and every single part of the components, and I appreciate that.
  • (+) I might be wrong but the resources (ore, gold, and crystal) seem to be made of the same material but just have different finishes. This isn't a complaint but a praise on the attention to detail to mimic the material type without just doing a simple color swap. The mystic energy (blue marbles) and atlantium metal have good weight to them that make them feel satisfying in your hand. The quality of these components won't leave you feeling like the deluxe version was a must-have, and that's a win for your wallet.

Barriers to Play

  • (+) A great insert goes a long way to mitigate setup/teardown time, and this is a fantastic insert. My recent acquisition of Clans of Caledonia, on the other hand, is more like "Here's everything, good luck!"—let's save this talk for a future review of Clans though.
  • (+/-) Rulebook is okay. Not the best, but it does its job to address most of the "How about when..." type of scenarios in your head.
  • (+/-) The biggest timesink is laying out the tiles for your island. If you're an animal who just likes to throw all the tiles back into the housing without any sort of organization... well that's really on you. I recommend saving time for future plays by stacking the tiles of matching peninsula and house them in order of setup. There could've been more clarity on which peninsula corresponds with each side of the hexagonal center, but that would've likely required sacrificing a bit of the artistic integrity.


  • (+) There's a bit of resemblance to Forbidden Island (2010), which requires players to collect ancient treasures and escape on a helicopter before the island's doom. The major difference is that Forbidden Island employs set collection/hand management while Atlantis Rising throws in more complexity into the mix with a worker placement mechanic. Fans of Forbidden Island wanting "Forbidden Island but more" will likely love Atlantis Rising 2E.
  • (+) Thematic ties - Atlantis' resources are widely extracted close to the heart of the civilization but are largely untapped toward the outer end of the peninsulas. This means your workers have greater likelihood of acquiring resources at the outer end of the island tiles, but this also makes them vulnerable to suffering misfortune before carrying out its duties (the success of acquiring a resource is determined by a die roll, where the further you go out to the edges, the lower the minimum required die value for success).
  • (+/-) There's a lot of luck here—dice rolling for success in acquiring resources, and rounds with absolutely devastating Misfortune card draws or just a calm before the storm. I personally enjoy the thrill of the unknown and story-worthy moments behind "lucky games," and my wife and I love the tension just before revealing a card draw.
  • (+) Remember the "blue marbles" I mentioned in a previous picture? Well these mystic energy are your main method of luck mitigation. Spend 1 or more to add 1 value each to your die roll, spend 1 to keep helpful cards from the library that will grant helpful immediate or persisting effects, spend 4 to place mystic barriers along peninsulas to take the hit when there's a flood, or spend 5 to unflood an island tile. Not having these defenses in place will make you feel like the game is beating you when you're down.
  • (+) Unlike Pandemic, where players move point-to-point on a map and must resolve problems in their respective areas, a round in Atlantis Rising goes like this: (1) you place your workers on any island tile, (2) suffer misfortune, (3) take actions and move the workers back to your pool, and (4) endure the wrath of the gods. In a given round, any of the players have the liberty to try and acquire certain types of resources, build one of the Cosmic Gate Components, or provide protection by setting up mystic barriers or unflooding tiles. Because many of these actions essential toward the common goal can be accessed by any player in a given turn, this should decrease the likelihood of quarterbacking, in which a player tries to call the shots and tells everyone the "right" moves.


  • (+) The rulebook presents 5 different variations of difficulty, which adjusts the complexity of the Cosmic Gate Components (there are 21 total but you select 9 of them to play with), changes the number of "Calm Seas" and "Controlled Flood" cards in the Misfortune deck, and changes the player's starting number of mystic energy.
  • (+) Variable player powers - there are 10 different Councilors you can play as (e.g. Artificer allows the player to place the Leader worker on an unbuilt component's action space).
  • (-) The character powers aren't exciting. At least, not in comparison to those you'd see in games like The Voyages of Marco Polo. And to be fair, such dramatic powers are probably not needed or fitting in a game like Atlantis Rising, but the characters feel more like stat boosters/luck mitigation tools with a pasted on theme.


  • Atlantis Rising 2E is great if you're looking for a solid alternative after years of playing Pandemic.
  • This is a must-have for fans of Forbidden Island wanting something "more" in your decision space.
  • Fantastic production with great table presence.
  • Highly luck-based elements but comes with various ways to mitigate them.
  • Great replay value with crushingly tough difficulty levels.

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13 months ago

Playing this one this weekend with "The eds" and Steph, will check back with some thoughts after that

Supporter13 months ago

Thanks for the awesome review. I’ve been peripherally aware of this one but haven’t really looked into it too closely. It was useful to get a detailed summary of the game. 

Did your wife like playing it? Did she rank it in her top 5?

Premium User13 months ago

Thanks for the review! This is definitely one of the few cooperative games I've considered. We just got #Horrified with a gift card so I think we're set for a while for co-ops, but this will definitely stay on my radar!

Owner13 months ago

Have you had a chance to get it out yet? You've mentioned before that you and your wife don't particularly love co-op games so I'm curious how it'll work out! :)


Comment deleted.

Supporter13 months ago

Good review. I love #Forbidden Island. I actually like it more than #pandemic. You have definitely piqued my interest. 

Owner13 months ago

Thanks! There are two points that I really should've included in the review:

1. I didn't mention this explicitly but Atlantis Rising does a great job with ramping up the pressure onto the players, similar to Forbidden Island's higher difficulty levels (and again, some of the cards in the Misfortune deck are brutal and occasionally left me and my wife staring at the card gaping). But, I don't think it's quite close Pandemic's level of escalation/threat where the disease spreads like wildfire.

2. One of the trade-offs with worker placement games is that it can take you out of being in character, and instead make you focus on what you are building. This makes the characters less personable in Atlantis Rising. On the other hand, while there's very little personality given to the characters in Forbidden Island, it does a better job at making you feel more in character.

Supporter13 months ago

That is a great point about worker placement. 

Linked Games
Atlantis Rising (second edition)