Interview with Julian Courtland-Smith Part 1

The first time I saw someone explain Survive! Escape From Atlantis I knew I had to have it. The theme, the look, the interesting gameplay. I loved it so much I did a video review of it for Ed Baraf. This game had a huge impact on our family. Even our 11 year old, who is not as interested in board games, asks to play it, Then I did some research on the designer. Surely he created other games that my family would love. But I only found information on an out of print game and a never published game. I needed more information. Luckily we live in the 21st century and I have this wonderful thing called the internet and this other wonderful thing called electronic mail!! Once I combined the two I was able to contact and communicate with Julian Courtland-Smith, designer of Survive! Escape From Atlantis and bringer of joy to my family.

Today Spaghetti & Meeples brings you Part 1 (yes there will be a part 2!) of our interview with Julian Courtland-Smith.


Julian Courtland-Smith with Survive!What inspired you to design Survive?

 Survive! is the name (title) Parker Brothers, USA, chose to call my game Escape from Atlantis (EfA). What inspired me to invent EfA was, one day in Hastings Library I chanced upon a row of books all about the ‘mythical’ island of Atlantis. In a flash I thought a game about a sinking island would be a good theme for a board game.The rest is history.

Survive has been through many publishers. Did you have anything to do with that?

Yes and no. Survive went through many publishers because each publisher had survival issues, pun intended. Parker Brothers were hit badly when computer games came along and wiped out 80% of the board game market. Following the success of Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs! I took EfA to Waddingtons UK with a 3D version which they marketed. A few years later, Waddingtons were hit by a recession and taken over by Hasbro. I renegotiated with Hasbro who launched their version of EfA in 1997, but when European sales of Atlantis! dropped below 100,000 per annum they axed it. Stronghold Games came along and relaunched the game in 2010. Since then it has remained a success. EfA is also sub-licensed by Asmodee in other languages and called ‘The Island’. There’s also a digital version of the EfA on smart phones. It’s marketed by Quado and called Escape from Atlantis. Yes, many publishers have marketed Escape from Atlantis but each has played a part in its continued success.

What about the expansions Stronghold Games has released?

They’re great! Stronghold Games consulted me about their expansions and I agreed.

I read Survive originally had pirates in it. Do you want to get pirates back in the game?

My prototype of Survive (Escape from Atlantis) did indeed include pirates. Parker Bros, USA, substituted the pirates for whales. I think this was a good idea. My pirates and Parker Bros whales do the same thing, which is sink a boat upon impact and make the fleeing Atlantians swimmers. I believe there are fans of the game who would enjoy seeing pirates in the game. What’s needed to include pirates in a future expansion is a new set of rules which legitimize their presence and doesn’t upset the balance of the game.

What does it feel like to have Survive not only still around 30 years on, but also very popular and on many “best of” lists?

Very humbling! The fact that so many people still enjoy playing my game after all these years is really amazing. Yes, I feel very honoured.

You also designed Lost Valley Of The Dinosaurs and the unreleased Mammoth Mountain. I sense a running theme. Not so much a question as a leading statement… 

I love thematic games. As such, in the 80’s, I designed a trilogy of adventure games. Because of major changes in the games industry explained above I  was unable to get my third game Mammoth Mountain released. See picture of Mammoth Mountain, not seen elsewhere.

Mammoth Mountain

Any chance of Mammoth Mountain getting made?

There’s a lot of interest being shown at the moment to publish the original prototype of Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, not the Waddingtons version. If that’s successful, then there’s a slim chance Mammoth Mountain will follow.

Lost Valley Of The Dinosaurs

 Why did you decide to invent board games?

 In 1965 I read an article in a magazine about Waddingtons latest game, Mine A Million! I thought I could do that!

 What was the first game you invented?

 My first game was called World Power. Looking back, it was rubbish and a variation of Risk!

How many games have you invented?

Somewhere between 50 to 100. When a game goes nowhere, I take any good mechanics from it and put them into another game.

How many years have you been inventing games?

42 years out of the last 50, as I took an 8 year sabbatical. In the last recession 1988/96 lots of board game companies went to the wall. Like frenzied sharks on a blood lust, the major manufacturers Mattel and Hasbro gobbled up most of the opposition. Today Waddingtons, Spears, Parker Bros, MB and the like have become brand names. I took a back seat during that recession waiting for the fallout, as people in the business were losing their jobs and games companies stopped marketing new games.

How long did it take before you were successful?

17 years. Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs was marketed by Waddingtons in 1982 and sold 1/3rd million. It took me 2 weeks to invent the game, 4 weeks to write the rules and 6 years to get it to market!


Be sure to join us next week for Part 2 and find out a little more about Julian’s design process and what’s next for him!

In the meantime here’s more picture goodness of a prototype version of Survive! Escape From Atlantis!

Prototypes of 2d and 3d versions


Part 2 can be found here.

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7 responses to “Interview with Julian Courtland-Smith Part 1

  1. Pingback: Interview With Julian Courtland-Smith Part 2 | Board Game Jungle

  2. I love Board Games, Especially related to adventure and Jungles, Mammoth Mountain is a beautiful place, and if this game will follow that, it will be awesome.

    #Mammoth Mountain Discovery 4

  3. Pingback: News May 6. 2015 | Board Game Jungle

  4. Pingback: News May 6. 2015 | Board Game Jungle

  5. Due to some migration issues from the old Board Game Jungle site to the Spaghetti and Meeples site there was a conversation that got lost. Below is the interaction between Julian and one of our readers.

    Kandar commented on Interview with Julian Courtland-Smith Part 1

    The first time I saw someone explain Survive! Escape From Atlantis I knew I had to have it. The theme, the look, the …

    Hi!
    I was looking for info on this my favourite game from my childhood (“Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs”) to make an article about it, and found this amazing interview. THANKS for sharing this!

    I have a question, the creator says the game was marketed by Wallington in 1982. Now I am finding in every website I look that the release date was 1985… So I’m wondering, was the 1982 date an error by Courtland-Smith, or was it actually made in 1982 and Wallington couldn’t release it till 1985 for some reason…? Or was there 2 editions of the game…? Any clue?

    Also I’d like to know more about the creation of the game, I wish he could tell us more about it, the artists who made the awesome drawings, and the dinosaur scultps… Everything!

    Again thanks for this wonderful interview!

    Julian Courtland-Smith commented on Interview with Julian Courtland-Smith Part 1

    The first time I saw someone explain Survive! Escape From Atlantis I knew I had to have it. The theme, the look, the …

    Hi Kandar,

    Thank you for your kind thoughts about Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs!

    My apologies for getting dates mixed up. Survive! (Escape from Atlantis!) was launched in the USA by Parker Bros in 1982 and Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs (LVD) was launched in the UK by Waddingtons Games in 1985. Must have been a senior moment! 😉

    I can’t help you with names as to who made the awesome drawings and the dinosaur sculps except to say in the ’80s Waddingtons Product Development Manager was John Price. I understand he out-sourced the manufacture of the dinosaurs and also the art work.

    Kandar commented on Interview with Julian Courtland-Smith Part 1

    The first time I saw someone explain Survive! Escape From Atlantis I knew I had to have it. The theme, the look, the …

    Hallo Sir! No apologies needed! Thank you very much for your kind aclaration, for the interview and also for creating that game which really gave some exciting hours in my childhood. I still remember the day, I was an about 6 kid in love with dinosaurs, when I saw the box on the toystore window and inmediately knew I wanted it. Not long after that, it could come as either a christmas or a birthday present. I don’t know if I still have it somewhere at my parent’s house (I truly hope I do). I’m from Spain, btw. Here it was called “El valle de los dinosaurios” (almost same title as english, minus the “lost”) and the rubber dinosaurs from the original were replaced by cardboard drawings over a base. The drawings were still awesome, though. I remeber displaying the game on a table and enjoy simply watching the scenario imagining lots of stories.

    So well, thank you very much. You gave me so much happy moments long, long ago. 🙂

    I read in the interview the original prototype is in discusions to be released? Wow, now that’s really amazing. And it’s so interesting watching the prototype picture, and compare it to the finished game! I can see it already had some dinosaur little figures, did you sculpted them by your own, or used some plastic toys of the time?

    Well, excuse my excitation on this, XD. It simply was my favourite game from my childhood, and It’s really an honour to meet the creator of it. 🙂

    And thank you very much to you too, Burke, again, for the page and the interview!

    Best wishes

  6. Julian Courtland-Smith

    Hi Kandor,
    I remember “El valle de los dinosaurios” well. So, did you find your copy at your parents house? LVD was under discussion for re-launch but sadly nothing came of it. I bought the little dinosaurs which I used in my prototype from a toy shop.
    Yours playfully,
    Julian 😉
    PS: Have you seen this 14 min video of the game, posted on Board Game Geek. Great demo, great fun and brill soundtrack! 🙂 https://boardgamegeek.com/video/4764/lost-valley-dinosaurs/gaming-obscurity-episode-4-lost-valley-dinosaurs

  7. Pingback: News May 6. 2015 | Spaghetti & Meeples

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