We take an exciting bite into Dinosaur Island!

Uh Uh Nature will find a way!

This week I got the pleasure of reviewing Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus Games. And well… I ugh uh reviewed it. Sensational.

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys … Man creates boardgaming…

What is Dinosaur Island I hear you say?

Dinosaur Island is a worker placement type resource management game. Your goal is to build the most successful dinosaur theme park. The game ends when a player or players completes three communal objectives. The player with the highest number of victory points is the winner. The version I got is the second edition which has upgraded meeples.

It is a pretty good game. Following in the vein of the popular Euro Style game with the Ameritrash themes trend we have seen over the last decade or so, Dinosaur Island is pretty svelte. Good solid card components coupled with plastic meeples (both dinosaur and clever girl lunch shaped meeple), this game is made with quality in mind. It has a tonne of components, 166 meeples alone! You get a lot for its approximate $70 AUD retail price.

Oh No!! The comet phase!

It looks great. It has a real bright colour set and fantastic artwork. The choice of neons to give it an 80’s Miami style feel is fantastic. Everything is clear and crisp and well designed. Although the game does take alot of pace to set up. Your gonna need a good size table.

The quantity of components could fool you into thinking the game is super complex, but its not. It hovers somewhere in the territory of Scythe. Mostly the components are about creating replay-ability and variety. This is brilliant. Replay of a game is one of the more important factors I consider when I drop the coin on it. This game is great value.

Dinosaur Island has a really clever system for game length and difficulty. 1-4 players can choose to do short game, medium game or long game objectives. These decide both the difficulty of the game and the length of play. We chose to play short game in our first outing. The rulebook recommends three specific objectives for your first time.

So how does it work? Well…

Each player chooses a colour (red, white, green and blue) and they get the park boards that correspond with those colours. Each player has two boards. One is your Lab Board, housing your starting facilities and anything you buy throughout the game to continue your research into bigger and better dinosaurs. This board also keeps track of the threat levels of your menagerie and the security levels that stop your customers form getting eaten. It also has a DNA storage freezer.

This isn’t Catan, your not gonna have a surplus of these.

The second board is your Park itself. It is broken of into 16 spaces for placing dinosaur pens, restaurants, rides and souvenir stands. This is the part of the park that you have to carefully design in order to fulfill the various objectives and bring in that sweet dinosaur moulah.

In the centre of the table is the marketplace, track board and research board. The marketplace has all the facilities, lab upgrades and staff players will buy throughout the game. The game uses a pretty standard rotating items system, with the costs reducing as things gets board and items shuffle to the front of the row. There are also generic moves a player can make in the Marketplace rather than buy.

The Research Board is where all the sweet dinosaur DNA gets purchased. Players also take turns here placing scientists here in order to claim DNA, expand storage or buy recipes for brewing vicious aggressive carnivores and dopey placid herbivores. Theres also an option to relegate a scientist to menial labour and use them as a worker later. The track board keeps track of your excitement levels (these generate visitors) and your victory points, as well as turn order.

So what happens with all of those things?

Players take turns procuring research benefits like DNA, Recipes and DNA storage. The DNA available is randomly generated by a pool of dice that are rolled at the start of each research phase.

Then they buy facilities like rides and labs from the marketplace. They then get to place their pool of workers on various spots in their facilities to grow dinosaurs, increase security, generate extra cash and splice DNA. The goal being to build the most exciting park. The more excitement, more visitors. More visitors who can utilize your park the more victory points you can gain.

Now that’s the key word here… utilize. Just attracting visitors is not enough. You need to have places in your park for them to visit. Once they visit, you need to stop them getting chomped up before the victory points are calculated. Yeah… the dinosaurs can get a little chompy.

Every dinosaur you grow in your lab needs a pen, and every pen has a limited amount of dino space. So you need to build bigger pens to have more people come and look at them. Dinosaurs generate threat, and the more of them you have the more often them will test the fences.

Threat is generated by Dinosaurs but also gets increased randomly by special pips on the DNA dice. If everyone gets greedy and only buys the best types of DNA there is a good chance a poorly prepared park is gonna go haywire. If the dinos get hungry, every level of threat over your security total is a chomped on visitor. Visitors pay before they get into the park, so never fear you got their money… but they don’t generate victory points until after the threat phase.

Your fences are gonna get probed…

I said at the start that there are objectives for game length. These vary from building specific facilities to collecting certain amounts of DNA. These objectives come with one time VP boosts. When two objectives have been completed, the last turn of the game begins. Player with the most victory points is the winner.

Dinosaur Island is a pretty great worker placement strategy game. It has creative elements of worker placement and also provides enough interplay with your opponents to be interesting and fun. You don’t get to directly effect your opponents… but if you watch their board you can always buy what they want before them.

Dinosaur Island was a Kickstarter by Pandasaurus and it had alot of extra content that is now available as expansions for the game. Your can get extra dinosaur types, add water based dinosaurs to your park and change up the play style of the game.

Now you will need an even bigger table.

I enjoyed the first game I played and the subsequent game as well. The combination of Ameritrash themes with the solid challenge of a Euro style game makes it a good choice for fans of dinosaurs, Eurogames and Ameritrash style games. Everyone gets their chance to be a clever girl.

It captures in its style, the theme and spirit of the movie it riffs on… “With all due respect Pandasaurus uh uh uh your developers were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

They most definitely should…

Pandasaurus Official Website – https://pandasaurusgames.com/

You can grab a copy of Dinosaur Island or it’s expansions from Vault Games, they ship anywhere in Australia.

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