Draftosaurus is a brand new set collection, drafting board game from publisher Ankama. Designed by Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc and Théo Rivière, the game features artwork from Jiahui Eva Gao and Vipin Alex Jacob – so it is almost a group project. Playing in around 10 minutes the game sees 2 – 5 players running dinosaur parks, looking to attract visitors. However, is playing like a walk in the (Jurassic) Park? Let’s find out!
To start the game each player grabs a player board. As a group players pick either the summer or winter side, with summer the recommended starting side. Based on the player count a selection of dinosaurs meeples are removed, with all used in a 5 player game. The remaining dinosaur meeples are put into the drawstring bag, with the die being given to the youngest player to start the game.
Draftosaurus is played out over two rounds, each consisting of 6 turns. Note, this is slightly different in a 2 player game, though the total number of dinosaurs taken remains constant. At the start of a round, each player draws 6 dinosaur meeples from the bag, attempting to keep them hidden from the other players.
On a turn one player rolls the placement restriction die. The roller can ignore the result while all other players must follow the restriction. Choosing one of the dinosaur meeples from their hand, each player places a dinosaur into their park following any restrictions. Everyone then passes their hand of meeples onto the player to their left, with the die also being passed on clockwise. The die is rolled by a new player, everyone takes a second dinosaur meeple – again adding it to their park following the new restriction. Play continues like this until all meeples are taken. At this point either round two commences, with players drawing more meeples from the bag, or round two is over and scoring starts.
Each dino pen on the player board scores differently, and players may not always be able to place where they want due to restrictions. Restrictions from the die come in the form of being one side of the river (one side of the player board), in the tree zone or rocky zone (each containing 3 pens) or even somewhere there isn’t a red T-Rex meeple.
Pens score based on what is in them, with each having unique requirements. These range from The Forest of Sameness, where only one type of dinosaur can be placed in the pen, to The Woody Trio, where the player will only score if they have exactly three dinosaurs there. There is even a Solitary Island pen which scores if it is the only dinosaur of its type in the park. If at any point the player cannot or doesn’t want to follow the restriction, the dinosaur can be placed in the river but it’ll only score a single point – not a great return compared to the pens.
Draftosaurus comes with double sided player boards, the winter and summer variants. The same logics are applied but the scoring locations are a tad different. For example, on the summer side, on top of the pen for up to 6 dinosaurs of a single type, there is a pen for pairs. On the winter variant these are somewhat merged into a pen for 3 pairs of dinosaurs. The winter side does require a touch extra thinking and planning, with the river being often used a little more.
Having this variety straight out of the box is a strength of the game. While all players must use the same one, it means the game can stay fresher for longer. When playing back to back games players can simply flip the board after the first game and a similar experience with a twist can commence.
The artwork works well with the weight of the gameplay – all being family friendly. The two sides of the board are visually different, though the graphical design means it is clear which zones are which. Also, the slight use of icons allows players to swiftly see where they can or cannot place dinosaurs based upon the dice roll.
Alas, the game’s greatest visual strength is also its greatest weakness. The dinosaurs meeples are all awesomely shaped and are vibrantly colourful. Though, the colours are so distinctive even a flash of colour and you can tell what someone else has in their hand. Thankfully, Draftosaurus isn’t the world’s most competitive drafting title. If you want to take it super seriously though this would be a problem. The only other component complaint is there could have been a scoreboard to have made counting scores a tiny bit easier – though gamers won’t exactly be struggling mental maths wise.
The game works well at all player counts. As with many drafting titles everyone chooses from their hand at the same time so the downtime is low, and this doesn’t significantly increase when more players join. Due to removing a selection of dinosaurs during setup it is rather satisfying that all in the bag are used during play. This is still true for a two player game but not all are selected. This isn’t to say the game isn’t worth playing at 2, it just doesn’t have the same tension of little to choose from, while every meeple is claimed in 3+ player games.
Draftosaurus is a very light drafting title, that can easily be taught. There isn’t a huge amount of depth, so this isn’t a title for those wanting a huge strategic drafting experience. Still, the short playtime and the vibrancy of the title sets it up to be a great first drafting game, with the twist of not having cards. The theme could be anything but the one chosen works well. The colourful dinosaur meeples certainly catch players attention and are the stand out element of the experience. For the sake of 10 – 15 minutes Draftosaurus is a game to play and for some it’ll sit nicely in their collection.
(Editor’s Note: Draftosaurus was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, find your local store here.)