Dinosaur World is the brand new dinosaur themed worker placement and park building board game from Pandasaurus Games. Designed by Brian Lewis, David McGregor and Marissa Misura, the game sees 2 – 4 players become Jurassic Park creators. Visitors will need to be excited, boredom will set in with old attractions and jeeps are ready to be ridden around the parks. However, is the game DN-Awesome or DN-Awful? Let’s find out!
With three central tiles boards, a score and excitement tracker, piles of dinosaur meeples and personal player boards to set up, it’s best for all players to muck in. While in your first game the rulebook suggests some starting tiles, players can draft for their starting Dino Paddock and Special Building to build into their park, alongside their welcome center. Three random objectives are selected and revealed, offering gamers a few different routes to follow during the game to get additional points. Each player sets their standard DNA trackers to 2 and advanced DNA tracks to 1. Finally, the players set their dino threat and security to 0, and pick their initial jeep bonus.
Played out over 5 rounds, each round follows the same 5 phases. These are always performed in a set order, with some following a turn order and others able to be performed simultaneously. First up each round is the hire workers phase, where a number of worker database cards are revealed based on the player count. In turn order each player gets to draft one of these cards, each depicting a unique selection of 9 coloured meeples. Each player gains the meeples depicted to use throughout the round.
Next up is the public action phase, which consists of 4 actions on the central boards. At the start of this phase a number of DNA dice are rolled, and added to the spaces on the central board – which indicate how many should be placed based on player count. In turn order players can then choose to take one of the 4 actions or pass. Sending meeples to the DNA dice action sees the player choose a dice and claim the depicted DNA, the amount multiplied by the meeple count (up to 3). If a blue scientist meeple is sent there, for each the player gains an extra DNA, which is all added to their storage on their personal player board.
Going to the Dino Park space costs two meeples of any colour or a single green administrator meeple – plus the coin cost of which dino paddock tile they wish to build in their park. The only limitation is that two paddocks cannot be built adjacent, only adjacent to other tile types. Special buildings only require one meeple of any colour to be built, and the attractions don’t need any meeples – both still coming with a coin cost. These tiles help fill out your park, giving you options for the jeep phase later in the round.
Once everyone has passed then play moves onto the private actions phase. Importantly, players will want to save some meeples for this phase and the next one – so don’t spend them all in the public phase! Private actions are all on your player board, and all require one meeple. The DNA Refinement action allows the player to combine basic DNA into advanced to split advanced DNA back out into basic parts. Players can get coins to spend by using the VC Funding spaces. Beef up your security via the surprisingly named security action spaces or increase your jeeps range at the Jeeple Garage.
The real reason players are doing (almost) all of this is to take the make dinosaur action. This sees the player spend a meeple, DNA and then place a dinosaur meeple into a slot in a dino paddock. Each dinosaur increases the excitement of the tile it’s placed on, scores the player points instantly and, unfortunately, raises the threat level of that player’s park. Most of these actions have bonuses if the correct meeple colour is used, such as bonus income from administrators doing VC funding or a purple park ranger upgrading your jeep.
When everyone is done with private actions it’s time to drive about the parks. This can be done simultaneously, seeing players move their jeep across the tiles of their park. Each jeep has a tile limit, which is increased via the jeep garage being upgraded. For each tile the jeep drives onto they can be activated, sometimes costing a specific colour meeple. Activated tiles create excitement, which is converted to money later on, though these then gain a level of boredom. Boredom simply detracts from the excitement created, even making it negative in some cases. Activated tiles can also see players gain DNA, make dinosaurs, earn victory points and even bump up their security.
Before each round finishes there’s a cleanup phase. Players gain their jeep bonuses, money income from excitement and importantly turn order is readjusted based on lowest to highest victory points. Players then evaluate their park’s threat, finding the difference between their security and threat level. If their threat is higher they take the difference as death tokens, those poor visitors! The next round then begins, with the only exception being able to move your welcome center at the end of round 3.
At the end of the 5th round it is time to determine the winner. On top of the points earnt during the game, players discard in multiples of 5 coins for 1 point. Determining the player with the fewest death tokens, all players discard as many tokens as that lowest player. After this all players still with death tokens lose points as based on a table in the rulebook. Whoever then has the most points wins, with ties split by leftover DNA.
Choices are offered to the player throughout the entire game. From the very offset each player picks a jeep upgrade. While not unique to each player it does mean each player can get completely different benefits. Drafting the visitor cards, means players can also limit their opponents’ options. For example, if most cards don’t offer many scientists, taking that card could hamper the DNA collection of your opponents that round.
Players need to walk a fine balance between multiple elements. Not just the most obvious, the balancing of threat and security. Gamers also need to balance how much they build up and out their park, with how many movements their jeep has and the meeples they have left. With meeples used across public, private and jeep based actions it is easy to forget and use that specific coloured meeple you wanted to hold onto for later in the round.
There’s no denying that Dinosaur World looks phenomenal. With brilliant artwork across the attractions and dinosaur pens, there are little touches that bring the equally entertaining named places to life. An incredible example of this are the T-Rexes bobbing about in the water on the T-Rex Jet Ski special building! Then, adding another splash of colour are some epic dino meeples, in three distinct shapes and colour – making them easy to tell apart and bumping up the production quality even higher.
Dinosaur World is one of very few games that requires a full on table to be played on. With components filling almost every inch of my table by the end of the game. Whilst dominating the table there is still one aspect which lets the game down by being tiny. These are the boredom tokens – which players do need to interact with throughout the experience. Boredom is frustrating in a positive way as part of the gameplay, being something to work around. Unfortunately, being fiddly means boredom is frustrating in a bad way too. A second slight annoyance is due to a misprint on the reminder cards. These are supposed to be helpful cards to just remind new players of the actions, yet they have the meeple requirements of 2 public actions around the wrong way.
With all of these uses for meeples, a variety of tiles to construct, jeep routes to plan, threat and security to balance and all while generating excitement and points, it is fair to say there is a lot going on at once. Dinosaur World might be bright and colorful but it is by no means a light family friendly experience. Many aspects which the original Dinosaur Island was loved for have been kept, the awesome chunky amber DNA dice, the process of making dinosaurs and the park itself – albeit now being hexagon shaped tiles.
Dinosaur World has taken these bits and added more, not quite complexity for complexity’s sake. Instead, it means each aspect of the park somewhat overlaps in importance, creating a variety of routes to get the DNA for dinosaurs for example. Dinosaur World feels like that step up from the original in many ways, and I can’t see myself going back to the island now the world is out there!
(Editor’s Note: Dinosaur World was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)