WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Funko Games
Designed by: Prospero Hall
This review will be as spoiler free as possible. Whenever there is anything close to a spoiler I will give you warning and let you know how much to skip if you want to avoid it by giving the spoiler section blue font.
This is a legacy game. This means you will be doing things each adventure that permanently change your game. There is a prologue you can play as often as you like to get into the swing of the game and rules. We played it once. It's pretty simple. And then you have 11 adventures. 10 main missions and a finale you can play over and over again.
I don't think any review of this game can start without referring to the Dice Tower video, where four separate people all scored this a 3/10. A three!? If you want to read my thoughts, that will come at the end, scroll on down if you want. I will also leave off the usual set up and how to play as that will spoil the surprises in this legacy game. And the pictures will only be of things you can see in the prologue, bar the empty box shot! But first, we will address the concerns of the Dice Tower crew. This was what they said they did not like about the game.
Set up time is too long. Too many new rules each round.
The game is on the rails. Felt procedural. You couldn't make plans for your turns as you just follow the games. The game plays you.
And yet the game didn't change enough each round.
Boring mini games.
Hard to understand mini games.
The game is not fun. The game is tedious.
The game is not a puzzle to solve. Just steps to follow.
The game plays you.
The game is luck based.
Let's get into those points, one by one.
Set Up Time. Too many new rules each round.
It does takes a while to set each game up. They are right to say this. There is a new envelope to open each game with new rules, characters, buildings etc. (trying to avoid spoilers) and without that development, you would not be playing a legacy game. I appreciate with other legacy games you don't get a new rule book each time, but its not much to take in. Not that much changes in truth. Some rule books have no new rules in. Just set up instructions, which is generally the same each time. And the objectives for that adventure. It's a bit more like My City, where you also get a new rule book each game and it just adds a few tweaks each time. But knowing the base game, adding a few new rules (when it does have them) really is not that difficult. And this is more about introducing new things each game so you don't have them all thrown at you in game one. I would therefore disagree on the rules part.
But sure, set up is around 20-40 minutes each game, depending on which envelope you are opening. There is a lot to put out. And some episodes have more new things than others. However, I had the luxury of leaving the game out on my gaming table for a month whilst I played this, so it wasn't too bad for me, and I found the discovery of new things each game to be exciting and a huge part of the experience. I did not see it as a chore. As I left it out, set up was more than 10-20 minutes for me. And that was time I enjoyed.
The game is on the rails. It felt procedural. You couldn't make plans for your turns as you just follow the games. The game plays you.
This is the big one. And I suppose it's subjective to each person. All I can say is that from my experience, and from my son with whom I played the game, we felt VERY different. The game is on rails in the way any legacy game is. You will always open envelope one then two, then three etc. You will always have the same objectives to complete when you play episodes nine etc. So, perhaps they mean more in the game itself. You feel you just need to complete missions as prescribed by the game. Yes, yes you do. They are your objectives. But it's up to you how you do this. What order you do this in is your decision. And there is a lot of variety with how your board will look at any point based on actions you made previously which could affect how it plays out. And then of course there is the small matter of the dinosaurs roaming around the park. Which is random and different each round. As such, I just do not get this. Did they want an open-world game where you could just walk around and do what you want? I think this criticism is more about expectation vs reality than analysis.
MINOR SPOILER AHEAD.
The game follows the movies. So, yes, it is on rails if you consider it is going to re-enact the main moments from the films. if it didn't, people would wonder why they bothered paying the big bucks to use the franchise and then not follow the story. As such, I am fine with this. If it is on rails, it is for a reason. To tell the story.
OK, Spoilers over.
Each mission plays over five rounds, and each round the first thing you do is reveal that rounds event card. That event will typically throw up a new problem, challenge or objective. Each round you don't complete this objective you will suffer a consequence. Suffer five or more consequences and you will lose the game. Technically this is procedural. But it is also a structure. Most games have a structure.
Personally, I enjoyed the process of working my way through each objective. It made the game feel constantly tense and on a knife edge. I was always close to losing when I won. I was also never far from victory when I lost. The balance was perfect and this was created by the park constantly needing my attention. It was never calm, not for a single turn. OK, maybe one or two in the prologue! But generally, I never had the chance to walk around and admire my handy work. Something was always going wrong, or needed my attention. You know. Like the movies!! I am left unsure knowing exactly what they were expecting?
And saying you couldn't make plans. Well yes, you cannot do that, as you don't always know what will come up. But you can hazard a guess that leaving a carnivore in sight of a defenceless park visitor may not be a good idea. Perhaps you need to herd them out the way, move the followers, or build some fences. All of this can be planned an executed. But the reason why they are saying this I think was because each round a new objective would come up meaning you have to adapt to whatever was thrown at you, rather than plan from turn one how you will get to where you need to be by turn five. You cannot do that here as you don't know what will go wrong until it happens. This is a great part of the evolving story. I suppose if you want this gone you could just reveal the five objectives at the start, but where is the fun in that? If you had the choice, which would you pick?
And yet the game didn't change enough each round.
Two thoughts here. One. What game does change that much each game? Genuine question. Even legacy games where new things come in, it's still the same game with the same core mechanics and theme.
Two. But it does change! Oh my how it changes. And in so many very cool ways too! It makes me think they didn't play it all, but they claim they did, so I will leave that alone. But MINOR SPOILER ALERT episode six alone argues this point with one little sticker alone. It changes so much in game six! SO SO MUCH!
So, on this one issue they had, I just flat disagree. The game evolves and adapts in a huge way.
Boring mini games.
Ok, this may be where they are coming from when they make the above point about the game not changing enough. The mini games are not the most exciting, but they are just one part of each game. They don't really change in the game. But it's just one mechanic of the round. And I am unsure how much it could change? One mini game is about restoring power to the park. The park always needs power. It often turns off. Why would getting the power back on change significantly each time? I suppose it may be more fun if it was a different process each time, but thematically, why would that be the case? The power has to go out more than once and the way to get it back on should be relatively the same. It's just a mechanic of the game. It's a process you go through. As such, this just seems like another off criticism to me. Based on them clearly having a bad experience with this game. I found the mini games tense, and challenging. Trying to achieve them each mission within the time frame was always hard to do. And achieving success with them felt great. Yes, there were the same each time, but they were far from boring for me.
Hard to understand mini games.
Now this I just don't understand. They are very simple. I won't explain them here as it will be too much of a spoiler. But they are incredibly easy to learn and do. Tricky to achieve with the limited actions. But not hard at all in terms of understanding them.
The game is not fun. The game is tedious.
This is obviously subjective. But from 150 ratings on BGG, the current rank is 7.5. So, the current general conscientious is that The Dice Tower got this wrong. But again, these are just opinions, and everyone is obviously entitled to their opinion. I think their score just irked me so much as they gave it a three, all four of them. A three! If it was a six I would get it. If it was just one of them with a three, or maybe two, fine. We all like different things. It wasn't for them. But a three from all of them suggests the game is broken or terrible. A three says to me that it just isn't any fun, as they say many times is the case. And I simply cannot agree with that. It was a rip-roaring adventure through the movies that I adored and I cannot fathom how anyone could score it a three. And this is my heavily edited version where I am trying to be nice and open minded. My only conclusion is they rushed through the 12 games to get their review out. And in doing so, ruined the experience for themselves by playing them all too close together. Making them feel procedural and boring. Would you play any other game 12 times in a row with no other games in-between? A game that takes over an hour I mean. Probably not. And if you did, you may get tired of it and think it stale. I understand the pressure to get reviews out quickly. And I respect their desire to play the whole thing, if they in fact did. But if this is the reason their review was tainted then what was the point in the rush? I played over a month with other games played in-between and I loved it.
The game is not a puzzle to solve. Just steps to follow.
We have covered this a little when they said the game was on rails but I wanted to leave this as a separate complaint to cover this one point. Any puzzle is solved by following steps. Very few puzzles have multiple ways to solve them correctly. So, yes, you have to follow those steps. But the steps are not overtly obvious, and I certainly did not win every game. In fact, I lost more than I won. It was hard to solve this puzzle correctly each game. Mainly as I ran out of time and actions, and the main puzzle with this game was finding a way to do all the things you needed to do within the time you have and the actions available to you.
I am intrigued to know how many games the Dice Tower team won and lost. If they lost a few, then this point is invalid. If you are just following steps, but loosing, you are not following them very well, or perhaps, the steps were never there to follow in the first place. Which I would suggest is the case. This is a game that sets you a challenge each mission. If you cannot quite achieve it, then that suggests to me it is more down to strategy that procedure. If there were steps to follow, how could you lose? However, maybe they did win them all. If so, then perhaps I am just terrible as this game and they have a point. They followed the steps and won every time, with no joy as it was just following steps. But I doubt this was the case. As that contradicts their other points, and they talk about losing at least one game in their review. So, I assume they did loose some games, and this point is perhaps less valid to me than it seems.
Talking to a few other people who have played this, it seems most people win and lose in similar ratios. No one I have spoken too has breezed through this game. I myself lost more than I won. But this is not about if this game is easy or not. It's about if this is a game with steps to follow. And for me, if lots of games are lost, then this cannot be the case. Or the steps are too confusing. Which is not the case.
(The state of my box at the end)
The game is luck based.
It certainly is luck based. Like any game with dice, or cards that can come out in a random order. This game, like thousands before it, has some luck in it. So, this argument is somewhat tired. Therefore, the question shouldn't be, 'is this luck based?', and more, 'does the luck out way the strategy?' For me, the answer is no. For example, the dice and cards control the movement of the Dinosaurs. This is the main way you can get lucky or unlucky in this game. And you can get lucky or unlucky with this. It happened to me for sure. And it sounds like it happened to the Dice Tower crew too. But there are ways to mitigate your luck by scouting the cards to see what will happen before it happens so you can make a plan to control it. They said they won and lost a game by luck? I would argue the 55 turns they took before that affected the result too!
With the dice, when the dinosaurs attack, you can also make a strategy by herding the Dinosaurs, and moving location of the other characters on the board. You can decide which dinosaurs you are happy to let roam free and attack, and which ones you need to try and control. I did have one game, mission seven, when we lost down to an unlucky roll. We knew one dinosaur of two was going to have to attack. We could stop one, but not both. We didn't have enough actions left. We decided to let a specific one attack as the dinosaur it was going to attack one was that had the best defence, and it could defend against any one of the three attacks. It just couldn't take two hits, from rolling two of the same attack. Of course, that was what happened, and this led us to losing the game on the very final action of the game. It was frustrating to lose in this way, and luck had something to do with it, but this dinosaur had already taken one hit, we knew another would see it off. We took that risk. It was our choice. We knew it could happen and we made our decision. And in the moment, it was frustrating, but also hilarious!
But here is the key point. Losing is never fun. But in this game, we found it to be less concerning in terms of how it affected our game. Depending on if you win or lose, the game will either reward you with something to make your next game a little easier, or add something into the game to make it a little harder. Of course you want to win every game, but losing doesn't hurt you. You are not scoring as such as you play. And unlike other legacy games, you don't repeat a mission if you lose. You move on, win or lose. I like this. There always seems to be progression, and it would take you out of the story a little if you had a re-do. And losing can help the next game with a little bonus next time. And it doesn't really feel like losing. It's a constant development through the story and sometimes in Jurassic Park, a dinosaur eats you off the toilet. There is not much you can do about that.
OK! with all that out of the way, what did I think of this game?
I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. And that is how I would rate this. More of an experience than a game. As a game, it's OK. But like many legacy games, as an experience, this is where it shines. From game one, I was captivated by the theme and story behind this. For me, a huge fan of the films, I enjoyed all the nods to the movies I hold so dear. For my son (9) with whom I played this, he enjoyed the developing story line, and multitude of dinosaurs we had the chance to encounter. There is a lot I want to say to give you my full thoughts, but to avoid spoilers, here are my spoiler free opinions broken down by the main points. Starting with a spoiler!
The Story - MINOR SPOILER ALERT
I loved this part of the game. It felt like it was constantly changing with new characters, new dinosaurs, and new rules. All linked and themed perfectly back to the movies. If you like the Jurassic Park story from the movies, you will like this.
The way this game developed over the missions was fantastic. The difficulty ramped up perfectly based on your previous games success or failure, and it always felt like there was something new to try or do each game. I looked forward to opening each envelope between the games, learning what new things would come to the table. It was as much a part of the experience to learn and set-up each new mission as it was to play it. This was crucial to my feelings for the game overall. Looking forward to this process instead of dreading it and wanting to just get on with the game each time allowed me to enjoy the entire process. With a game that has 13 rule books, it was be wrong to go into it with any other attitude. I wanted to enjoy this game, like I want to enjoy every game I play.
Perhaps this is an example of unconscious bias, forming my opinion to be more positive that it otherwise would have been. But this is something I have never understood in games. Why wouldn't everyone do this all the time? If I am looking for a game I want to play 100 times, then sure, maybe I would be more critical in the first five games or so, to see if I want to play it 95 more times. But for a game like this, that changes each time, that I can only really play properly12 times, why wouldn't I just try and make it fun throughout?
That said, this wasn't difficult to make this fun. It was fun from the off for me. I am commenting on this as I think it is crucial to your own enjoyment of this game. Clearly The Dice Tower crew went into this with a different attitude. Maybe feeling they had to play it too quickly to get their review done. Whereas, I never played this as I felt I had too. I played this as I constantly was thinking about it. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. It was like enjoying a good TV series where I wanted to binge it as I wanted to have all the information about what happens in my head as quickly as possible.
This was made possible from the build. There was always something new and exciting to discover and do. The game was forever evolving. It lured me back with its promise of change which it delivered on game after game.
The most important part of a legacy game is the pay off. Does it deliver a significant finale, worthy of the build up. Even if the game's leading up to the end were great, if the last game does not send you off with a suitable bang, I am always left feeling a little deflated.
With Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla this is certainly not the case. The finale is epic. It feels different enough to make it stand out. But you are also doing the things you are now familiar with and feel trained and ready to accomplish. The game has to to follow the movies so there is only so much they can do with this, but it feels satisfactory. It feels epic. It was a very pleasing end to a wonderful experience. If a little easy compared to some of the previous adventures.
The second most important part of a legacy game in my opinion is what sort of game are you left with. No matter the fun I had with the game during the legacy campaign, I want something at the end. It doesn't have to be as good. It can't be really, with the surprises of the legacy experience all spent. But it should be a fun game you want to play again. I don't want to chuck it away afterwards. It should be playable and fun. SPOILER ALERT
In this game you are left with a board that is your own. Covered with your own work. And you can replay the finale over and over at your hearts content. It has a few minor tweaks to make it repayable, and the final game is such that I would rate it a 6.5 as a one off game. It obviously loses a lot with the legacy elements over. But the game itself is solid and one I can see myself playing on occasions when I want my dino fix. It is also nice that the board is now my own. Personal to my experience playing through the legacy missions. I like having access to all the dinosaurs and choose which ones to play with. I will forever hold this game dear from the memories it gave me and the board is a lasting reminder of that.
With all that said, is this game worth getting for you? I think there are three key things to consider.
The price. This is not a cheap game. You need to consider this for your own budget. What I would say is that the legacy effect forces you to play the game at least 12 times, which for me makes it worth it. One prologue. 10 adventures and one epic finale. Makes it less than an Exit game per adventure.
The theme. If you love Jurassic Park then I think you will love this too. Unless you work for the Dice Tower of course and are forced to play the game in a few days! I cannot see many fans of the films not get something from this. It's very true to the franchise.
The legacy effect. If you want a game where you are ripping up cards, learning new things each game, and playing a constantly evolving entity, this could be for you. There are not many legacy games out there, so the choice is limited. I would say Pandemic Season One is the best, but this was great fun for my son and I to play.
I hope that was helpful to allow you to make up your own mind. Legacy games are always tricky to review, but I endeavoured to cover all the key points that came up, both as I played it, and as I read and watched what others had said about it.
My personal feelings having now finished the game are entirely positive. I wish I could wipe my mind and do it all again. If they made a follow up, (although I have no idea how that would work, but if they did), I would be very keen to play that as well. I loved every minute with this box, win and lose. It has created some lasting memories for my son and I that I will treasure for ever. It made me fall in love with the franchise even more deeply, (despite how bad the final few films were) and having finished the missions now, I am still finding myself falling asleep thinking about certain moments in the missions we played. It captivated my mind for a month and I think it will continue to do so for a while to come.