WBG Score: 8/10
Player Count: 1–4
Published by: Pandasaurus Games
By Tom @buryboardgames
Dinosaur Island first came to Kickstarter in 2017. Upon release, it captured many gamers’ imagination, akin to how Jurassic Park enthralled cinema-goers back in 1993. When we saw that T. Rex stomp out of the paddock for the first time, jaws dropped. That was the moment we were ready to believe. That was when we dreamed that Michael Crichton’s science fiction could become real. Shove a few frog chromosomes into fossilised amber and bingo! Dino DNA.
Let’s not mince words. In Dinosaur Island, 2-4 player build their own Jurassic World – a zoological theme park. And, quoting the movie’s poster caption: ‘the park is open’. The public enter through the gates and enjoy the attractions. But mirroring Jurassic’s franchise reboot, if your park security isn’t up to scratch, assets could get out of containment. And then there’s running, and screaming…
The crux of the game sees you collecting different types of DNA, so you can build dinosaurs. The more dinosaurs you cook up in the lab, the more end-game points they’re worth. Plus, the higher your park’s Excitement Rating climbs – which attracts more visitors. But the more dinos you build, the higher the need for tip-top security measures!
Dinosaur Island is part-worker placement, part-tile purchasing. There’s set collection, dice, and action points to consider. And, like any Euro worth its salt, you have to manage your tight finances. (There’s a solo mode too, a feature becoming all the more popular and accepted in these COVID-19 times.)
Each player has their own A4 Park Board, representing their own Isla Nublar. (It’s not the actual island, but it might as well be! Dinosaur Island flirts with the Jurassic IP to quite the gushing, fan-boy level. Even the font on the box matches the movie poster! I’m amazed, in fact, that Universal Studios’s blood-sucking lawyers didn’t get involved…)
This mat comprises of an empty grid, bar-one simplistic herbivore paddock. Meaning, you start with one meagre dino in your park. Your second A4 mat is your Lab, which tracks your DNA quotas, lab facilities, and security levels. There’s no denying: even at a two-player count, this game is a table-hog. It’s footprint is as big as that famous Rex’s, squelched into the mud.
A Fly On The Wall In Dr. Wu’s Lab
The first phase is Research. Players take turns placing their three Scientists in a traditional worker placement fashion. It’s go-here-get-this, first-come, first-served, but with a few neat twists. Each of your Scientists have values: 1, 2, and 3. To claim a new type of dinosaur paddock tile, you have to send a Scientist of the appropriate value (or above). Want a low-risk, low-scoring herbivore? You can use any Scientist for this. Want a small carnivore – harder to create, but worth more points? That requires a 2- or 3-value Scientist. Large carnivores – high risk, high points – demand a 3-value Scientist. Once you claim the tile, you place it onto a vacant spot in your park.