WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-5
Published by: Board Game Goose
Designed by: Dan Hayball
I first saw Raptor Island at UKGE 2021 and picked up a demo copy where I made the below video. I instantly fell in love with the theme, being a big fan of 90's Dinosaur based movies! And found the game to be, fast, fun, and very accessible.
I then saw designer Dan Hayball again at UKGE 22 and managed to get my hands on one of the final production copies, which was very lucky as he sold out at the fair. In fact, he sold out his entire web stock too!
As such, this review has been on hold for a while whilst Dan waited for a re-stock to come in, but I can happily confirm that via this link or by clicking on the name of the game in this review you can go buy a copy of this great little card game if you so desire. But do you so desire? Well, let's talk about the game and how it works so you can set your desire levels to the appropriate level.
The above video will talk you through the set up and rules, but if you would rather read it, then here goes. There was a rule change since then around the set-up which I will explain below.
Each player draws three cards from the main deck. If anyone draws a card with the trigger immediately sign, then they must discard these and redraw another card until they have three cards. This is the rule that changed since the video where I said you don't replace them and have a reduced hand count. Although I suppose this could be a hard mode variant?!
Once this is done, any Trigger Immediately cards are shuffled back into the deck. The game then starts with the first player drawing one card. They can then play as many cards as they wish, or none, before handing over to the next player. Players are looking to collect two Dinosaur DNA cards in their hand, and two Fuel cards collectively, before playing an Escape the Island card to win the game.
The Fuel cards are played into a separate pile on the table for all to see, and become a shared resource. You cannot win by holding two fuel cards in your hand, they must be played into the central space for all to see. So, this means that everyone can use them, and everyone knows what stage this part of the end game mechanic is at at all times. Although of course, some players may be storing some in their hand to stockpile these useful cards and hide their current status.
If you ever draw a Raptor card you must immediately play this in front of you. You need to try to get rid of this Raptor as soon as possible using one of the various cards in the deck that dispose of these pesky critters! If you ever end a turn with a Raptor in front of you that was there at the start of your turn, you are eaten and must shuffle all your cards in hand back into the deck and effectively start again. But as this rule only kicks in at the end of the next turn, you generally will have at least one draw from the main deck to try and find a card to help with your plight.
As well as the obvious set collection, the games main mechanic is take-that, and there are some really fun cards in the deck that allow you to mess with the other players. Take-that can be tough to take in games but I find always works when at least one of three things are in play. 1. The take-that isn't too bad and easy to recover from. 2. The Take-that happens all the time to all players so doesn't ever make anyone feel picked on. 3. The game is so short that you don't mind if the take-that makes you loose as you can just shuffle up and play again. Well, all three are very much in play here, so the take-that is just hilarious fun. Sure, some cards may make you loose, and in a two-player game you will obviously be targeted! But the games are so quick, it works great.
My favourite cards are the Sabotage cards where you can take a much needed item from another players hand, who also has to reveal their entire hand to you when you target them with this card. very useful when the game is in its latter stages and you want to check on the progress of another player. I also love the Raptor eggs, which you place in front of another player, and then when the next Raptor is drawn by any player, it goes directly to the player with the eggs instead of to the person who draw the card. Reminds me of a certain someone, from a certain movie getting very wet in the forest.
Other important cards in the deck at the Gallimimus and Safehouse Key cards. The Gallimimus card forces you to search the main deck for an Dino DNA card and add it to your hand. This not only gives you the chance to get one step closer to winning, but it also gives you an idea as to how many other Dino DNA cards are in there, and subsequently, how many are in the hands of the players at the table. Crucial information. Not that you wouldn't have been already trying to win as quickly as possible. But you can now perhaps play that Sabotage card you have been holding onto to check on another players status if there were not many DNA cards left in the deck.
The Safehouse key is perhaps one of the most powerful cards in the deck. There are only two of them in the game, and when played, you can search the discard pile for any ITEM you want, but then you must shuffle the discard pile and any Raptor cards in play back into the main deck. The Safehouse Key itself will be left in the new discard pile to avoid it being used to often. This is the only way the discard pile will ever be shuffled back into the deck, so is a great card to play when things are looking bad for you, and you need more time, or more cards. Or indeed, a good card to play when are doing well and want to make the deck less dangerous for you, but reducing the chances of drawing a Raptor card. All this depends on how many Raptor cards are out already.
The end game mechanic where all players are looking for two Dino DNA cards that they keep secret in their hand, and two Fuel cards which must be played into the shared Fuel reserve is such a simple one, but raises the tension in the game so much and makes playing Raptor Island so much more fun! Knowing when the Fuel cards are in play and anyone at any point is potentially one turn away from winning changes the dynamic so much. If you are ever falling behind on the search for Dino DNA, but there are two Fuel cards, the Triceratops card can be a very useful addition! When drawn, the Triceratops has to be played immediately and will charge at your resources and remove one fuel from the stockpile. Sometimes this can be a real pain for other players. But other times, it can swing the game a big way. Similarly, the Compsognathus card forces a player to discard a Dino DNA card if they have one. Great fun if they just played the Sabotage and stole a Dino DNA from someone else and then instantly lose it!
The game is great fun. Each game lasts between five and fifteen minutes. As such, I have never played just one game of this. At the end of the first game I am always keen for more and regularly sit down to play five or so games back-to-back. It is such a funny card game. It never fails to bring laughter and joy to my gaming table. It scratches the itch of wanting to play a game with my family and is so accessible with the teach and set-up, you will be up and running with a game of Raptor Island within seconds. All this means it just gets to the table more often. I love more complex heavy games but feel the need for quick, lighter, fun family games like this to ensure I can game at all times and at all occasions. To play Raptor Island you simply take the cards out the box, give them a quick shuffle, decide who will be first player, and begin! What a joy!
The back and forth of the take-that, the partial knowledge of what others have, and the fuel card stockpile, combined with the gorgeous and deeply engrossing dinosaur art all make this a firm favourite for us. We take it everywhere and regularly play before meals and when waiting for friends. The cards are a good stock, and its priced fairly at £15. I absolutely adore this little game. And did I mention the gorgeous card art...