Dinosaur Island is a worker placement game designed by Jonathan Gilmour and Brian Lewis and published by Pandasaurus Games for 1 to 4 players that plays anywhere from 90-120 minutes depending on your game length choice.
In Dinosaur Island players are in charge of a dinosaur theme park. Some actions involve opening attractions, researching DNA to create dinosaurs in their lab, and creating new dinosaurs to try make their park the most exciting and get the most patrons through their turnstiles.
The game begins by choosing whether your group wants to play a short, medium, or long game, choose a number of objective cards based on the length you want and the amount of players involved in the game. You will also choose a number of ‘Plot Twist’ cards, these change or add rules to each game. Combined with the objective cards, plot twist cards ensure that you rarely play the exact game twice.
At the beginning of each round a number of dice are rolled to make up a pool of genes and bonuses available. Players take turns assigning their 3 scientists to spots that will allow them to acquire DNA or bonuses from the dice, increase their DNA cap so they can hold more DNA, acquire a new dinosaur paddock, or convert a scientist into a worker for a turn.
In the next phase, the market phase, players take turns spending money to gain new attractions, park upgrades, or specialists that will help them throughout the game. Once everyone has either passed or purchased two items the market phase ends and the next phase begins.
In this phase players are working on their individual parks so taking turns is not necessary as there is no interaction at this point. Players will place their workers (4 workers at the beginning) on spaces that will allow them to convert some DNA into more advanced DNA, use the DNA to create a new dinosaur for one of their paddocks, increase security, increase paddock capacity, or use other purchased upgrades. After everyone has finished their work the round ends and we bring in the guests. I hope your security is high enough.
Each player takes a number of meeples out of the bag based on the excitement level of each persons park and places them on empty spaces around their park, hooligans may have entered your park represented by purple meeples. Hooligans don’t give victory points or money during the scoring round and are the last to get eaten. After the meeples have been placed in the park we must then check to see if your security is up to snuff. If your park security is higher than the threat level then nothing bad happens and your patrons have a great day. If your security is lower than the threat level then your guests are about to have a very bad day. You will lose one meeple for each threat level above your security level. The remaining guests will give your park victory points, and maybe some added money depending on which attraction they visited.
After this final scoring round each person will clean up, putting meeples back into the bag and shifting the market items up the line and filling in the empty item spaces. Then it is time to do it all over again until all of the objective cards have been claimed. Then you will do a final scoring round and add on the victory points acquired from the objectives that you had claimed. Most points at the end wins!
Thoughts: Growing up I was a huge dinosaur geek. I loved dinosaurs! I was overjoyed when I finally got to watch Jurassic Park. I favourite computer game of mine was Dino Park Tycoon, so when I heard about this game I was very excited to play it. When I finally got it to the table I was not disappointed. There were plenty of dinosaurs that you could have in your park, and lots that you can do. It is a game in which you are trying to do better than the other players but it’s rarely cut throat passed someone buying something that you wanted before you could get it. The mechanics work well with the theme of building a park.
Right off the bat the game looks complicated especially with the amount of setup involved. There is indeed quite a bit of information to take in before you begin but everything is cut up into easy to manage chunks and is also very intuitive within the theme. Phase 1 and phase 3 is a simple worker placement mechanism. Phase 2 is a purchasing round. and Phase 4 is a scoring round. Then you wash, rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, and this is my one complaint, the rulebook does not reflect this. It is very wordy and things are hard to find and can be hard to follow.
As for the look of the game and the components, I have heard some people voice their distaste for the fluorescent colour pallet used in the art. Having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s it made me all nostalgic. I loved it, it also wasn’t using the bright colours for the sake of it either. The colours work well together and aren’t going to be an eyesore. The components are good quality plastic pieces and cardboard money as well. I would’ve preferred metal coins but those were only available in the Kickstarter Deluxe Edition at a higher price. I am happy with my purchase. The box is a bit heavy with all of the components inside which, if you remember the movie Jurassic park, means it’s expensive. It’s actually not too bad considering some games available like Gloomhaven which is well over $100 and is still the highest rated game on Board Game Geek at the moment. I got my copy for just around $70. In my personal opinion, well worth it.
For the Parents:
Violence: The only “violence” is having guest get eaten by dinosaurs. This is strictly mechanical and just consists of taking meeples off of your board.
Horror/Occult: Only if you consider dinosaurs scary.