You awaken, staring down on a foggy distant realm. As you come to focus, thoughts flit through your mind of a dense jungle. Where you are looking as if by magic, it fades into existence. You try again – this time a mountain. It appears. Hmm. You think of rabbits, and they too appear in a flock on some grasslands. What is this? Are you a God? It seems so. Well, what better to do then play Dinosaur Breeding Simulator! Gods Love Dinosaurs after all!
2-5 Players | 1 Hour | Designed by Kasper Lapp
To be honest it’s a bit weird that it took so long for Pandasaurus Games, an ostensibly dinosaur themed publishing company, to publish their second (maybe third if we count Duelosaur Island) dinosaur themed game. Thankfully it looks like they are back on the rails with future publications of Dinosaur World and Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write in the pipelines. Gods Love Dinosaurs is a 2020 release adding to Pandasaurus’ quickly expanding catalogue of modern, streamlined and well produced games.
How does it work?
Gods Love Dinosaurs is a tile laying game with a prominent resource management element in the form of animal breeding and feeding. At the beginning of the game, each player is given a starter ecosystem populated with one of each prey animal and a single dinosaur. Players take turns drafting new tiles to add to their ecosystem, growing the various habitats and adding animals. Throughout the game various breeding and feeding phases will occur. Players aim to gain as many dinosaurs as possible, and as they are at the top of the food chain, a lot of smaller animals will need to be sacrificed to create them!
On a turn, a player simply selects a tile from the display of available tiles, and adds it to their ecosystem. There are very few restrictions on how you can add this tile, however you will likely want to place it to grow your existing habitats (so, adjacent to like types of terrain). Some tiles come with new animals on them and placing these where they can breed is also a consideration.
Taking a tile may trigger an animal breeding phase. There are three types of these: prey, predator, and dinosaur! In a prey breeding phase, prey animals reproduce. You simply gain one prey for each existing one (they double) so long as there is space for them nearby their parents. Predators are a bit more interesting. They will need to hunt and eat prey animals, at least one to stay alive (or they will die and be removed from the board), and for each additional one they will breed. Dinosaurs will rampage around the landscape looking for the larger and more filling predator animals to eat – and for each one they find they will lay an egg. Eggs are points so you want to maximise your dinosaur’s available food supply!
As each player gets to make the decisions regarding which of their animals are eaten during the predator and dinosaur breeding phases, they are in control of balancing their ecosystem and mainataining the food chain. If you are too greedy then your predators may starve later when there are no prey left to eat, stalling your dinosaur proliferation! Gameplay continues until the stacks of available tiles are depleted. If you carefully managed your ecosystem, you may well have been the God who Loved Dinosaurs the most (demonstrated by your healthy and numerous dinosaur population!)
What do I think?
I’ve played the game several times at this stage with 2 to 5 players. I’ve found that games tend to run a little over the printed time of 30-45 mins, mostly taking a bit over an hour. This is probably because the crowd I play with tends to be a bit more analytical and this game can really trap you in some heavy decision making situations!
The Good Stuff
- Gods Love Dinosaurs has lovely, engaging artwork and production, with an amazing set of custom animeeples to match! It’s amazing how far animeeple technology has come in my lifetime, no longer are we having to imagine that white cubes are sheep – we actually have tiger meeples to play with!
- This game’s rulebook is well laid out and teaches the game well. The rules are concise and descriptive, with plenty of examples and diagrams. I think this is one of the few games we didn’t make any rules mistakes in first play!
- It’s a quick game to teach, but the low complexity rules that allow for lots of combination of strategy. While each type of animal varies in the way it can move and breed, the core rules are shared so there’s only a little to remember that’s unique to each one.
- There are so many different ways to solve the puzzle and many strategies are available that allow for a high score. Of course carefully managing and balancing your ecosystem will reward you with lots of dinosaurs, but it’s also possible to scrounge a lot of eggs from simply acquiring predators to feed directly to your dinos.
- The way the game’s tiles are broken up into groups reflects the thought that has gone into making sure the game flows smoothly each play and doesn’t stall due to a ‘bad shuffle’.
- As any Uwe lover will tell you – there is nothing more satisfying than breeding animals and doing it efficiently! GLD lets you take this to the extreme, and design your own ecosystem. It’s extremely satisfying to have a couple of really good turns breeding prey animals, and then hoovering most of them up with predators before going on a big dinosaur rampage.
- In terms of learning curve, the game will punish you early for making mistakes, so you can learn and improve. You might lose a dinosaur or predator to starvation in the early game but you likely won’t make that mistake again!
- As someone who is a fan of the ‘do your own thing and the only person who can mess you up is yourself’ type of game, I like that each player is working on their own habitat in GLD. Of course the shared part of the game is the tile drafting and one of the critical parts of this is when to trigger animal breeding. This is a fantastic mechanic – often a quick look around the table will leave you smiling and spite-triggering rabbit breeding because the other players aren’t ready for it yet.
The Bad Stuff
- This is somewhat of an engine building game, and I’ve found it’s quite easy to stall your engine by making a small mis-calculation. Depending on when in the game it happens this can have pretty severe consequences and leave you feeling deflated, especially if you (like me) refuse to pivot strategies soon after you realise a mistake has been made.
- Setup for less than 5 players can be a little tedious as tiles need to be separated.
- Where are the meteors? Maybe the expansion can add a dexterity element where we get to toss meteors over opponent’s habitats. Pretty sure the best part of playing god in SimCity was the meteors.
- Because the breeding rules are a little bit different to other games it can take a few breeding phases to fully explain the nuances and mechanics around the mechanism. I think this could be improved with some small diagrams on the game-board near the breeding area (for example, the prey could show themselves duplicating into adjacent like hexes with arrows, and the predators could have a small diagram showing their movement options)
- The included insert for the game isn’t great for keeping all the pieces in place during storage and transport. I find the tiles always slip out of their slot and go everywhere.
- Not having much control over when your animals breed can get very frustrating, especially if you are caught out one step behind several times in a row.
- I think one of the critical elements of this game is the fact that you do need to do some planning to have a sucessful ecosystem. Planning is a big element in heavy games, but in lighter (family/gateway) games planning is often a much smaller element. Some players tend to enjoy lighter games because they can just make a decision on each turn about what to do and don’t need to do much planning to be sucessful. While Gods Love Dinosaurs presents as a lighter family weight game, planning is a big aspect. I think it’s great that it might help push players towards learning and enjoying these skills, but some players just simply won’t enjoy this aspect of what is otherwise a generally light game. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it is possible to go well in the game without much planning, but it’s not as easy to excel without planning ahead.
I was pretty surprised by Gods Love Dinosaurs. Looking at the initial press materials it came off as a Carcasonne-weight game that would offer a similar level of gameplay. In terms of the rules burden, this is true, but the game is so much more. It is something that is so easy to pull out and teach, but a few minutes in and the new players are thinking ‘Uh wow, this is hard!’, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean that there is a lot of scope in how you can play the game and you need to be careful with your fragile ecosystem! I think this is a great game to push people a bit further towards heavier games in a friendly way, and I’m overall impressed with the quality of the design and production. If you are into tile laying games and looking for something that takes them to the next level, I think Gods Love Dinosaurs might be a good fit for you! Keep an eye out for it at your local game shop, or get it from the Pandasaurus Games store!
The copy of Gods Love Dinosaurs used for this review was provided to The Boardgame Detective by Pandasaurus Games.