🎶Familiar yet altered music plays🎶 Welcome to Dinosaur
IslandWorld! The Jurassic era themed park that is 100% legally distinct from any existing intellectual property! Dinosaurs have been around for anyone to see now for 10 years, and with local malls having the odd dinosaur display these days, it’s time to take theme parks to the next level. That means more thrills, more selfies, and a more tailored experience! Oh, don’t worry about those news stories … sure a couple of people have been eaten this year, but that would never happen to you!
1-4 Players | 2 Hours | Designed by Brian Lewis, David McGregor and Marissa Misura
Dinosaur World can be thought of as a sequel of sorts to Dinosaur Island, a previous Pandasaurus Games title. Brought to Kickstarter in October 2020 with a October 2021 delivery, the game has recently arrived in retail stores. Dinosaur World was released with three expansions which add different creatures to the game – Hybrid Pack, Water Pack and Ice Age Pack (I haven’t tried these yet so I won’t discuss them). The game also introduces the concept of a ‘Jeeple’, a masterful pun and very cute component.
How does it work?
Dinosaur World is a worker placement game with a bit of engine building mixed in. It is played over 5 rounds, after which the highest scoring park wins the game. Players start with two park tiles and a few dollars to their names, and from there build up a park over the subsequent rounds.
Each round has the following phases: Hire workers, Public Actions, Private actions, Jeeple Tour, and Income & Cleanup. In the Hire workers phase, players draft cards depicting a set of workers they will be able to use for that round. Players then take turns during public actions, which include getting DNA (used to make dinosaurs), and new tiles for your park, like rides, amenities, and of course, dinosaur enclosures!
After public actions are done, players will simultaneously perform private actions on their own player boards. This allows players to develop their park by creating dinosaurs, upgrading security, and improving their Jeeple (which is used in the tour phase). Workers need to be carefully rationed as they are needed to perform actions on both this phase and the previous, as well as in the next phase, the Jeeple Tour.
After everyone is done with their private actions, players will show off their parks by taking some patrons for a tour in their Jeeple. The Jeeple will traverse the park, stopping at the tiles and activating the tile’s effects. This will generate excitement and other benefits, but you need to manage your tours carefully as each time you visit a tile it becomes a bit more ‘boring’ to the tour patrons. There is also the ever present risk of ‘accidents’ on the tour resulting in patron deaths ….. but it’s only bad if it gets on the news, right? At the end of the round players will earn income based on the excitement they generated during their tour, and the next round will begin.
At the end of the game, Players get points for all the cool stuff in their park, especially their dinosaur collection. Hopefully players weren’t too reckless with security in their park, as having a lot of deaths on your hands can result in a big points hit. Whoever has the best score after factoring in deaths is crowned the winner!
What’s different from Dinosaur Island?
There are a lot of familiar elements in Dinosaur World if you’ve played Dinosaur Island. There’s a lot less to explain to players who have played the previous game as they share a lot of mechanics and iconography, which is useful. While the game play is fairly similar, Dinosaur World is a more streamlined game. Here are some key differences:
- Public actions (called Research and Market phases in Island) are combined into one phase and there are fewer options. You are not limited in how many things you can buy per round in (except by workers and money).
- All park related purchases are hexagonal tiles that are added to your park map, which simplifies things.
- Workers are used in all 3 phases (Public and Private Actions as well as the Jeeple tour), whereas in Island there were scientists for research and workers for the work phase.
- The Jeeple tour replaces running the park. You will only utilise a subsection of your park and when you utilise a tile it will ‘degrade’ in excitement.
- Excitement resets after each round.
- There is a fixed number of rounds in World rather than playing until conditions are met in Island.
- Deaths in the park do not have an immediate penalty in World, the penalty is evaluated at the end of the game and is influenced but how many deaths other players have relative to you.
- The spatial arrangement of your park tiles is very important in World, whereas in Island it didn’t matter.
- There are specific meeples for each type of dinosaur in World, rather that Island‘s generic meeples that didn’t quite match any dinosaur type.
It’s clear that most of these differences have arisen from feedback on the flaws of the original game. Reading through my Dinosaur Island + Totally Liquid Review again, I can see a few things I wrote about there are fixed with these changes.
What do I think?
I’ve played Dinosaur World 4 times now, once on my own and the rest with 4 players. I found the single player experience nice. The system for solo play is very simple, I wouldn’t have given it a go if there was a a lot of steps added to make it work. Playing with 4 players I found the game took 2-3 hours to play through.
The Good Stuff
- Dinosaur World is another stellar production from Pandasaurus, with great theming, lovely artwork once again done by Kwanchai Moriya, and so many dino meeples they barely fit in the box!
- The theme integration into gameplay is well done. While playing, we had lots of fun narrating our Jeeple Tours and talking about what’s happening with our parks while they were being developed.
- The Jeeple Tour is a great mechanic and I think it is what truly makes this game ‘different’ to Dinosaur Island. The placement of tiles in your park matters because the tour is a spatial thing, and managing where you visit each tour is a fun little puzzle on how to run your park engine to maximise points and minimise boredom.
- Rationing the fixed number of workers you receive every round can be tricky and challenging. I find that planning is actually quite easy because at the start of the round you can lay your workers out where you plan on using them and then you have physical reminders of what you wanted to do, which helps keep you focused and on track.
- I like the relative-to-other-players park deaths mechanic. At the end of the game, the player with the least deaths is zeroed out, and everyone else loses as many deaths as that player had. Then you are penalised for remaining deaths. It is an interesting pseudo co-op mechanic. If everyone keeps killing patrons, then it’s not really a big deal, but as soon as one player refuses to skimp on safety, everyone else starts racking up penalties very quickly!
- The coins included with the Kickstarter version are the coolest I’ve seen in a boardgame so far.
- The attraction tile system for special actions is an interesting system. You need to trade off doing powerful actions against visiting dinosaurs and generating excitement during your Jeeple Tour. I personally struggle with the value proposition of doing things like this in games but that’s probably why I don’t win very much… If you put in the work, using these tiles can really pay off.
- There are bunch of interesting thematic mechanics that related to the attraction tiles. I found it cool that guests looking at dinosaurs from a distance can’t get eaten but you can still get some points, and there are a few cheeky tiles in there such as the “Recycling Centre” that let you make use of patron deaths.
- The Solo Mode is simple and easy to play, and I was very impressed with how well it matched playing against other players. I very rarely play games solo but I was stuck in lockdown so I had a read of the rules and gave World a go 1 player. The main thing that deters me from solo games is a lot of upkeep or having to follow a complicated flowchart to operate another player, but Dinosaur World doesn’t make you do this. The ‘AI Deck’ gives you a few simple steps to take at the start of each round, and there is a small added mechanic of dinos escaping their enclosures, which was quite fun to manage.
- Compared to Island, I really like how the different dinosaurs are all unique now in terms of their stats and costs, with these even being unique down to the individual dinosaur. This was one of my biggest gripes about Island so I’m glad to see it fixed in World.
The Bad Stuff
- It can take a while to explain how the different types of tiles all work and can become a little confusing. Since everything in the game past the public and private actions is on tiles, and there is a lot of tiles, this is really the hardest part of the game to grasp. Thankfully you really only need to pre-explain things that are around at the start and you can go through new tiles as they appear.
- What happened to the puns?? Island was LOADED with puns, and I opened World with excitement to see all the fun new names for things, and was totally floored that there was literally only one pun in the whole game – ‘DN-ATM’ (oh, and ‘Jeeple’ I guess). At the very least … you can reuse ones from Island? Maybe the 90s (or Pandasaurus.. I hope not!) is too serious for puns now? I don’t know, this seemed like a massive misplay to me and dropped a large chunk of character from the game.
- I think the boredom tokens are a big fail. It’s so clear that these were dice in testing and to cut costs they were switched to tiny chits. I understand this makes them basically free for Pandasaurus vs using dice, but it seems crazy to include metal coins in the Kickstarter version and not chuck in 20-30 small dice that I could buy for $5 on Amazon (and I assume would be much cheaper at volume).
- DNA feels hard to get compared to Island. I think the intention in World is to focus less on dinosaurs … but that’s what I want to be doing! Making dinosaurs!! Dinosaurs are still the main points generators in World so I guess making them harder to get means you gotta work for those points.
- I’m not sure if this is a printing error or intentional, but the security track has a confusing 11 steps (0-10) which has led to mistakes when people wrap around.
- In games I’ve played we’ve barely seen any ‘C’ tiles (which I assume are more end-gamey). Relating to this:
- The Jeeple Tour in the last round is a bit awkward since excitement isn’t translated to points directly. Most people don’t really invest in specific points tiles for the last round so you run your engine and nothing great really happens in terms of getting points. Sure money does convert to points 5:1 but I think in the final round the excitement track should pay out points directly.
- The round flow can feel a bit weird. Most of the game is not turn based, as after public actions players can technically do the rest of the round simultaneously. People will want to start doing their private actions once they pass on public actions and things can get really vague and confusing. We tried to wait for everyone to be ready for each next phase, and we did the Jeeple Tours one at a time because it was fun to narrate what was happening to the rest of the table.
- The player aid is incorrect! One could argue this is the only thing that shouldn’t be wrong. There are a few other mistakes here and there that could have been caught with more eyes on the final files. I always wonder why Kickstarters don’t make use of their crowd-sourcing for more than just money, people would love to review the print files for errors before they get sent off. I guess it’s a lot of work.
As a big lover of Dinosaur Island I was really excited to see this sequel and had a really fun time playing it, but I’m going to have to say that even though on paper World is a more streamlined, mechanically sound and ‘better’ game, it just doesn’t feel quite as fun to me. I really liked the heavily theme and pun influenced design of Island. World is a little more abstract for its streamlined-ness. Of course I’m in no way saying it’s bad. It’s a great game, and I plan on keeping it on my shelf right next to Island, and looking forward to exploring it more. But you know, not everyone prefers pop music. I think it’s a great instalment in the series, and slightly more accessible than Island is. If you want to know more or pick up a copy for yourself, you can check it out on the Pandasaurus Games Store!
The copy of Dinosaur World used for this review was provided to The Boardgame Detective by Pandasaurus Games