Play: Dinosaur Island The Boardgame

Dinosaur Island is one of the kickstarter boardgames that I've been excited about for several months. However, I'm a bit pessimistic with its vibrant color and the messy setup of modular boards kinda threw me off. Since I've a had a bit of time to learn and play new game for this coming holiday, I tried my hands on the game via Tabletopia. The half an hour demo video really helps me to understand the gameplay more easily.



There are 5 phases. Research phase: each player use 3 scientists labeled 1, 2 and 3 on the Phase 1 board to either increase DNA (3 basic types and 3 advanced types) by claiming the dice (multiply the scientist level) OR procure dino recipe (herbivore/ small carnivore/ large carnivore using different level of scientist) OR increase DNA storage (pay $2 and increase according to the scientist level) OR pass (collect $2 and reserve the remaining scientist as worker in worker/action phase). Market phase: each player use money on the Phase 2 board to either upgrade their lab (mostly for research and security purpose) OR build attraction (pay the attraction cost plus the market row cost to increase excitement level and more spots for visitors) OR hire specialist (some to gain worker, some helps in other area). Worker/Action phase: this phase is done simultaneously using workers to do actions available in the labs (combine DNA to get advanced DNA/ create dinos to increase excitement level/increase security/increase paddock capacity/gain more money). Park phase: this is when the visitors start coming to your park after all the research, market and lab stuff. The excitement level will determine how many visitors will come to your park and gives you money (except the ever-annoying hooligans, some specialists can mitigate this issue). The visitors then will visit the attractions and dino exhibits, some will stuck in line at the entrance because there's not enough visiting spots. Before those visiting can give you points, you have to check security level versus threat level. Each threat unsecured will make you lose patron and point (the dino eats them!). Finally, Cleanup phase: reset turn order according to the score track, refresh the market and return the workers, scientists and visitors. Game ends when there's only one endgame objective card left, the objective can be claimed anytime when it is fulfilled and will reveal the plot twist! Add attraction VPs plus dino exhibits (multiply) plus leftover money $5 for 1VP.



My first game took me about 2-3 hours to play for both players. At first I thought it would be better if the 3 modular boards were put into 1 big board and Phase 1 - 3 using the same worker placement / action selection mechanism and should be combine into one phase. But after a while I got used to the phases. The red player won 94 vs white player 77 thanks to the maximum number of Allosaurus that gives higher excitement level and VPs although they took a lot of DNAs to create. The problems faced by the red player are minimal number of workers and lack of attractions and dino exhibits which mean less visitor spots. The white player started slow but good in upgrading the labs and build enough attractions for the visitors although a bit lacking in collecting DNAs.



I really love balancing the level of excitement, security and threat! Playing and tinkering with DNAs to create dinosaurs and building distracting attractions was fun too! I love the randomness of DNA dice, the game changers, the plot twists once the end game objectives met and the variety of dino recipe + lab upgrades + attractions + specialists, all combine to create a unique experience every time the game is played. The experience is heighten when playing while listening to atmospheric sound of Jurassic era (you can try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DSW2l7s_Ws or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DSW2l7s_Ws)

Dinosaur Island might not be the perfect dinosaur-themed board game but it is absolutely the best available right now and it does feel like playing Jurassic Park the boardgame, one of the most influential movie during my childhood that made me love archeology and history stuff! It also reminds me of Rollercoaster Tycoon, one of my most favourite and beloved PC simulation game of all time! Probably gonna get the Deluxe KS Edition to get the extra dino meeples, extra plot twist (hooligans, VIP visitors, extra die), scientist beaker meeples and of course, metal coins!

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