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Andy Hunsucker
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Bloomington
Indiana
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I kickstarted this game as soon as it hit. The idea of building a dinosaur through various bones dug up without having any care or concern for how they actually fit together was super appealing. I have read some things about the history of paleontology in relation to dinosaur bones, and it's kind of hilarious (or possibly sad), so I was thrilled to pick this up at GenCon, and it's the first game I got on the table.

Overview

The Great Dinosaur Rush is a game in which you collect bones from the field and then secretly build your dinosaur, making sure to include all the pieces (head, neck, ribs, spine, tail and limbs), including a few dramatic flairs with unique type bones that you can collect, like horns, tail spikes, etc.

Components

Components are pretty standard. The bones are made up of wooden colored sticks, essentially the same size and shape as Catan roads, in several colors representing different bone types.

Each player gets a screen to hide their bones and build their dinosaur in secret, with an explanation of how dinosaurs should be built, and a list of actions that are possible during the take an action phase. One major problem here is that these possible actions are only one part of the various phases. Missing from the screen is a complete turn order for the field phase, which includes 4 steps. This turn order is also missing from the back of the rulebook, or another convenient place. They are only listed on a single page in the middle of the rulebook. This makes the first game a bit of a slog, with continual reminders, as the turn order is a little eclectic. This is a really surprising omission, and really needed to be included.

The cards and board are standard quality. The Kickstarted version came with tiny dinosaur meeples for tracking various things on the board, which is a nice touch. There is a phase order track on the main board, which is helpful, but the spaces for the tracking dinosaur are way too small to hold the dinosaur figure, and are even too small for a standard sized cube. This means that players have to come up with their own system for tracking this phase order. Frustratingly, there is plenty of space on the board for this section to be enlarged, but for whatever reason, it was made very small.

The game also comes with two cloth bags to hold bones and notoriety tokens. These are good quality.

Overall, the components are pretty straightforward. Other than the tracking issues mentioned above, nothing here is going to blow anyone away. But the components aren't what makes the game fun.

Gameplay

The game is played over 3 phases. Each phase includes 3 Field Phases, and then a Build phase in which players build their dinosaur, and then an Exhibit Phase where the dinosaurs are scored.

At setup, 3 bones are placed in each space randomly from the bag. Each player starts with 2 yellow, 2 red, and 3 green, which is the minimum required to create a complete dinosaur.

Field Phase - In the Field Phase, players collect bones on the board, and complete some other actions. The field phase is broken up into 4 steps.

Collect Bones - The player collects bones on their current space. Since the players start the game on the edge of the board, no bones are collected in the first field phase.

Move - Players move to an adjacent space in a straight line in any direction to a set of bones they want to collect on the next turn.

Publicize - Here players are able to increase the value of one of the categories of points. There are 6 categories players are able to score points in based on the number of bones they used to build parts of their dinosaur.

The categories are:

Size - Number of rib bones
Height - Number of bones in largest limb, plus neck bones.
Length - Bones in Tail plus bones in spine
Ferocity - Number of bones in smallest limb plus bones in head
Uniqueness - Number of Unique bones.

By increasing these categories, players increase the points they get for being in 1st, 2nd or 3rd in these categories.

Take an Action - Players can choose from 3 standard action or 3 notorious actions. Notorious actions require players to take a notoriety token, which subtract points at the end of the game. There is also a family version of the game which removes the notorious actions and mechanics. For my first game, we played with family actions.

Players can choose one of these actions:

Publicize - They can publicize a category for a second time in their turn.
Donate - Players can donate 1-3 bones from behind their screen, and gain that number of points. This is useful because players must use all of their bones in their dinosaur. Getting rid of certain bones to ensure that they have the correct size and shape is essential.
Research - Players can take an additional dinosaur bonus card. These cards allow players to gain bonus points by building a portion of their dinosaur to specified criteria. So a player might have to build a neck and tail of the correct shape and number of bones to score bonus points.

Additional Family action:

Move - Players can move an additional time. Useful since bones are replaced on the board after they are taken, but only 2 or 1, depending on the turn. Crossing another players path while moving around the board means getting fewer bones.

Notorious Actions:

Sabotage - Players can draw a notoriety token from the bag and place it face down on an adjacent space. Any player crossing that space must take the notoriety token.
Dynamite - The player draws 3 bones from the bag, and puts them behind their screen. Then removes any bones from their current space.
Steal - Players can take a bone from an adjacent dig site, and puts in their pile. This bone can be from another players dig site.

Once players have completed 3 Field Phases, they move onto the Build Phase.

Build Phase - In this phase, players build their dinosaur. Players must use all their bones, and dinosaurs must have a head, neck, spine, ribs, a tail and 2 limbs. Any number of bones can make up each of these parts, based on the different colors. Heads, spines and ribs use green bones, necks and tails use yellow, and limbs use red. Also included are white bones, which are wild, and blue bones, which are unique.

White bones can be used to replace any existing bone, as long as it is only touching a single color of bone, is not touching another white bone, and it's not replacing an entire section of the dinosaur. So for example, if a player only had a single white bone as the head of a creature, then it's not legal. But if a player has a single green bone, they can add a white bone to increase their score.

Blue bones are unique bones, and can literally be placed anywhere, usually sticking off the ends of the dinosaur.

Players are also trying to match the bonus cards that they have collected. The really fun part of this part of the game is that players can match multiple dinosaur cards as long as they don't have conflicting bone structures. So for example, you can create a dinosaur with a long tail, long neck, wings, and short stubby legs if you have the right bones, and the desire.

Once players have completed their dinosaur the exhibit phase begins.

Exhibit Phase - At this point, players reveal their dinosaurs, and score them based on the categories listed above. They also score any bonus cards they've achieved.

After 3 rounds, the game ends.

Thoughts

My friend and I had a blast playing this game. This game really captures the feeling of the early days of dinosaur hunting. When dinosaurs were first discovered, early paleontologists did whatever they could to find new bones, and put them together into whatever dinosaurs they could imagine. Many dinosaurs were 'discovered' multiple times, changing the name as they saw fit, with very little regard for the pursuit of scientific ideals.

Feuds and backstabbing were commonplace. Knowing a bit about this history, the idea of sticking bones together any old way, and telling everyone about your new discovery is really fun. The game doesn't have an official mechanic to pitch your dinosaur as an important discovery, but I think players will end up doing it anyway. The clear, but fairly loose rules about how to build your dinosaurs leads to a lot of creativity.

One nice thing about the game is that players keep their bones after each round. This leads to players being able to build larger and more complicated dinosaurs in later turns.

My friend and I played 2 player, and it worked pretty well. The main difference was that the competition for bones on the board wasn't very intense. I imagine with more players that part of the game would be more intense, and the notorious actions would be a lot more valuable.

At the end of the game, we were separated by about 10 points, with my friend winning, and it was close throughout. The game only took about an hour, even with learning the rules and keeping the Field Phase turn order straight in our heads. It's a pretty simple game to play. Probably worth a look as a gateway game.

It will definitely get back on the table.
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Scott Almes
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed it
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Kevin Brusky
United States
Houston
Texas
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Whoo hoo! Thanks for the review.

I've got to say that I really enjoy teaching this game at conventions (now that I've done it 100+ times). People really light up when they learn about the Notoriety mechanic and love building their own dinosaurs!

I can't wait to get this game into more peoples' hands.
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Andrew Owen
United States
Olathe
Kansas
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Awesome. Going to be playing tonight with the wife. APE Games is putting out some quality titles that really are easily enjoyed by all. Scott is a cyborg that doesn't sleep. He is cranking out games at a breakneck pace.
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Andy Hunsucker
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
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Two quick updates: First, I got this on the table with 5 tonight, and it was still a ton of fun. This time we played with the notoriety mechanic, and it definitely added a lot without making the game cutthroat.

Second, I made one rule mistake in my first game. Instead of moving as far as we liked in a straight line, we just moved one space. This actually worked ok with 2 players, since there was plenty of room on the board, but it was absolutely necessary to allow straight line movement in a 5 player game.

Still highly recommended.
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