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Subject: Dinosaurs, saber-tooth tigers and cave bears - oh my! rss

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Walt Williams
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Note: This review is republished from my blog, Prehistoric Pulp. You can view it at http://prehistoricpulp.blogspot.com

Dinosaurs of the Lost World is a board game I’ve wanted to get my hands on for a very long time. It took years, but I finally found an unplayed, almost mint condition copy at a reasonable price through BoardGameGeek. Was it worth the wait? Most definitely, although I acknowledge this is not a game that will please everyone.

There are two versions of Dinosaurs of the Lost World. In the first, up to four players lead competing expeditions into the lost world, trying to be the first to reach 25 victory points by making scientific discoveries. The second version is a solitaire campaign in which the player must earn 25 victory points in either 40 turns or before the volcano on the plateau erupts. Play in both versions is nearly identical, the main difference being that in the solitaire campaign, dinosaur movements are determined by a die roll rather than other players.

The game board itself is rather busy with three main areas. The first is an outer movement track. On your turn, you roll two dice and move the same number of spaces as the result. The space you land on tells you 1) which action you perform – such as draw an event card or move a creature – and 2) the number of hexes you can move on the central map, the second main area on the board. The map is covered with counters depicting various locations in the lost world where you can have adventures. These counters are face down, so you don’t know which location is which until you reach it and flip the counter. The third area is a chase track running along one side of the central map. This only comes into play if you lose a battle against a dinosaur or other inhabitant of the lost world: The creature chases you back to your camp, and every time it catches up to you, you lose one tool or a victory point.

As for victory points, you score one point every time you discover a new location. However, the main way to earn points is to go on adventures. Each location comes with its own adventure track, which is a large sheet of paper covered with comic book panels depicting various hazards and discoveries associated with the location. On a turn, instead of moving along the movement track, you can instead choose to go on an adventure if your pawn is at the appropriate location. You roll one die to determine how many panels you move along the adventure track, or you can use an experience card to move a predetermined number of spaces, as indicated by the card. The trick is to balance your die rolls with your experience cards to avoid the hazards and land on the discoveries.

The winner is the first player to earn 25 victory points and successfully escape the plateau. I’m leaving a lot out because this review is already a little long. But it is worth noting that quite often players are instructed to draw event cards, which can either be helpful or very, very bad. Also, players start the game by equipping their expeditions with eight tools, which is easier than it sounds. (Hint: You usually want to equip two rifles and a camera.)

My opinion? I won’t go as far as to say Dinosaurs of the Lost World is the best board game about dinosaurs ever made, because there are a lot of games I have yet to try, but it is one of the best adventure board games I’ve played. It is dripping with theme – you really feel like you’re exploring a prehistoric wilderness. A lot of little touches, like the chase track, make the theme come to life, as does the game’s excellent black and white comic book art.

As far as game mechanics, I really enjoy the simplicity of the design, but at the same time realize they may be the biggest drawback for serious gamers. Dinosaurs of the Lost World is not a game of deep strategy. It is one of luck. Your success largely depends on dice rolls. I don’t mind this because for me, the game about going on an adventure and seeing what crazy things happen along the way. But if you are a gamer who enjoys outsmarting your opponents or challenging gameplay, this is not a game for you.

My only complaint about the game is some of the components are of poor quality, particularly the cards and location counters, both of which are printed on thin cardstock. That said, it is a real crime this game is so hard to find these days. There has been a recent trend of game publishers reprinting older, hard-to-find games, like Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Talisman. Let’s hope that someday an enterprising publisher puts up the money to republish Dinosaurs of the Lost World – I’ll be the first in line to pick up a copy.
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Chris Geggus
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Nice review. It's good to be reminded of old favourites such as this. My sons are in their twenties now, but we played many a game of this when they were young. It is an excellent game for developing new and young players. It is not solely a simple roll and move, it is more involved with the exploration, adventure and battle elements all keeping the interest of players at a high level. For those who have ever read them, it is worth mentioning that the whole premise of the game is based on the Professor Challenger stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Challenger was probably the inspiration for Indiana Jones, so you can see the potential flavour here.

Interesting point you made about the components - mine are all fine, on much thicker stock by the sound of it and have lasted nigh on 20 years or so. In fact I'm looking to break it out for my grand-nephew in a year or two's time. BTW - couldn't find any sabre-toothed tigers or cave bears in my copy!

We need reviews that revisit some of the better, but lesser known oldies, so well done and thank you.
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Michael Mesich
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I cannot think of a better game with Dinosaurs in it.

The excitement/dread of being chased back to camp is very hard to beat!
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Keith Higdon
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One of my all time favorites. And NO, there aren't many better dinosaur games out there (if any).

I always thought that this game is ripe for a new edition. The adventure system alone would allow for lots of expansions.

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Walt Williams
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Ahiksking wrote:
BTW - couldn't find any sabre-toothed tigers or cave bears in my copy!


Really? They were two of the discoveries in the adventures in my copy, which I just realized was apparently a reprint made in 1997 (At least, the copyright on the rulebook is for 1997, and the rules say "Second Edition"). I wonder if they were only in the second edition of the game. As for why 1997, a little movie called Jurassic Park: The Lost World came out that year.

I don't know much about board game history, but I wonder how revolutionary Dinosaurs of the Lost World was for its time. It reminds me of Runebound and some of the other adventure board games I've played, all of which were first published years after Dinosaurs of the Lost World. The beauty of Dinosaurs of the Lost World is it is a much more streamlined system, meaning faster gameplay, and with the chase track and moving dinosaur pieces, you feel like you are having much more interaction with the world. A lot of adventure games are simply flip a card, roll some dice to see if you succeed, flip another card, roll dice, etc. I'm a little biased -- I'm a big dinosaur nut -- but I was really taken aback by just how good of a gaming experience it was.
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Neal Sofge
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mr_willi wrote:
I wonder how revolutionary Dinosaurs of the Lost World was for its time.

It was radically different from its contemporaries. This was before Settlers started the Euro Revolution, when most hobby games were either straight wargames or obviously wargame-descended. The idea of a detailed adventure game that wasn't mostly about combat was way ahead of its time.
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Mike Stevens
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I just played my first game of this yesterday and it was a blast. We had just finished playing a couple of NEW games, Abyss and Five Tribes which all 3 of us really liked, when my buddy said he had an OLD game that he really wanted to play. He pulled Dinosaurs of the Lost World out of his bag and the little boy in me went crazy
The box cover looked so cool even though it was torn in several places. He told us this was the first game he had ever purchased with his own money and that he has had it for over 20 years.

We had a blast with this game. You are right, being chased by the dinosaurs on the chase track is a blast. It is such a relief once you get to the space that lets you escape to camp. If you find a copy of this anywhere, please pick it up. If you don't want it, contact me and I will be glad to purchase it from you
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Wade Hobby
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I wish they would re release it too, but having given up I am currently scanning in all the components and cards (there are publishers that will print any images you send them on new cards for less than $15) and creating new sets for each of my three sons.
All of them are now married and raising families of their own and we loved this game when they were kids so I'm sure my grandkids will too! It'll cost as much as a new game does these days for each one but it's totally worth it.
loved this game.
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Rob McCray

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As a reminder to fans of DotLW...There is a vassal module that I posted that makes it possible to play this game online or via e-mail.



http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Dinosaurs_of_the_Los...
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