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Subject: "Roar, (huh), what is it good for?" - A Review of Raptor from The Game Shelf rss

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Fiona Dickinson
United Kingdom
Horley
Surrey
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The news shocked the world, of course, after billions of years there was still one breed of dinosaurs still out there. Raptors, time had changed them, of course, over the years they had lost their feathers and, ironically, have ended up looking how people commonly imagine them to be, green, scaly and with razor sharp teeth. We found out about them just in time, from satellite imaging of the island we concluded that there was only one adult left alive, fortunately she has several young. We have to go to this island and recover the young, in captivity we can breed them, bring the species back from the brink. Recovering these juvenile raptors is in the best interest of both the scientific community and the future of the raptor species as a whole, I just hope their mother sees it that way!

Raptor is a tactical dinosaur game for 2 players, in it you ... sorry I just need a moment to enjoy the phrase “tactical dinosaur” ... okay done. In it you take control of either a mother raptor trying to protect her young or a group of scientists trying to kidnap the baby raptors for science! The two sides play in the same way but both have varied actions that make each side feel unique.

Each player has a hand of 3 cards from their deck of 9, the cards all have a special ability and a number from 1-9. The players put one card face down and then reveal, the player who placed the lower numbered card does their ability, while the player who placed the higher numbered card gets action points equal to the difference between the two numbers. Both sides have 2 victory conditions, for the dinosaurs they win when 3/5 of the babies escape or when they have eaten all the scientists on the field. The scientists win when either they have captures 3 babies or when they manage to fully tranquilise the mother raptor.

The scientists can spend their action points in 5 ways, they can move any one scientist 1 step, they can recover from being frightened, they can capture a sleeping baby that they are standing next to, they can tranquilise a non-sleeping baby that they are standing next to or they can shoot the mother with a tranquiliser at long range. However each individual scientist model can only do 1 capture/shoot action per turn, so you can’t tranq a baby and then capture it right away (unless you have 2 scientists nearby). The dinosaurs also have 5 basic actions, they can move a baby 1 space, they can move the mother as far as they like in a straight line (this costs an extra action point for every tranquiliser the mother has been shot with), the mother can eat a scientist it is standing next to, the mother can wake up a baby she is standing next to, or she can put out fires that she is next to.

The game adds variety by having a reversible game board in 6 sections, the board is meant to be set up randomly, so you may end up with long clear sections of terrain that make it easy to shoot the mother raptor across, but also give her great mobility, or you might end up with a rocky landscape with no clear lines across it. Either way there will be 9 rocks in the game which serve to block movement and line of sight and generally get in everyone’s way.

The special actions on the cards vary in power, higher numbers tend to be stronger as you have less chance of getting them (to get the power for an 8 card your opponent has to have played their 9), for scientists you have a combination of bringing in more scientists, riding around in jeeps for fast movement, setting fires to block paths or putting babies to sleep at a distance. The dinosaurs ahve a mix of waking babies up at a distance, scaring scientists at a range, calling awake babies to their mother’s side across the map and having the mother disappear off the map, then reappear anywhere after the scientists move, this last ability is particularly painful as the dinosaur player then gets to see the next card the scientists play before choosing theirs, this usually leads to one or more dead scientists!

So far Raptor feels well balanced, both me and Fi have had a roughly equal amount of wins (after an early win streak from me) with the wins evenly split across the two sides. If I had to decide I’d say that the raptor side is slightly more powerful, but that might be because it can be very easy for the mother to eat 2 scientists and clear one half of the board on her first turn if she gets 3-4 action points. The game is quick to play, fun, if occasionally frustrating, and has some wonderful minis for the scale. I don’t know if Raptor has earned a permanent place on our shelf, but it is a good game, perhaps it would feel a little more welcome if my main gaming partner was a *touch* more of a graceful loser!

6.5/10

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Luke Hector
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Lol, you beat me to it Fi! This one is on my list to release this weekend!

I was interested to see what you thought of the balance - for me I'm actually concerned about it as so far the Raptor has never won a single game. They've come close, both from me or someone else piloting it, but so far the Scientists always win. I definitely feel that the Scientists have an easier time mainly because their style of play is easier to grasp for new players whereas the Raptors take a bit of finesse and care.

I'd give it at least a 7 if not an 8 as I'm really enjoying it despite the balance. But yeah I'm certainly not agreeing that the Raptor side is more powerful by any means.
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Fiona Dickinson
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Until my first Raptor win I would've agreed. I do think the scientists are easier to play, but now I've got my head in the game Raptor wins are do-able and almost as frequent.

This is actually Amy's review, i think I'd still pick scientists if i wanted to be in with a better chance of a win.
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Luke Hector
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I did wonder if it was Amy's with the comment about "gracious loser"
 
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Emmanuel Turquin
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That's interesting, we played 3 games (also switching sides) and 1 game was kind of close, the 2 others were fairly quick and easy victories... all by the raptors. And when discussing strategies for both sides (especially the possible openings), it was not clear to us at all, what the scientist player could do to counter a quick agression from the raptor mother.
One important element, is that in all 3 games we had an open lane from one end of the board to the other in our random tiles layout, which seems to advantage the raptor player quite a lot, as he can massacre a big group of scientists (if not all of them) in one go. I can see how, without this kind of highway, this would make things a lot more difficult for the raptors though.
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Luke Hector
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I don't see many people try an aggressive stance from the word "go" with the Raptor, maybe that's a factor. Most are paranoid of getting shot by the Scientists and I'm more than willing to sacrifice a couple of Scientists given that getting reinforcements is relatively easy and in some ways pretty powerful considering they can come on from the sides.
 
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