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Subject: Dinosaur Island [P]review: A Playtester's Perspective rss

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Matt C
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Have you ever wanted to run your very own Jurassic Park? Well, now you can. In Dinosaur Island, you take on a similar role to that of the notorious John Hammond. Over the course of the game you will invent dino blueprints, invest in additional staff and facilities, and lure small children into your definitely-safe-enough amusement park. With an art style brandishing enough neon colors to cause eye cancer, this game’s 90s roots are unmistakable.

I had the chance to playtest Dinosaur Island prior to its Kickstarter campaign. As the retail release date approaches, my anticipation and excitement has been growing proportionally. So, in an effort to justify my excitement, I have written the following preview that I hope others find helpful.

In Dinosaur Island, each player controls their own Jurassic park. The game is played over a variable number of rounds. Players compete over objectives; when enough of the objectives have been fulfilled, the game is over and the players check to see who has the most reputable park. Each game round consists of four phases of play:


1. Research Phase – In this phase, players will acquire new DNA samples and Dinosaur Blueprints. In order to clone additional dinosaurs in the park, both are required, but only a limited amount of each is available.

2. Market Phase - Players can purchase additional research facilities, park attractions, staff, and resources during this phase, if they have enough money.

3. Worker Phase – In order to make use of research facilities in your park, you must assign workers. It is in this phase that you can clone additional dinosaurs for your park, upgrade your security, or contract your extra labor for much-needed Dino Dollars.

4. Park Phase – Building and operating a park is great, but ultimately meaningless if nobody visits. In the Park Phase, you will attract patrons based on how exciting you have made your park. While dinosaurs are very exciting, those tea cup rides and roller coasters don’t hurt either. Be careful to balance excitement with security though; having too many patrons may result in dinosaurs breaking out and running amok.


While dinosaurs are an integral part of the game, you are ultimately an amusement park, and the designers have spent as much time on the attractions as they have the dinosaurs. Part of running a successful park is managing your lines. Attractions provide additional space in your park for patrons to visit. If you do not have enough spaces for everyone, then people will leave your park saddened, won’t promote your park (i.e. increase your reputation). So, if you want to be the best, you better make sure you have that safari Jeep ride.

You start by cloning smaller dinosaurs, and hiring your first staff (will it be a Muldoon to protect your park, or Barney to be your mascot?). Then, maybe you’ll build a roller coaster to dino-soar above the competition. Before you know it, your park will be filled with patrons waiting in line to view your murder of pteradons and you’ll be making money hand over fist. Because you are constantly researching new dinosaurs, combining DNA strands, and attracting more visitors, your park’s evolution provides a satisfying sense of progression.

The market and objectives provide a different experience each time. The dinosaurs, staff, laboratories, and attractions vary each game. Your favorite raptor-training specialist may not be available next time you play, or someone else may take them first. These factors manage to provide variability without the inclusion of chaos or frustration. Playing the same strategy in each game will not work. While cloning T-rex cubs may work for you once, you may want to file it under “bad idea” the next game.


In short, if you’re in the market for a 90 minute economic game with a fantastic theme, I can highly recommend Dinosaur Island. Despite its stellar integration of its theme, the European mechanics-first is equally evident. To build the best park, you will have to consider each of your actions, and watch the market carefully. If, instead, you prefer games driven by a narrative sequence, or if you have no love for 90s neon nostalgia, then I’d avoid this like it’s a raptor nest.
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TJ
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I almost pre-ordered this game twice, but ultimately the hooligans mechanic is stopping me from buying it. Why introduce that randomness in a euro game?
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Pandasaurus Games
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dasfungames wrote:
I almost pre-ordered this game twice, but ultimately the hooligans mechanic is stopping me from buying it. Why introduce that randomness in a euro game?


It's a randomness that you can elect to mitigate with several different upgrades. It also functions as a catch-up mechanic as the player first in turn order (first in VP) has to draw last.
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Matt C
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stooge wrote:
dasfungames wrote:
I almost pre-ordered this game twice, but ultimately the hooligans mechanic is stopping me from buying it. Why introduce that randomness in a euro game?


It's a randomness that you can elect to mitigate with several different upgrades. It also functions as a catch-up mechanic as the player first in turn order (first in VP) has to draw last.


A proper statistician would have to correct me, but I don't think that player order and drawing from the bag would change the expected # of hooligans vs. patrons you receive. Over the long term, it should even out. It is just as likely to help your odds as it is to hinder them.

In general, I found that the hooligan mechanic acted more like passing red markers does in Suburbia. That is, as your park grows, your money does not strictly grow in a linear fashion along with it. I did not find the variability to be much of a factor in the game, and that is something that would bother me if it was the case. Also, pulling meeples from the bag opens the door to possible expansion options, such as including VIPs or other special patrons you could attract.
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Dustin Schwartz
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There are 3 different abilities in the game (2 specialists, 1 lab upgrade) that allow a player to return hooligans to the bag. Those abilities, if used to their full effect, could result in a higher concentration of hooligans in the draw bag for players later in turn order.
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Matt C
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FreedomGunfire wrote:
There are 3 different abilities in the game (2 specialists, 1 lab upgrade) that allow a player to return hooligans to the bag. Those abilities, if used to their full effect, could result in a higher concentration of hooligans in the draw bag for players later in turn order.


Yes, that does make a difference. Thanks for pointing that out -- with those ability in play, the bag does act as a minor catch-up mechanic, as was stated.
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Tim Hotaling
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I actually backed this on KS and decided to drop my pledge at the last minute. I just couldn't get past the neon sadly. Love the theme otherwise.
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Rome Knows Nothing
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timmay9185 wrote:
I actually backed this on KS and decided to drop my pledge at the last minute. I just couldn't get past the neon sadly. Love the theme otherwise.


That is really my only hang up, too. If this were a super lightweight, somewhat maybe kids game, I could get into it with that graphic design, but....yeah those colors just are a bit harsh to me.
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Ponder Stibbons
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i'm looking forward to having this on my shelf, color scheme intact. i'll put it right between Power Grid and Tramways like a little night light.
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David A
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I backed this, but I just couldn't get past the colors (dear God, the colors) and the lack of diversity in the meeples for the dinosaurs so I ultimately cancelled my pledge. I hope it turns out good for folks though.
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Dean Winchester
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Out of curiosity, are the people that dislike the color scheme, younger than 30 or older than 50?
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Rome Knows Nothing
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bamjoe wrote:
Out of curiosity, are the people that dislike the color scheme, younger than 30 or older than 50?


29, so sort of on the bubble with the former.
 
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Tim Hotaling
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bamjoe wrote:
Out of curiosity, are the people that dislike the color scheme, younger than 30 or older than 50?


32. I would prefer a more "realistic" color scheme for this content. I feel like the were trying to go for an old school Nintendo vibe with the pastels and neons, which was a turn off, even though functionality of the game is unaffected.
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Randy Dickens II
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I find the plastic dino's a terrible decision over wooden meeples. It has made me rethink my purchase more than the ugly color scheme. I think I can get over the colors but the dimpled plastic is a big turnoff.
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Rome Knows Nothing
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Finkin wrote:
I find the plastic dino's a terrible decision over wooden meeples. It has made me rethink my purchase more than the ugly color scheme. I think I can get over the colors but the dimpled plastic is a big turnoff.


Wow, I didnt even know about this. Plastic sucks.
 
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B.C. Wendel
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Wow, some of you guys sound like a lot of fun! "I don't like pink!" "I don't like plastic!"

I'm sure there are some thrilling games out there filled with brown wooden cubes for you to enjoy!
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Rome Knows Nothing
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KevinMask wrote:
Wow, some of you guys sound like a lot of fun! "I don't like pink!" "I don't like plastic!"

I'm sure there are some thrilling games out there filled with brown wooden cubes for you to enjoy!


Or games with minis, or games with wooden meeples, or...

Don't personally attack people. That's against the rules, Im pretty sure. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and preferences, even if they dont line up with yours.
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B.C. Wendel
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jnowak415 wrote:
KevinMask wrote:
Wow, some of you guys sound like a lot of fun! "I don't like pink!" "I don't like plastic!"

I'm sure there are some thrilling games out there filled with brown wooden cubes for you to enjoy!


Or games with minis, or games with wooden meeples, or...

Don't personally attack people. That's against the rules, Im pretty sure. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and preferences, even if they dont line up with yours.


You are right. I apologize. I mean no ill will toward fellow humans.

I should have said meeples suck. They are boring, bland, tiresome wooden chunks that let you know you will be playing some dry, dreadful, Euro worker placing resource managing game. And I hate the word "meeple", too.
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Rachel Schnoor
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I, personally, am looking forward to the nostalgic color scheme. Then again, I had Jurassic Park read to my class in 6th grade - so this theme is firmly entrenched in the time period for me. Since someone asked what age people are who liked/disliked the color scheme - I am 37 and remember the affinity for neon in the 80s and early 90s fondly - it was a fun thing that became oddly popular; it was like it was cool to be a freak for that period of time and this seemed well established by the phenomenon of something like neon becoming mainstream. Also, anything involving the artistic renderings of Kwanchai Moria is a very good thing in my book. Just preordered this game and excited by the prospect of the theme, the gameplay, and the idea that my house will receive a neon infusion!!!
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KevinMask wrote:
KevinMask wrote:
Wow, some of you guys sound like a lot of fun! "I don't like pink!" "I don't like plastic!"


I should have said meeples suck. They are boring, bland, tiresome wooden chunks that let you know you will be playing some dry, dreadful, Euro worker placing resource managing game. And I hate the word "meeple", too.


You, too, sound like a lot of fun!
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Matt Smith
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For me, the plastic components and crazy color scheme fit the theme of the game perfectly. Don't you remember the lunch boxes, water bottles and toys from the movie? Plastic, plastic, and more plastic!

If the game was about trading in the Mediterranean, building a medieval church, the Crusades, etc., wooden components would feel more appropriate.

But what really sold this game for me was the upgrade to the translucent amber-colored DNA dice. Man I love those dice!
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Brian Lewis
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mvettemagred wrote:


But what really sold this game for me was the upgrade to the translucent amber-colored DNA dice. Man I love those dice!


Me too, Matt!
 
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Thud105 wrote:
I backed this, but I just couldn't get past the colors (dear God, the colors) and the lack of diversity in the meeples for the dinosaurs so I ultimately cancelled my pledge. I hope it turns out good for folks though.


Maybe DinoGenics would suit your taste better
 
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Derek Scott
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Imhotep would be perfect for them!
 
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Jason Williams
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I'm 30, and the colors and theme are what brought me too it. Love the 80's theme. Any fan of the 80's would be all over the art style.
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