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Subject: Disappointing game, but so much potential to make it great rss

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Sander van der Drift
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I’ve received my KS edition of Dinosaur Island 10 days ago and I’ve played it a couple of times since then. I had high hopes for this game since I discovered it on Kickstarter, but unfortunately the game is a disappointment for me. The components and aesthetics are wonderful, but the gameplay is rather dull and too streamlined for my taste. I expected a medium euro game in which multiple strategies are possible for developing your own dinosaur park. What I received was a light-to-medium euro game which in my opinion lacks interesting decisions and plays it way too safe. Usually I would then toss the game aside and move on. In this case however I feel really disappointed. Not only because the components are so great, but primarily because there is so much potential with this game. I’m convinced that it is still possible to make this game into a great euro game. So below I’ve described my concrete ideas to improve the game. These are meant to illustrate what kind of changes I think would benefit the game. Let me know what you think!

Stop playing it safe and make upgrades more exciting
In my view almost all upgrades (lab, attractions, specialists) have rather unexciting abilities. You can buy a security upgrade for free or for a discount, you get an additional visitor, you can redraw two visitors, etc. The park board attractions don’t even have abilities, just VP and some visitors. I don’t mind that there are some upgrades that do not have exciting abilities, but at least some of them should have interesting abilities that make it possible to change your strategy and preferably enable combos with other upgrades. Yes, that is harder to balance, but it makes the gameplay much more interesting. There are many euro games (e.g. Anachrony, Agricola) or other games (e.g. Blood rage) that give you exciting abilities without (major) balance problems.

Geez those dinosaurs are very similar aren’t they?
As has already been mentioned in other threads, there are only three types of dinosaurs. Moreover, dependent on the objectives one of these types is usually the best one to research. This is not only problematic gameplay wise, but it is also very unfortunate that a board game focused on dinosaurs makes the dinosaurs so boring. Please, please, please, make all the dinosaurs different and also give at least some of them an interesting ability. Only different stats (excitement, VP and threat) is not sufficient. Something more needs to be added in my view.

Give me back my freedom in choosing my own path
I do not understand why the first three phases of the game are separate phases with a lot of artificial limitations in what I am allowed to do (e.g. only 3 research actions, only 2 market actions, only three types of dinosaurs can be researched, max 3 specialists, etc.). In my view the game would be way more interesting if you would combine the first three phases into one action phase in which you can allocate workers to research, market or buildings/upgrades. Only available resources and how you want to spent them should determine which actions you want to take. Combined with the ability to create scientist, workers and perhaps other types of workers this would lead to a lot of freedom and more important to a much wider range of possible strategies. For example, this has been done very well in Anachrony in which you have different types of workers (scientists, engineers, administrators and geniuses) which you can allocate to many different action spots which are only available for some type of workers (or give a certain benefit for some type of workers). Applying such a mechanism to Dinosaur Island would lead to freedom in choosing how much you want to invest in research and creating additional workers, purchasing upgrades for your lab, park or personnel and triggering all kinds of abilities on your building and upgrades. Combined with more interesting upgrades and dinosaurs this would lead to many different kind of fun strategies.
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Pandasaurus Games
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OmegaDragon wrote:

I do not understand why the first three phases of the game are separate phases with a lot of artificial limitations in what I am allowed to do (e.g. only 3 research actions, only 2 market actions, only three types of dinosaurs can be researched, max 3 specialists, etc.). In my view the game would be way more interesting if you would combine the first three phases into one action phase in which you can allocate workers to research, market or buildings/upgrades.


I think the issue that you had with the game comes down to weight class of the title. Those decisions were made specifically to make the game less daunting and more appealing. Right now in DI each phase has 4+ decisions of what you can do. If you mixed all of those together you would have AP and way too much choice for many players to devise a strategy. By splitting the phases the game chunks the choices up and cuts down on AP.

I love Anachrony, but it was intended to be a much weightier game than DI was designed at the outset to be. This was always designed (and marketed) to be on the lighter-side of mid-weight where Anachrony falls on the light-side of heavyweight.

You'll probably wind up liking DI + expansion a bit more as it adds more complexity to the game.
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Heath Washburn
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Similar to what Pandasaurus said, it sounds like you really want DI to be something that it is not. I think when you say DI would "benefit" or be made "great" by being heavier and more complicated, you mean to say that you would like it better.
*Edit: I meant to also say that I enjoyed reading your opinions, even though it seems DI isn't for you (in its current form).
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Calvin Le Huray
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I love the game as is. All the people I have played it with have also loved the game; their only disappointment is that they can't pick it up themselves.
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Sander van der Drift
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Thank you for your replies. I do indeed have an issue with the weight of the game. I expected something heavier when pledging for the KS edition. That is probably my own mistake although I did watch a few videos. However, the reason for writing my initial post is because contrary to tons of other games I receive/play and do not like after a couple of plays, this game feels like it easily could have been a great medium-to-heavy game (and maybe even top50 material). That's why it feels like such a huge missed opportunity to me. I don't mean to offend people who do like the game (I'm happy for you since the game looks great on the table and I love the mini-dinosaurs). Anyway, it's hard to describe what I mean exactly. I hope the expansion brings some variety and hopefully more complexity to the game.
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Dan Reimschiissel
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I’m with the OP and I’m looking forward to some more meat in the expansion. My 10 and 13 year old daughter and son enjoy this game a lot but for me it’s just going through the motions. I like the game but it’s missing something for me to love it.
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Mark Parsons
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I couldn't disagree more. We love our mid + heavy Euros & Dino Island has been a massive success in our house, the fun factor is off the charts & we love the variability of set up that the Plot Twists & Objectives bring. For me its a solid 10, way better than I was even anticipating.
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I've played a friend's copy twice now. A short game and a long game. The short game was tremendously disappointing, not feeling like anything was accomplished. The long game gave a feeling of accomplishment, but is still underwhelming. I don't agree with all of the OP's suggestions, but some more variety couldn't hurt.

My main issue with DI is an issue I have with all resource poor euros... that you can never do even half of what your board state allows you to do.
 
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Ross Gustafson
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OmegaDragon wrote:
I’ve received my KS edition of Dinosaur Island 10 days ago and I’ve played it a couple of times since then. I had high hopes for this game since I discovered it on Kickstarter, but unfortunately the game is a disappointment for me. The components and aesthetics are wonderful, but the gameplay is rather dull and too streamlined for my taste. I expected a medium euro game in which multiple strategies are possible for developing your own dinosaur park. What I received was a light-to-medium euro game which in my opinion lacks interesting decisions and plays it way too safe. Usually I would then toss the game aside and move on. In this case however I feel really disappointed. Not only because the components are so great, but primarily because there is so much potential with this game. I’m convinced that it is still possible to make this game into a great euro game. So below I’ve described my concrete ideas to improve the game. These are meant to illustrate what kind of changes I think would benefit the game. Let me know what you think!

Stop playing it safe and make upgrades more exciting
In my view almost all upgrades (lab, attractions, specialists) have rather unexciting abilities. You can buy a security upgrade for free or for a discount, you get an additional visitor, you can redraw two visitors, etc. The park board attractions don’t even have abilities, just VP and some visitors. I don’t mind that there are some upgrades that do not have exciting abilities, but at least some of them should have interesting abilities that make it possible to change your strategy and preferably enable combos with other upgrades. Yes, that is harder to balance, but it makes the gameplay much more interesting. There are many euro games (e.g. Anachrony, Agricola) or other games (e.g. Blood rage) that give you exciting abilities without (major) balance problems.

Geez those dinosaurs are very similar aren’t they?
As has already been mentioned in other threads, there are only three types of dinosaurs. Moreover, dependent on the objectives one of these types is usually the best one to research. This is not only problematic gameplay wise, but it is also very unfortunate that a board game focused on dinosaurs makes the dinosaurs so boring. Please, please, please, make all the dinosaurs different and also give at least some of them an interesting ability. Only different stats (excitement, VP and threat) is not sufficient. Something more needs to be added in my view.

Give me back my freedom in choosing my own path
I do not understand why the first three phases of the game are separate phases with a lot of artificial limitations in what I am allowed to do (e.g. only 3 research actions, only 2 market actions, only three types of dinosaurs can be researched, max 3 specialists, etc.). In my view the game would be way more interesting if you would combine the first three phases into one action phase in which you can allocate workers to research, market or buildings/upgrades. Only available resources and how you want to spent them should determine which actions you want to take. Combined with the ability to create scientist, workers and perhaps other types of workers this would lead to a lot of freedom and more important to a much wider range of possible strategies. For example, this has been done very well in Anachrony in which you have different types of workers (scientists, engineers, administrators and geniuses) which you can allocate to many different action spots which are only available for some type of workers (or give a certain benefit for some type of workers). Applying such a mechanism to Dinosaur Island would lead to freedom in choosing how much you want to invest in research and creating additional workers, purchasing upgrades for your lab, park or personnel and triggering all kinds of abilities on your building and upgrades. Combined with more interesting upgrades and dinosaurs this would lead to many different kind of fun strategies.


I only played it once and I echo your sentiments. It really has no meaty decisions at all in this game. I was expecting a solid mid-euro thematic based on the advertisements and what we got was a thematic game with very little real choices in the game or they were all kind of samey. It really came down to who gets first turn when so the game felt circular. The player who won (the short game mind you) was the player who got the most first turns. It appears to be complicated and deep but it really wasn't. I was going to buy this game at retail, but I am not sure anymore. Maybe the expansion might help, but I am not holding my breath.

Sander, I think I agree with your 3rd point the most: the freedom to choose a path. This is what great games generally do. Even a lighter game like Dominion is incredibly deep in its strategy. You can choose many multiple paths and every game is very different. DI is the opposite. It had lots of complex rules, but was shallow in its strategies. Sometimes, this happens when theme trumps mechanics in all decisions. The theme is there but the gameplay does not hold up to multiple plays (or even a single play). I was more bored as I played the game. Which is sad because I really looking forward to this game after I had to pass on the kickstarter due to lack of funds.

I am unsure if an expansion can really fix these issues Sander pointed out because I believe the issues are structural flaws in the gameplay. I understand why people like the game: it's a beautiful nostalgia trip. I was born in 1988 so I get it. But it feels like that NES or SNES or Genesis you buy from the used game store, you play it for an hour or two reliving Cool Spot and Sonic again, and then it collects dust for the next 5 years. The trip was fun, but we have moved on.
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OmegaDragon wrote:
Thank you for your replies. I do indeed have an issue with the weight of the game. I expected something heavier when pledging for the KS edition. That is probably my own mistake although I did watch a few videos. However, the reason for writing my initial post is because contrary to tons of other games I receive/play and do not like after a couple of plays, this game feels like it easily could have been a great medium-to-heavy game (and maybe even top50 material). That's why it feels like such a huge missed opportunity to me. I don't mean to offend people who do like the game (I'm happy for you since the game looks great on the table and I love the mini-dinosaurs). Anyway, it's hard to describe what I mean exactly. I hope the expansion brings some variety and hopefully more complexity to the game.


Thanks for sharing your opinion. I think most of us understand what you're trying to describe. This game could've been GREAT, it could've been better than Agricola, Tzolk'in, or Orleans. However I think your scope is too narrow, it would've been great for YOU, and many users of BGG. Dinosaur Island was meant for a different Target Audience. Just like I'm sure you didn't like Pandemic Legacy, 7 wonders, or Lords of Waterdeep or any other lighter games in the top 50 BGG they weren't heavy enough for you to be great, and yet there they are in BGGs top 50.

I mean no offense, just stating that your expectations were misplaced from the very beginning of how complex the game was, and many others like the sepeperate phases to streamline the actions. Though I think I like your idea of combining the first 3 phases so there would be more choices in the beginning and we could pick and choose what we wanted to focus on.
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Jesse
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OmegaDragon wrote:
I’ve received my KS edition of Dinosaur Island 10 days ago and I’ve played it a couple of times since then. I had high hopes for this game since I discovered it on Kickstarter, but unfortunately the game is a disappointment for me. The components and aesthetics are wonderful, but the gameplay is rather dull and too streamlined for my taste. I expected a medium euro game in which multiple strategies are possible for developing your own dinosaur park. What I received was a light-to-medium euro game which in my opinion lacks interesting decisions and plays it way too safe. Usually I would then toss the game aside and move on. In this case however I feel really disappointed. Not only because the components are so great, but primarily because there is so much potential with this game. I’m convinced that it is still possible to make this game into a great euro game. So below I’ve described my concrete ideas to improve the game. These are meant to illustrate what kind of changes I think would benefit the game. Let me know what you think!

Stop playing it safe and make upgrades more exciting
In my view almost all upgrades (lab, attractions, specialists) have rather unexciting abilities. You can buy a security upgrade for free or for a discount, you get an additional visitor, you can redraw two visitors, etc. The park board attractions don’t even have abilities, just VP and some visitors. I don’t mind that there are some upgrades that do not have exciting abilities, but at least some of them should have interesting abilities that make it possible to change your strategy and preferably enable combos with other upgrades. Yes, that is harder to balance, but it makes the gameplay much more interesting. There are many euro games (e.g. Anachrony, Agricola) or other games (e.g. Blood rage) that give you exciting abilities without (major) balance problems.

Geez those dinosaurs are very similar aren’t they?
As has already been mentioned in other threads, there are only three types of dinosaurs. Moreover, dependent on the objectives one of these types is usually the best one to research. This is not only problematic gameplay wise, but it is also very unfortunate that a board game focused on dinosaurs makes the dinosaurs so boring. Please, please, please, make all the dinosaurs different and also give at least some of them an interesting ability. Only different stats (excitement, VP and threat) is not sufficient. Something more needs to be added in my view.

Give me back my freedom in choosing my own path
I do not understand why the first three phases of the game are separate phases with a lot of artificial limitations in what I am allowed to do (e.g. only 3 research actions, only 2 market actions, only three types of dinosaurs can be researched, max 3 specialists, etc.). In my view the game would be way more interesting if you would combine the first three phases into one action phase in which you can allocate workers to research, market or buildings/upgrades. Only available resources and how you want to spent them should determine which actions you want to take. Combined with the ability to create scientist, workers and perhaps other types of workers this would lead to a lot of freedom and more important to a much wider range of possible strategies. For example, this has been done very well in Anachrony in which you have different types of workers (scientists, engineers, administrators and geniuses) which you can allocate to many different action spots which are only available for some type of workers (or give a certain benefit for some type of workers). Applying such a mechanism to Dinosaur Island would lead to freedom in choosing how much you want to invest in research and creating additional workers, purchasing upgrades for your lab, park or personnel and triggering all kinds of abilities on your building and upgrades. Combined with more interesting upgrades and dinosaurs this would lead to many different kind of fun strategies.


Nailed it on the head. My thoughts exactly, and many of the reasons why I sold my copy.

All of the content is alluring. But when you dig into it, all of the different things (dinosaurs, attractions, cards, etc) are just minor mechanical variations of each other. For a game that has a pretty rich theme, it all distilled down to a very rigid, mechanical game. Moreover, there really didn’t appear to be a rich depth of strategies. After a few plays, I pretty much saw all it had to offer.

The first few impressions are great, but there wasn’t enough there to keep my coming back. To be fair, that’s a trend I see with many/most KS games and maybe even games in general these days.

I will say that the plot twist mechanic is pretty genius. I hope other games grab onto it.
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