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Subject: [Review] Dinoquest rss

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Andrew Fernandes
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Upon rummaging through the cluttered bookshelves that litter my parents' home, I stumbled across this beaten and bruised board game. With an image of what I presume to be a T-Rex of sorts taking a chomp out of his triceratops prey (yet sporting a recommended age of 8 to adult) the box art sure looks intriguing; most young boys think dinosaurs were super cool... or at least when I was growing up I did. Anyways, I decided to try this game out with my two younger brothers (one 16, the other 10) to see whether or not this was to be donated to the local thrift store. Here is a breakdown of my findings.

*Conclusion available at the end if you're lazy

General Info:
The game was [the only game?] published by McGowan and Magwood in 1989. Using inspiration from a Canadian paleontologist, the game seeks to give an idea of the adventures of archaeologists while also being a minor educational tool of sorts. This leads to my first minor quibble: the name of the game. In no way is this a 'dino' quest at all seeing as the game has players taking the role of archaeologists seeking to acquire fossils. The only manner in which you quest as dinosaurs is the fact that the game pieces are rubberized sculpts of different dinosaurs, although pretending to be dinosaur archaeologists is a fun thought. This is a minor quibble, but I understand from a marketing perspective that dinoquest is much more appealing to an 8 year old than archaeology quest.

*I do not go over the rules thoroughly, I simply give a brief overview; however they can be found in the file section
The object of the game is to collect as many DINOPARTS at the end of the game. Players can do so by mining in the quarry, attaining them through the HAZARD and BONUS cards in the game and by correctly answering quiz questions. Each DINOPART gives its owner 1 point, while a complete set of 8 doubles their value (2 each; 16 points total).All players start with a set number of DINOPARTS, 4 Crew Members (denoted by blue pawns), a certain amount of time (white and red plastic chips denote days and weeks respectfully), a quiz card, and a jackhammer. Players then take turns rolling the die, moving their corresponding dino figure around the colourful board, and resolving the results. All in all, a very simple luck based game.
However, the randomness of the dice just seems to fit well with this game mainly due to the HAZARD spaces that litter the board forcing you to resolve said HAZARD cards frequently. These cards can have negative effects for yourself, your opponents, or every player and add a nice amount of player interaction, and flavour text and theme attempting to show how frantic and dangerous it was to be an archaeologist in the 'by-gone days'. The BONUS cards on the other hand, are a mixed bag with some adding a nice touch of flavour, while others not even trying. A positive thing to note is that in both sets, almost all the cards are not repeats yet the game still comes with good amount of HAZARD and BONUS cards. One space on the board I liked was the the Canyon Crossing which acted oppositely from the GO space found in Monopoly in that players had to pay a certain amount of day tokens (dependent on their amount of workers) each time they passed it. Speaking of workers, this was also a nice touch adding more flavour as the amount of workers directly affected the amount of DINOPARTS you could mine from the quarry each turn. However, I found that due to the ruling, the quarries on the board wound up seeing minimal use as it never seemed efficient enough to mine from them (each worker gave you 1 DINOPART but cost you 1 day, so consecutive trips to the quarry had you running quite short on days quite fast). We were able to house rule it to make it more sensible though (more workers = more DINOPARTS in less days). Lastly, the quiz cards added additional player interaction, and act as the minor educational tool I mentioned, raid spaces show off a gritty and criminal aspect of an archaeologists' adventures, and exchange spaces seek to show how limited resources were during these adventures. Essentially, if you haven't got it already, this game has a very nice amount of theme that actually ties in with the gameplay itself. To be honest, I was actually shocked to find this in a luck-based dice rolling game for 8 years olds. Albeit, there is a tiny amount of tactfulness to the game found when the player is given the power to manipulate the DINOPARTS and amount of days/workers in a player(s) arsenal[which is very welcome]. A very common example was when a player was given the opportunity to steal or swap multiple DINOPARTS with another; we would constantly try to ensure that we could get closer completing a full set of 8 while simultaneously ruining the other players' sets. All-in-all, I was quite surprised by this game's ability to nicely intertwine the gameplay and theme for the 60 minutes or so it takes to complete.

The components for the game vary from the so-so white and red chips to the vary nice card quality (my copy is around 20 years old and the cards have no fading). The pawns to keep track for workers are your average plastic pieces found within a game of Sorry! while the board offers a retro colour set stating that 'I am a board game from the nineties'. I like that the dinosaur figures come in a variety of colours as well as shapes to help avoid a mix-up between two pieces. A better storage option would have been nice (the box seems too big for the game while plastic baggies containing all the loose components are scattered within my copy), and the rules pamphlet, although clear, is sub par (maybe the same rules on a nice piece of card-stock).

This game easily surpassed my expectations. Overall, the way the theme meshes with the gameplay is really something. As stated before, the randomness of the dice rolls plus the series of HAZARD cards kinda make it feel like you are on an adventure; one turn you could be in the lead, the next, everyone has taken a bite out of your DINOPARTS stockpile and you're lying in the hospital missing turn after turn. Now, very few people would actually enjoy this game simply due to the lack of strategy and control one has, making this a tough recommendation (and the fact that it is quite tough to find). Also, I find the game to last a little too long (on average, a game lasts an hour due to the amount of DINOPARTS) as towards the end I found myself wanting the game to end, though the rules come with a short game variant or can easily be house-ruled. Despite this, I think I am going to be holding on to my copy, at least until my brother is old enough to move on to more strategic/tactile and less monopoly-esque board games (shouldn't be too long as I have him playing Dominion, and Ticket to Ride). All-in-all, the game plays well for what it is, but I prefer a little more meat on my dinosaur bones.

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