Hold onto your butts. Welcome to…
Dinosaur Island is a game by designers Jonathan Gilmour and Brian Lewis, published last year by Pandasaurus Games. It’s for 1-4 players and takes up to two hours to play. In the game, you’re collecting DNA to bring dinosaurs back to life, and building an amusement park around them. Sound familiar?
The game comes with 22 specialist cards, 81 income tokens, 39 objective cards, 80 visitor meeples, 36 worker meeples, 10 DNA dice, 11 plot twist cards, 20 corporation tokens, 12 modifier tokens, 12 scientist tokens, 1 research center board, 1 track board, 1 marketplace board, 4 park boards, 40 market cubes, 24 limit cubes, 33 lab upgrade tiles, 4 lab boards, 17 solo play, 29 paddock tiles, 50 dinosaurs, 30 attraction tiles, 17 dino recipe tiles, a first player token, and a cloth bag. The 80 visitors go in the cloth bag, and you’ll create a dice pool of 2 dice per player plus one. The market rows are seeded with four attraction tiles, four lab upgrade tiles, and four specialist cards. The 17 dinosaurs are separated by type (large carnivores, small carnivores, and herbivores) and one of each type is revealed. Objectives are revealed based on desired game length, and two plot twists are revealed to change some rules for the entire game. Each player gets a lab board, a park board, 9 workers, 3 scientists, 5 corporation tokens, 10 marker cubes, and 6 limit cubes. The start player gets $15 in income, and each successive player gets $1 more than the previous player. Only four of your workers are available at the start of the game. Set your basic DNA color limits to 4 and marker to 1, and your advanced DNA color limits to 2 and marker 0. You’ll also start with one dinosaur in your paddock (which also indicates your threat and security level), plus ten points.
Each round has five phases: research, market, worker, park, and cleanup.
RESEARCH PHASE: The first player rolls all dice in the DNA pool and puts them at the top of the research center. Then each player will take turns placing scientists until everyone has had three turns. Here’s what you could do:
- Research DNA: Take a DNA die, and multiply the number shown by your scientist’s research level, taking that much DNA (not more than your limit).
- Increase Cold Storage: Increase your limits on any combination of DNA tracks by a number equal to your scientist’s research level.
- Procure Dino Recipe: Take one and put it in your park to fill two available zones.
- Pass. Just put a scientist into your worker pool, where it can be used as a worker later.
After everyone has had their three turns, move the unclaimed DNA die with the most pips to the holding area where it will be added to all player threat levels later.
MARKET PHASE: Here, you will take turns performing one action until all players have done two. Here are your options:
- Hire Specialist: Pay the cost according to the row it’s in and carry out the special effects of that specialist. Usually, this gets you more workers.
- Build Attraction: Pay the market price, then place the attraction in an available zone of your park.
- Buy Lab Upgrade: Pay the market price and place it in one of the six spaces of your lab. When those spaces are full, you’ll have to put lab upgrades on top of others, which will no longer be in effect.
- Purchase DNA: Pay $2-$5 to gain DNA. You’ll also discard an item from the market row that corresponds to how much you spent.
- Pass: Take $2.
WORKER PHASE: Workers will be placed in your lab to take actions. This is done simultaneously because nothing can affect anyone else. Here are your options:
- Refine DNA: Spend two basic DNA to get one advanced DNA.
- Create Dinosaurs: Spend the required DNA to build the dinosaur from a recipe in your park. This increases your excitement level, as well as your threat level.
- Increase Security: Pay the cost to increase security by one.
- Upgrade Paddock Capacity: Pay the cost so a paddock can hold more dinosaurs (up to four).
PARK PHASE: This is where visitors show up. In turn order, draw a number of visitors from the bag equal to your excitement level. Each patron earns you a $1, but you may also draw hooligans who don’t pay. You’ll then place visitors at attractions and dinosaur exhibits, placing hooligans first. Any visitor who can’t be placed is stuck in line at the entrance.
At this point, it’s time to see if any dinos got loose. Check your base threat level, add the DNA die from the holding pen, and that is your threat level. If it exceeds your current security level, dinosaurs get loose and eat a number of visitors equal to the difference. These are taken from attractions in the park (or the line if there are no survivors), and patrons are eaten before hooligans. Each eaten visitor costs you a point. Each surviving patron will also score a point each.
CLEANUP PHASE: Reset the turn order, refresh the market, reveal new dino recipes, return workers and scientists, remove all visitors, and resolve plot twists.
As the game progresses, if you can fulfill an objective, claim it. When there’s only one objective left, the end game is triggered. After the current round, have a final scoring and the high score wins.
Despite obvious similarities between the Dinosaur Island theme and a certain other dinosaur-amusement-park-related franchise, this game looks like it has a lot going on that separates it from the book/movie. For one thing, it’s got a lot more behind the scenes action than being mostly about the park itself. For another, visitors actually make it to the park, which doesn’t happen in the movies until the most recent version. Also, there are pink dinosaurs. It’s been getting some good buzz, and it’s one that I look forward to trying out.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!