Apologies for the lateness of this post from my usual schedule. I’ve been knocked down with the flu this week. But I seem to be on the mend, so I’ll try to catch back up.
It seems like dinosaur games are all the rage lately. Dinosaur Island, Dinogenics, Welcome to Dino World – they’re all games about bringing back the extinct creatures and putting them in a park environment. It’s as if no one ever saw Jurassic Park and learned their lesson. Anyway, here’s another one:
Draftosaurus is a new 2-5 player game where you are drafting dinosaurs into your park. It was designed by Antoine Bauza (who basically invented the drafting genre of games with his 2010 design 7 Wonders), Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière. It was published in 2019 by Ankama.
The game comes with 5 double-sided zoo boards, with one side being the summer board and the other being the winter board. You also get a placement die, a bag, and 60 dino meeples representing 6 different species (Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Spinosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and, of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex). All you need to do to set up the game is to give everyone a board (summer side up for your first game), and take some dinos out of the bag based on player count (2 from each species with two or four players, 4 with three players).
The game is played over the course of two rounds. At the start of each round, each player pulls six dinosaurs from the bag and holds them secretly in their hand. Once everyone has done that, one player rolls the dino die, which gives a restriction for the round for everyone BUT the person who rolled the die. Following this, each player chooses a dino. These are simultaneously revealed, and placed on your board. Then, you pass the remaining dinosaurs in your hand to the player on your left. This process is repeated until all players have six dinosaurs in their zoo.
The second round is exactly like the first. At the end, everyone scores their pens and you see who won.
The placement die will determine where each player can place (though the player who rolled it is exempt). If you roll a bathroom symbol, you can only place on the bathroom side of the board, i.e. the right. If you roll a coffee cup, you can only place on the food court side, i.e. the left. If you roll a tree, you can only place in the forest, and if you roll a rock, you can only place in the grasslands (although it doesn’t look much like grasslands to me, and I usually just refer to it as the desert). If you roll a claw, you can only place in an empty pen, and if you roll a T-Rex, you can only place in a pen that does not contain a T-Rex.
The six areas of the summer board have different scoring conditions:
- The Forest of Sameness (upper left corner): Every dinosaur placed here must be of the same species, and you get more points the more you place.
- King of the Jungle (upper right corner): You can only place one dinosaur here, and it will score if you have at least as many of that species on your board as anyone else does on theirs. You get nothing if someone else has more than you.
- The Woody Trio (left side): If you have exactly three (no more, no less) dinosaurs of any species here at the end of the game, you score seven points.
- The Meadow of Differences (right side): Each dinosaur placed here must be of a different species, and you get more points the more you place.
- The Prairie of Love (lower left corner): Each pair of dinosaurs from the same species scores you five points.
- Solitary Island (lower right corner): You can only place one dinosaur here, and it will sore if it is the only dinosaur of that type you have on your island.
The winter side of the board is a little more complicated in terms of scoring.
- A Well-Ordered Wood (top left corner): You can only have two species of dinosaurs, and they’re placed alternating. So, for example, Stegosaurus-Triceratops-Stegosaurus-Triceratops-Stegosaurus-Triceratops.
- The Lookout (top right corner): Put one dinosaur here, and score two points at the end of the game for each dino of that type the player to your right has.
- Lover’s Bridge (middle): This is two sub-pens on either side of the river. Like The Prairie of Love on the summer side, you’re going to score for each pair of the same species, but this time, they need to be on opposite sides of the bridge. Also, you get six points for a pair.
- The Quarantine Zone (lower left corner): Put one dino here. At the end of the game, move it anywhere else on the board before scoring.
- The Pyramid (lower right corner): Build up from the bottom. No two adjacent dinosaurs can be of the same species. You could get up to 21 points for this.
It should also be noted that having at least one T-Rex in a pen gets you a bonus point on both boards. The flow of play on the winter board is exactly the same – six rounds of drafting, followed by another six rounds, score your areas, see who had the high score.
Draftosaurus is a fairly small game, coming in a 8″ square box. The boards are a bit smaller than that, and the dinosaurs are perfectly sized to fit in the spaces. The dino meeples are by far the coolest bit in the game – I mean, who doesn’t like dino meeples? My only real complaint about the components is that you have to hold the dinosaurs in your hand. They all fit fine, it’s not that, it’s just that…well, the dinosaurs store heat pretty well. When you get passed a set of warm dinosaurs, it’s hard not to think about when they last washed their hands. And if their hands are a little bit sweaty…my recommendation for the game is to put your dinosaurs in cups, and pass the cups around instead.
Beyond that, I’ve really got no complaints about this one. It’s a very fast game, and it’s very easy to understand. The challenge becomes picking the right ones for how you want to score. In that way, this game is very much like a roll-and-write. Except there’s no writing. You get the rolling with placement die that restricts where you can place, and then the different areas with different scoring opportunities as you would find in a game like Ganz Schön Clever or the multitude of other RNWs out there.
As mentioned earlier, there are a bunch of dinosaur games out there these days. The theme here seems less important than in a lot of the other ones. This very well could have been a game about building a zoo instead. Maybe not as interesting, however. But you could conceivably have elephants and giraffes and lions…although keeping those in the same pen for scoring purposes is probably a bad idea. Of course, Draftosaurus mixes carnivores and herbivores plenty, so that gives you an idea of how the theme really doesn’t matter here.
The placement die is a nice way to force people to place in spots that may not be ideal and even think about what other people are doing so you’re not passing them their preferred dinos. I also like the fact that you can ignore the result when you’re the one who rolls it. This gives you an out several times a game where you can place where you want to. However, it does create a small scaling issue. It works great with 2, 3, and 4 players. However, with 5 players in a 12 round game, you have two players who get that out three times as opposed to two times for the other three players. It’s not a huge game-breaking deal, but it’s a small equilibrium issue that maybe could have been solved by a rule in the five-player game where everyone has to follow the placement die on the first or last placement of the round. Or by giving everyone some tokens that allow them to ignore placements when spent. That would give some more choice. Like I said, it’s not a big deal, and keeping it simple like they did was probably the best move for the type of game it is.
And that type of game is something light and easy that doesn’t require a lot of concentration. It has a great title because it tells you exactly what the game is – a drafting game with dinosaurs. It’s not an intimidating game – despite the raging T-Rex on the cover, we’re all meant to be that guy casually taking a selfie and not worrying about it.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? This game is an easy, fast filler-style game with cool pieces and can be a fun way to introduce the concept of drafting to people. I’d recommend it for light gamers or anyone who just needs something that can be quickly explained and played fast during breaks. Check it out!
That’ll do it for my first review of 2020. Thanks for reading!