BENGALURU: Dinosaur Island is a workerplacement game where 2-4 players play as rival corporations, each trying to build the best dinosaur-based theme park on their own little islands. You’ll task your scientists with harvesting the DNA you need to create different types of dinosaurs based on their ‘recipes’.
Meanwhile, your other workers will be sent out to build various attractions in your park, upgrade your paddocks so you can get more dinosaurs in, recruit special workers who’ll give you special powers and, occasionally, maybe try to improve your security a bit. You know, if there’s time. After all, you’ve got hordes of excited tourists coming through the gates to see a bunch of extremely dangerous creatures (and not just the carnivorous ones either!) up close — what could possibly go wrong?
First things first — yes, this could (and perhaps) should be called Jurassic Park: The Board Game, but it isn’t. Then again, calling it that does do Dinosaur Island a disservice — it is its own beast, so to speak. In fact, if you’re expecting a thrill-aminute ride with dinosaurs breaking loose everywhere and chaos taking over, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, the odd visitor to your park will get eaten — life finds a way and all that, but this is going to happen.
Apart from that, however, Dinosaur Island feels much more... manageable. The corporations you play as feel like they’re much more sensibly run than InGen ever was, and the game is accordingly more down-to-earth. This isn’t meant as a criticism, though, because Dinosaur Island is still a whole lot of fun.
If I didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about the production values and the presentation of Dinosaur Island, I’d be sorely remiss. As aesthetics go, this game has a love-it-orhate- it graphical style. I absolutely adore the box art, but I’m not too keen on the neon slathered over other game components (meant to evoke the early 1990s, and succeeding for the most part). So your mileage may vary.
However, the rest of the components deserve nothing less than unstinting praise the DNA dice are a lovely translucent amber (and isn’t that just perfect?!), the little dinosaur meeples and the little scientist beakers are great, the terrible puns used to name the attractions are wonderful, and the money tokens might just be the best metal coins I’ve come across in a board game. Admittedly, some of these components were exclusive to the original Deluxe edition, although you can pick them up separately as well.
Dinosaur Island has been a massive hit commercially, so much so that it’s already got an expansion — Totally Liquid, which of course adds aquatic dinosaurs — and a sequel, inevitably called Dinosaur World. However, is the game that kicked it all off still worth your time? Absolutely — Dinosaur Island is a wonderful game, even if you didn’t grow up as a fan of Jurassic Park. If you did, however, this is one game you do not want to miss.
The Witcher: Old World
In hindsight, it seems obvious that a board game set in the beloved Witcher universe, featuring gorgeous artwork and detailed miniatures, would do pretty well on Kickstarter. Having pulled in $3.5 million at the time of writing this and showing no signs of slowing down, the scale is probably the only thing that’s surprising.
Isle of Cats: Don’t Forget the Kittens!
Speaking of Kickstarter successes, The Isle of Cats was a massive hit back in 2019 and made a lot of ‘best of year’ lists when it came out. Now, Frank West is back on Kickstarter with an expansion, which adds kittens and ancient beasts that you can also rescue, as well as offering newcomers a chance to get all the stuff they missed out on last time around.
Robot Quest Arena
Rounding out the list of Kickstarters this week is Robot Quest Arena, a deckbuilding game about battling robots. This one’s from the designers of Star Realms and Hero Realms, so they’ve got a
deckbuilding pedigree, but the addition of an arena board and positional play looks to certainly
take it up a notch.
(Arjun is a gamer, book lover and an all-round renaissance man)