The Board Dame Reviews: Dinosaur Island: Totally Liquid

48266908_2266388363646407_7883940181554757632_n“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop think if they should.”

Dinosaur Island: Totally Liquid is a 1-5 player worker placement expansion for Dinosaur Island. It integrates 5 different modules (mini expansions), one of which is a 5th player, into the base game. Designed by Jonathan Gilmour, Brian Lewis, and Ian Moss with artwork by Kwanchai Moriya, Peter Wocken, and Anthony Wocken; and published by Pandasaurus Games.

Box Game Length:  90-120 minutes.

Actual Game Length: This will entirely depend on the length of game you choose. The game offers Short, Medium, and Long game lengths and players of course. 90-180 minutes is probably closer, but this one is pretty accurate time wise!

Setup and Teardown time: 10-15 minutes each.

Player Count: 1-5 (base game plays 1-4 only)

Game Mechanics: Set Collection, Tile Placement, and Worker Placement.

Game Weight: 2.96/5 Base Game, and 3.33/5 Expansion. I don’t know that I agree with the weight scale on this. Dinosaur Island is a very simple worker placement game. But with many different phases and individual choices it can be a lot to take in. That could partially be why it’s higher on the scale, but don’t confuse this with it being a challenging game if you’re more into heavier games. This isn’t heavy.

Thematic Integration: High. Prior to the expansion, I’d have likely said moderate. Because it could have really been any theme or park, or even a city builder. One of the biggest show of theme to mechanic integration is the people getting eaten in your park based on the security level of you park. I don’t know that this would really apply as perfectly in another them as well, but I love that this is part of the game so much!

ObjectiveIn Dinosaur Island, your objective is to build the biggest and baddest of all dinosaur parks, full of sweet attractions and paddocks for your guests to visit, all while trying to keep as many of your guests alive as you can by ensuring your park is secure. You’ll play over 4 different game phases over and over again until a certain amount of objectives (based on player count) are met.

Game Round Summary: Players each take turns assigning workers in phase 1, one at a time until all specialists are spent. The first phase is your primary source of getting dino DNA, increasing storage for said DNA and obtaining dinosaur “recipes” so that you can make dinosaurs for your park.

In phase two, players will each have two turns to purchase different attractions for your park, hire specialists (special abilities), and upgrade your lab (phase 3). You will also be able to purchase DNA if you weren’t able to get any in the first phase.

In phase 3, each player simultaneously assigns workers to spaces on their player boards to create dinosaurs, get more security, etc. This is the major worker placement part of your game. In this phase you’ll refine DNA (change common DNA for rare DNA), create dinosaurs based on the recipes you’ve acquired in the first phase, increase your paddock size to house more dinosaurs, increase your security so that your guests aren’t eaten, etc.

Then in phase 4, players will draw a number of meeples equal to their parks excitement level and place them in their park to gain victory points or coins. If your threat level from the dinosaurs you’ve created is higher than your security level, the dinosaurs eat your guests! This means you don’t gain victory points, or coins from them, on top of that, they lose you a victory point for each one that’s eaten! So don’t let them get eaten (Maybe just a few, the dinos are hungry after all)

Artwork: The artwork and colour scheme for this game is really hit or miss for most people; you either love or hate it, I personally love it.

The colours are so fibrant! There isn’t a single neon colour missing from the game. You’ll ask yourself “could they have made this game any more colourful” and the answer would be “no”.

As for the artwork. It’s beautiful but you’re going to get pink, green, yellow, orange, and blue dinosaurs with absolutely not a care in the world to their accuracy. Though the names are spot on and in some cases, a fun tongue twister to say!

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Components:

Pogs, and snap bracelet. The end. That’s all you need to know. Seriously, what game comes with pogs and a snap bracelet. This one! That’s which one!

The dice are super high quality, with excellent/durable printing.

The player boards are double thick with slots that keep cubes in place, which a game like this needs, and isn’t something that should be skimped on (here’s looking at you Terraforming Mars).

The metal coins are still a nice thickness, but not invasively heavy like the original print run was. The previous coins easily added 5 lbs to the box and would cause dents in your boards. I haven’t have this version of the game long, but it doesn’t seem like it would have the same issue.

Dinosaurs! Man, there are a lot of dinosaurs! If you have the extreme edition, you’ll have a plethora of different types of dinos, water and land kind. This makes the experience a little more enjoyable to have your park filled with different types of dinos.

You’re also provided with a lovely stitched felt bag to draw meeples from, which could have easily been a cheap cloth bag, but again, there was no skimping on the accessories for this game.

Pogs and snap bracelets aside, sadly the component quality in the expansion has gone down, marginally if any, nothing that I would really concern myself with. But felt they needed some mentioning.

There are some tooling issues on some of the dinosaur pieces, they look like scratches, which I’m told is what happens during the cooling process of the plastic when it cools too quickly.

The other issue with the pieces is that there are more noticeable nobs where the pieces were broken/cut off the moulds. Again, it won’t impact your play, but these “defects” weren’t as present in the original version.

There’s also a noticeable differences between some of the components in the base game vs the expansion. I’m not sure if the manufacturer was changed between the base game and expansion, but the tiles feel different, the 5th player cubes, and even the colour of the backs of the specialist cards are different shade. So if something like that would bother you, just grab some sleeves.

Negatives aside, this games component quality is still far above grade, you’re getting amazing value in this box, and let me tell you, it’s full. It’s an olympic sport in itself to get it all back into the box.

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Scales Based on Player Count:

Solo Player- It’s a fun solo game, with the automa removing tiles and cards in specific orders. So that you aren’t free to always get anything you want. But in the end, it’s a beat your own score solo game. But a damn good one. Who doesn’t love building dinosaur parks?

2 Players- The game works great at two, is fun to play, but has less urgency in your purchases/selections. The dice scale to player count, however, the dino recipes in phase 1, the specialists, lab upgrades and attractions do not change (unless you’re playing a 5th player) This means that for 2 players, you are more easily able to get what you want without much competition. This also means that there will be a dinosaur recipe available to you each round. This isn’t the case if you’re playing a 4 player base game, or a 5 player expansion game. As there are 3-4 dinosaurs available per round.

3/4 PlayersI’ve lumped these together as there isn’t a noticeable difference between this player count. In a base game, without the marine animal module being used, you will have 3 dinosaurs available per round, or 4 with the marine animal module being used. This is really the only area in the game that it you can be left with no option to procure something. For each of the other areas, there’s always something to do, and isn’t impacted by player count as much. This player count is probably my favourite. I would say that 4 more so than 3. There’s a bit more tension, less direct path choices, which means you have to sometimes work a bit harder to get to where you need to be.

5 Players- With the expansion, you’re now able to accommodate an extra player. I can’t tell you how glad I am this is the case for the simple fact that we are always seeming to need a spot for an extra player.

However, with the addition of another person, you are technically getting an extra row of specialists, lab upgrades, and attractions, but at a higher cost. Money is VERY hard to come by in Dinosaur Island, so being the last player during the purchasing isn’t really helped by having that extra row as the cheaper columns tend to go first. I think I would have rather seen an extra row at 4-5 dollars. It’s still expensive, but not punishing to the last player.

Scales Based on Game Length:

Short- Just no. Don’t do it unless it’s just to learn the rules. You barely get the feel or grandeur of building your park, and it ends before you really accomplish anything, you’ll have but a few dinosaurs and attractions.

Medium- This is kind of a happy medium for most players. The simplicity and repetition can mean that anything longer can feel unnecessary for some, though the difference in time between medium and long isn’t much different IMO.

Long- Go big or go home with this one. I prefer the long game, I really feel like this length of game lets you fill your park with dinosaurs and attractions. With the addition of the expansion, there’s a lot to do and different things to explore, like your blueprints, they will have more of an impact in a longer game.

Replayability: There are countless combinations of dinosaurs, plot twists, specialists, etc. While the game will always play fairly similar. With the implementation of 5 modules, marine animals, blueprints, ceos, facilities and pr cards as other victory point conditions as well as generating your own personal abilities, you have more direction in how to build your park. This makes your choices more meaningful and exciting to play again and again.

For me, this was really needed to make the game a staple in my collection. Don’t get me wrong, the base game is fun, but it’s not a game that I want to pull out all the time because it’s very simple in it’s game play and had felt repetitive at times. Get DNA, make Dinosaurs, rinse and repeat. The level of depth this expansion brought to the game makes it so that I would likely not want to play the base game without it.

Think Lords of Waterdeep without the expansions. If you have the base game, you NEED this expansion to make the game what we all wanted it to be.

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Overall Thoughts: Dinosaur Island is a fun and easy worker placement. Emphasis on the easy. It’s not a complicated game, but with that being said, it’s LONG. Easy games tend to be on the shorter side of things, but this game seems to break that trend. Even when playing the short game, it’s still quite long, but really not satisfying.

As I mentioned above, plan on playing the medium or long game, or it’s really not worth the time you’re putting in, for the experience you get. But when you do play the medium or long game, it’s really quite the fun experience.

They also implemented a bidding mechanic for the turn order if you choose. I had always wanted to do this, as the first turn advantage is quite big, but am not a fan of house rules usually, as to keep the spirit of the game that the designer wanted. So I’m glad this was added!

Again, the base game is good, but the expansion really sent this game into evergreen territory for me. With so many modules, and choices in game lengths, there’s a little bit for everyone. You can even get in on some solo action! This is a no brainer for me when it comes to accessible worker placement games, that are beautiful, and fun to play. Get this expansion, and or expansion and base game if you don’t already!

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Additional Tidbits: There have been some complaints on the change of the phase 2 player board from the kickstarter. Originally it was to include the 6$ spot below the 5$ spot for when you play a 5 player game. I wasn’t going to address this originally, but will because I’m sure that it will come up.

Do I think they should have told people they were making a change. Sure. That would have probably spared them a couple people complaining, though I’m skeptical that it would have calmed the vocal minority.

I think that there’s often a misunderstanding about the size of companies, or their bankroll. Not to mention the cost in time and actual money that making certain changes would have cost Pandasaurus.

They have explained that they weren’t able to change the formatting to include the 6$ on the board. To have to change the box size for both Dinosaur Island and it’s expansion so that it could accomodate a large board would have likely added months to the production of the game, in addition to incurring large costs. This just isn’t something that is always feasible for a small company to do.

Their compromise was to have a card printed that you place below the board to indicate where a new row would be. I thought this was a fine compromise and didn’t really think much of any of it because it doesn’t change my game play or experience.

I enjoy the games that Pandasaurus produces, not to mention their level or quality is far superior to other games that cost similar. If they were to make those changes, the money has to come from somewhere, it’s not fair to ask a company to eat into their profits, which they use to product other amazing games. So the question here is this: “Would I really want to give up high production value in future games in exchange for that single card that does the job as well as any cardboard piece would?” No. Absolutely not.

Try to remember that these are people, a small group of people, very small, trying to make fun. Think about that for a second, they make fun, for us! How about we don’t piss off the fun makers? Mmmk? Cause I know I would be horribly disappointed to have a company like theirs, with amazing designers, and amazing games, not be around.

 

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