Dino-dino-dinoblivion! Three times as much Dino for your money! With added oblivion to boot, and this year, who isn’t up for a bit of oblivion?
I’ll calm it down a bit – sorry, I get a bit dino-enthused sometimes. Dinoblivion is the latest game from Jean-Francois Gautier and publishing company Goblivion Games. Their previous release, Goblivion, was a deck-building solo/co-op tower defence. They like a bit of oblivion. Dinoblivion uses a similar deck-building theme but is a solo or two-player competitive game and is more about hunting and gathering rather than repelling the hoards.
In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle, The Compsognathus Sleeps Tonight…
Though dino features quite prominently in the title, this game is mainly about building your tribe and garnishing your village with totems rather than messing about with dinosaurs. Defeating dinosaurs will get you points though, and what do points make? Victorious outcomes against your opponent!
Central to the game is the jungle, in which houses the shared deck and the dinosaurs that need to be defeated. Level 1 dinosaurs have between 8 and 10 hit points, Level 2 dinosaurs have 16 to 18). As well as the central jungle, each player has their own board, which is home to their deck, their totems and their resources. The idea of the game in a duel is simple – have the most points at the end. In solo, you have to defeat all the dinosaurs before you run out of cards in the jungle, so the duel and solo experiences are quite different.
Act Like an Ape Man
The way the game plays, regardless of the number of players, is like a deck-builder plus. Your board houses your deck, but you also have three resources: meeples, dinochits and food. In your turn, you draw five card and play them in a number of ways.
Firstly, you can use them to hunt – tribe cards will have an attack value in the right-hand corner. Depending on the total value of your cards, you turn over that many cards from one of the jungle stacks and claim the amount of food (up to six in your resources) shown in the right-hand corner of the cards.
Next, you can combine tribe cards together to breed. Each tribe card will have a half meeple on either the left or right hand side. Match two together and gain a meeple (up to six). Later in the game, you will come across tribe cards with half meeples on both sides (my youngest son asked if they were transgender, which I was very proud of) who can breed with both male and female tribe cards AND claim a bonus. It’s a very positive representation of non-binary gender.
Tribe cards can also be used to activate action cards which can be one-off actions or totems. Totems sit at the side of the board and, once activated, can be used every turn afterwards. Regular actions end up back in the discard pile, though there is a way of holding over a card until another turn if you can’t use it then. This is by putting the card in ‘the cave’ above the board – handy if you are building up to a dino raid.
Some tribe cards will also have a special ability, shown at the bottom. To use this, flip it on its side and take the action. This is usually instead of using it to activate an action card or totem, but some tribe cards allow you to use the ability AND activate an action.
Finally, there’s attacking dinosaurs. Like I said earlier, these are tough and will require a lot of man, woman and non-binary power to defeat, or a charged up DINOBILVION! Card. Each player starts with one, but its power depends on how many dinochits you discard from your board (up to 6). Defeating dinosaurs will gain you victory points, but also gain you eggs (which will have one or two points, revealed at the end of the game), allow you to claim cards from the jungle or banish cards from your deck.
Papa Didn’t Buy Me a Bam Bam
In all this, you may notice that I didn’t mention anything about buying cards. This is due to the fact that buying cards are the ‘plus’ bit of the deck-builder mechanic. Meeples and food are used to buy cards, and the only way to buy them is if they are visible on top of the jungle discard piles – if there’s nothing in the pile, there’s nothing to buy.
Meeples are used to buy tribe cards, but seeing as you only have a maximum of six meeples in your resource pile, you can’t go on an overpowered spending spree – this is the anachronistic Stone Age, you know! Purchased tribe cards go to your discard pile similar to most other deck builders.
Food is used to buy action and totem cards – again you only have a limit of six food to spend, so spend your food wisely. It is important to strike a balance with action and totem cards as you will need the necessary tribe cards to activate them… but you’ll also need tribe cards to breed. It’s all about the balance.
So, you’ve bought some cards and gone through your deck – guess it’s time to shuffle again? Yes, but you also have to face the DINO RAGE! This will mean that cards will be discarded from the top of the deck according to the level of the dinosaur (the solo version also has Enemy cards that will burn through that deck at a rate of knots). This will reveal more cards for the purchasing but might cover-up that unique card you were after once you had enough food. Ah… diplo poop! If the jungle is emptied, the game ends and totting up takes place. Seeing as this might take a while, the game can also be ended when one of the dino-stacks is emptied.
Dinaughty or Dinice?
Dinoblivion looks to be a fun little game to play – the artwork is cartoony and playful in a Frak! meets Flintstones manner (especially with the silly names of the cards) and the components, especially the cards, are of very high quality. The different mechanic for buying cards and the race against time feel of the solo mode make this something more than your regular deck-builder or tableau-maker. It may be a small box, but there’s quite a bit of game in here as well, whether you are on your own or in a couple. Just as long as you can remain dinoblivious to the lack of historical accuracy.