If Jurassic Park is anything to go by, then we know, with certainty that dino-parks are amazing for raking in the money. And, unfortunately, inevitable disaster. Imagine how much insurance John Hammond was paying for such an endeavour! He should have just picked up Draftosaurus instead. Would have saved him a fortune! Could have put his money towards something beneficial to the world instead!
Anyway, if you were lucky enough to get hold of Draftosaurus then you are no doubt in the market for some expansions! The base game itself is a great little game, but, inevitably, its replayability dwindles a little over time. And consequentially, you have ended up here, seeking guidance on how to spice the game up a little. Fortunately, there are currently 2 modular expansions available: Marina and Aerial Show. One features Plesiosaurs and one features Pterodactyls. It is fairly obvious which is in which. And each features a new board that ‘fits’ onto your base board.
And with that out of the way, let us start our tour of the new exhibits.
With this Draftosaurus expansion, you get a new double-sided board that ‘fits’ onto the top of your base games’ board. This expands your zoo into an aviary nursery where you get to place your new dino-meeple: the Pterodactyl! These meeples can only be placed in this area and are the only ones that can be placed here.
The spaces available in the aviary area mostly grant you little boons to help you in your game. It offers the placement of extra dinos that aren’t in the drawer bag, bonus points, and even a space that makes you immune from the placement dice roll. These spaces all offer great little options for enhancing the main game.
The Aerial Show gives you an extra double-sided board for the top of your main board, so too does Marina offer you another extra double-sided board. Only for below your main board that is. This makes it so that you can easily play with both expansions if you want to. Marina adds the Plesiosaurs to your zoo, in an expansion to your river placement.
The Marina Draftosaurus expansion is much simpler than its counterpart in that it simply offers up a new way to gain points. You can only place a Plesiosaur in the standard river placement on the main board, and then after placing a dino depicted on the next bridge, allows you to move into the next section. Each section you move your Plesiosaur into will accumulate the points awarded at the game’s end. Simple. Both sides of the board play out the same.
Marina VS Aerial Show
If you were to ask me which one you should buy if you could only get one, I would struggle to answer. It depends entirely on how you enjoy playing the base game. If you prefer playing on the summer side of the main board. However, Marina might play better for you as it is much simpler. If you prefer playing on the winter side of the main board, where there is a little more to think about, then Aerial Show might be more for you as it is definitely a little more ‘thinky’ than Marina.
I like them both equally for what they are, as they both offer something different, and certainly helps to freshen up the experience a little. And, with them being modular, they are so easy to play together, so there is no rhyme or reason over which to get first. I imagine anyone interested in them will end up with both eventually.
So, as with Jurassic Park, there is always a dark underside to what first appears great and wonderous. The Draftosaurus expansions are no different. Let me put your raising concerns to rest. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the gameplay of the expansions, my negatives mainly come from an aesthetic point of view.
You may have noticed that I write fits as ‘fits’ in this review. And that is simply because, both the expansions, do not fit properly onto the main board. Each are supposed to be placed at either end of the river, which they do, kind of. Aerial Show’s board is a couple of mm's wider than the main board, and thus sticks out a little at either end. Marina’s board fits onto the bottom of the river but is placed in a way that forces the board to be jutting out the side like a broken thumb. This is when playing on the summer side of the main board, when flipping to the winter side, they swap issues. Meaning on the winter side, it is the Aerial Show that sticks out like a broken thumb instead.
The Pterodactyls are a very similar shade of blue to one of the main dinos, making them hard to distinguish when you draft a handful of dino-meeples. They could have easily opted for a plethora of other colours.
My other main gripe with these expansions is probably more of a ‘me’ thing. But, neither of the expansion boxes fit inside the main box. This frustrates me as the boxes are bigger than they need to be. They could have been made to easily fit inside. This forces you to keep the components for each separated from the main game or dispose of the boxes. Neither is an option I wish to take.
One more thing I need to mention is that neither rule book states how to use these expansions with 2 players. The base game asks you to remove a certain amount of each dino for a 2-player game. Both of these expansions simply state ‘add two dinos into the bag for each player’ this throws off the core gameplay of a 2-player game. As it makes the last draw of dinos smaller than every other round as there is now a different number of meeples to place overall. BGG forums offer some support in this issue, however.
The Overbelly? Overback? Um … Some More Good Stuff!
My issues with the Draftosaurus production aside, there is no denying that I really enjoy playing both of these expansions. I enjoy that one is very simple and one is a little more involved. The artwork on the boxes, instructions and boards are great, and match the tone of the base game well.
On both the expansions, there are slight variations within each of the boards. This adds a little further to the replayability. In Aerial Show, there is a placement that grants you an extra point per pen in your zoo of the depicted dino, and on each of the boards, it is a different dino. In Marina, the Plesiosaurs move under each bridge after placing a depicted dino in your zoo, and the depicted dinos are changed on each board. These little touches are a nice little bonus.
The dino-meeples in the base game are some of my favourite meeples ever. I just love the shapes and uniqueness of them. Aside from the colour choice of the Pterodactyls, the expansion meeples do not differ in quality. They are top-notch and look right at place in the draw bag with the base game meeples. Some people may be able to distinguish the different shapes when drawing them, but, with my mountain hands, I am just happy when I get my hand out the bag without being trapped in there myself.
So, overall, I may have my gripes about the production quality, but I do still recommend both of these expansions. They both add something a little extra into the main game and differ from each other greatly. They are by no means an essential addition to the main game. However, they definitely perk it up after you have played a fair amount of it. If you are a fan of Draftosaurus then there is no doubt that you will be a fan of both of these expansions!