Ever fancied creating your very own Jurassic Park? Well, now you can with Welcome to Dino World from designers James O’Connor, Nick Shaw and Dávid Turczi. The game is published by Alley Cat Games, the creators of Dice Hospital and Cauldron Master.
Welcome to Dino World is a roll and write where players are competing to build the best dinosaur park. Players use dice to build special buildings, power generators and build dinosaur pens, draw paths to connect to the park’s entrance and attempt to stop dinosaurs attempting to escape. Players are also competing for visitor cards (aka objectives) and being the first to claim them means that you can deny your opponents from getting them.
The game comes with two different modes. A lite and a danger mode. The danger mode offers additional rules and is a more complex game. The lite mode is a lighter affair but still on the complex side when compared to most other roll and writes.
Although the gameplay is straightforward, the decisions are not. There are three phases to a round; R&D, Claim Visitors and Update Round Tracker.
At the start of the construction phase one of the players will roll three dice. Each player then writes the value of the dice on to the dice tracker. This dice tracker ensures you don’t use one dice twice and is also the timer for the game.
All players then use these dice to perform various actions. Each die can only be used once and each action can only be performed once. The dice can be combined if a player chooses. The actions available in this phase can be performed in any order. They include building a:
- Dinosaur pen.
- And using a research ability (this is a free action).
The pip value of the die will determine which dinosaur pen can be drawn. A dinosaur pen must be connected to an existing path already drawn. Dinosaur pens are also required to be adjacent to a power generator. If when drawing a new pen it is not connected to a generator, then one must be drawn. Drawing a generator is a free action and does not require a die. Depending on the dinosaur pen drawn they may require to be connected to multiple generators. A generator can be connected to a total of four dino pens.
The shape of the path will be determined by the pip value of the die. A player can draw multiple paths as a single action if the total value of the paths does not exceed the pip value of the die.
Two types of facilities can be built depending on the die value selected; recreation and welfare. Recreation facilities are built with a one, two or three and welfare facilities are built with a four, five or six. These facilities have certain placement restrictions and scoring requirements.
As a free action (no die required) a player can select a research ability which allows the player to adjust a die by one. The die is not physically changed as all players use the same dice pool. The value of the die can be increased beyond six allowing players to build the bigger dinosaur pens, without having to combine multiple die.
After all players have taken their actions a player can now claim a visitor card, assuming they have met the requirements detailed on the card. These visitor cards give victory points at the end of the game. As part of the set-up three visitor cards are placed between each player. So, as the game progresses you are constantly checking the player to your left and right to see which cards they might be going for and seeing if you can beat them to it.
Welcome to Dino World ends after the eighth round, and players count up their score. Each completed dino pen is worth the victory points stated. Points are awarded for the various facilities and their scoring requirements and the visitor cards. Each unused generator is worth two points. The player with the most points wins.
Danger mode has a few additional rules and gameplay mechanisms that are not covered above.
In danger mode there are three research lab action cards that are available. These are sorted in two three groups - Z, Y and Z - and one from each group is revealed at the beginning of the game. These offer game changing abilities and powers that can be actioned like the research ability in the lite mode. You can use the X, Y and Z research actions three, two and one time(s) through the game respectively.
The power generators also behave slightly differently. You can add a total of eight generators (rather than 12) and each generator produces four megawatts of energy to an adjacent pen. So, one generator might supply four pens or supply one pen four times. Every time you build a new pen you also increase your threat level depending on the dino drawn. A herbivore will increase the threat by one and a carnivore will increase your threat by two.
Danger mode also has a security action which can be taken once per round. This increases your security by one or two spaces (depending on the difficulty level).
The differences in the generators and the security come in to play during the malfunction step which is performed after the construction phase and before the claim visitor phase detailed above. During this phase a player rolls a die and add this to their threat level and then subtract their security level. The resulting number gives the player a danger level.
Depending on the danger level certain generators might malfunction. If they malfunction, then a part of the dino pen is damaged. If all the squares in a pen are damaged, then the dino escapes and causes additional damage to adjacent pens.
Final Thoughts on Welcome to Dino World
As far as roll and writes go I would say Welcome to Dino World is on the meatier side of the genre. It is not a complex game but offers more than the average roll and write. It is a refreshing change to have a game in this genre, a roll and write with more than just crossing a coloured box (not that there is anything wrong with these, time and a place).
You get to create your very own, dare I say it, Jurassic Park complete with badly drawn dinosaurs (at least on my player sheet which looks like it has been drawn by a baby T-Rex). There is so much variety and replay-ability in the game. There are nine visitor cards in three separate score groups (four, six and 10) and six different facility cards for each type (recreation and welfare). The expansion adds in aviary dinosaurs (small and large), aquatic dinosaurs and a solo mode. There are also public objectives in the Kickstarter version of the game.
If that was not enough there is also the danger mode which all of the above can be played with as well. The amount of content is higher than the tallest T-Rex and more varied than the dinosaurs pens you can draw.
I like roll and write games and have a number in my collection (Harvest Dice, La Granja: No Siesta, Roll Through the Ages) and Welcome to Dino World is a brilliant addition to my collection. Everyone that I have introduced this to has enjoyed it. It offers something different to the current roll and writes and presents interesting and tough choices. The game does have some luck to it with the dice rolls, but everyone has to deal with the same good/bad luck that you do and there are means to mitigate that luck with the research actions/buildings.
Gameplay is pretty quick, typically lasting around 45 minutes. It can be played with a large group of people and it doesn't slow down or become unwieldy as you are only concentrating on what your two neighbours are doing.
As mentioned above, Welcome to Dino World is a wonderful game and a game that shows that roll and writes can be something more than quick 10-minute fillers.