Welcome to Dino World
Players: 1 – ∞
Time: ~30 minutes
Times Played: ~15
Dinosaurs are my jam. As a child, they were all I could think about. I recently saw some photos of me growing up and there was not a Christmas or Birthday where a Dinosaur was not present. I had as many Jurassic Park action figures as I could get my hands on. A bedspread. A tent. I watched the VHS so many times it broke.
The point I’m trying to get at is that if it has Dinosaurs somewhat involved, I want it. Welcome to Dino World was no exception. A relatively quick playing pen-and-paper/roll-and-write game that has players creating a Dinosaur themed park over the course of eight turns.
Dino World offers two ways to play: Lite Mode and Danger Mode.
The Lite Mode has two phases: Construction and Claiming Visitors.
During the Construction phase, one player will roll the three dice and all players will use those results simultaneously to build their Dino parks. The values of the dice are written in the appropriate section on the paper player sheet. Players can use those values to perform actions that will benefit their park. The values can be used independently or combined but each can only be used once.
Using their values, players can perform any of the following actions once per round:
Building a Dino Pen allows the construction of a new Dino Pen to your park. Players will match the value(s) of their dice to that of the number of the Dinosaur species on the player sheet. They will then draw the Pen so that it corresponds to the size needed. The rulebook does a very good job detailing all the steps needed to create this new Pen.
There’s a little more nuance with the power that is needed to supply the Pens and ensuring that the Pens connect to your pathways, but the above gives the best overview possible.
Players can also choose to Lay Paths, which is the way your Pens and Facilities reach one another. There are four different types of pathways that can be created, each with its own unique value attached to it. You can also turn existing pathways into cross junctions by spending the pips on your dice.
Any path created needs to connect to an existing path that is already on your player sheet, either one that you drew previously or one of the starting entrance paths. When a path reaches a Pen and/or Facility, it stops there; they do not run through the feature.
Lastly, players can Construct Facilities. There are two types of Facilities:
Each Facility occupies one square and they are randomized for each game from a pile of six Recreation cards and six Welfare cards. Facility cards offer unique end of game scoring opportunities.
Once players have used their allotted dice values, the Construction phase ends and Claiming Visitors phase begins. Visitors are randomly drawn at the beginning of the game and are only available to the players that the cards sit between. Once a Visitor is claimed, it is no longer eligible to be scored. If multiple players are able to score the Visitor in the same round, they will share the points.
Play commences for eight rounds and once the final round has been played, players will tally their points and see who is the winner. Whether playing Lite or Danger Mode, each player sheet has the scoring parameters listed on the page and a section to tally your scores.
That’s the Lite Mode. It’s a great way to learn the game but I would only recommend it for your first time playing and for introducing the game to new players. It sets the tone and allows players to understand the initial concepts but it is definitely light in regards to options. We played Lite Mode twice, just to ensure we knew how everything interacted with one another, before moving onto Danger Mode. I would highly recommend playing the Lite Mode first, just to get the gist of how Welcome to Dino World works. I would also recommend that players take turns in sequential order as opposed to simultaneous for their first game. It will make the game last a little longer, but it’s helpful to see how players are using the mechanics of the game for the first time. We did that for two or three rounds and it helped ensure everyone was on the same page and I think it helped contribute to future games running smoothly.
Danger Mode introduces several small changes and a new phase that helps distinguish the two modes from one another.
Let’s talk about the new phase first: Malfunction. This new phase occurs between the Construction phase and the Claim Visitors stage. The Malfunction phase features a roll of one die for the every player. Using that number (as well as their Threat/Danger level and their Security level) and the handy table on their player sheets, players will see if there are any power generator malfunctions that will cause damage to the Dinosaur Pens and possibly result in a Dinosaur breaking out.
Every time a generator malfunctions, players will draw an X in a square of the Dino Pen. If at any point all the squares in the Pen are X’d out, the Dinosaur will break out. Not only will players lose all points for that Dinosaur (as it’s no longer in its Pen) but it will also result in damages to adjacent Pens, which could cause a cascade of Dinosaur prison breaks.
Some other differences between Lite and Danger Mode are the following:
- Lite Mode allows players to have twelve generators to power their park, with each generator providing one megawatt to each Pen it comes in contact with. Danger Mode only grants players eight generators but each produces four megawatts that can be distributed to whichever adjacent Pen the player wants.
- When building Pens in Danger Mode, each Dinosaur will increase the Threat level of your park. The Threat level is one aspect of a formula that is used during the Malfunction phase to gauge if your generators malfunction.
- Lite Mode features the extra ability of Research, which allows players to add or subtract the value of one from their dice rolls up to six times a game. Danger Mode replaces that with Research Labs X, Y, and Z, which are randomly drawn cards at the beginning of the game that offer variable abilities that can help create a park. The X lab can be used three times, the Y lab twice, and the Z lab only once.
- Danger Mode also introduces two Security actions, Improve and Boost. Improve lets you cross off one box on your Security track each round for free whereas Boost lets you use a die to cross off two boxes. The Security track is another part of the formula that dictates whether or not your generators malfunction.
Danger Mode is where we have spent most of our time playing Welcome to Dino Land. It adds some much needed depth to the decision making and the risk/reward tug-of-war is much more apparent in Danger Mode. The randomness of the dice rolls can ruin some best laid plans but when it goes right, it feels so good. Danger Mode maybe adds an additional five to ten minutes of play time the first few times you try it out but after your comfortable with the game play, a full game shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes.
Either version is easy to teach and while Danger Mode adds some additional wrinkles to the game, the excellent player sheets feature all the information that players will need to be able to not only successfully play the game, but score it as well.
One place that Welcome to Dino World soars is the player count. The Kickstarter edition features cards for solo play but the retail version can support two players and more. More being as many as you feasibly want to play with you (and you have player sheets for). While I like and appreciate the ability to have up to seventy-five of my closest friends able to play the game with me, it’s more realistic that this game hits the table when you have a larger group (six or more) that isn’t interested in playing a social deduction game. I personally would cap playing this with eight or ten players as it would just be too much for players to see the different kind of cards and dice rolls each phase (not to mention seating arrangements).
While the theme is slightly campy, it doesn’t matter as players enjoy trying to pronounce ‘Compsognathus’ and draw a menacing looking T-Rex. I find that during the game, players tend to laugh and lambaste their creations and once the game ends, their parks get passed around for further ridicule. It has some of the same enjoyment that A Fake Artist Goes to New York offers in that regard of content creation.
Speaking of the theme, while I don’t ever truly feel like I’m designing a Dinosaur park, I do feel like each moving piece works well with one another. The Visitor cards are ranked in value appropriately and seem to fit what the public would want from a park, the Labs offer a mixture of park-furthering designs that are outside the normal rule set, and most importantly, the Dinosaurs themselves are mostly known quantities for enthusiasts and novices alike.
While the game can have some stressful decision making, the campy artwork helps keep most players relaxed and calm when something doesn’t go their way. I compare this to another roll-and-write, Railroad Ink, where several in my group found it much too stressful but the whimsical Dinosaur drawings helped break the tension for Dino World. It probably also helps that the player sheets are small and thus, players drawings often end up smooshed and cramped, which result in some bad Dinosaur renditions.
Dino World doesn’t reinvent the wheel but the combination of dice mechanics and public objectives make this different from most roll-and-writes that I’ve played as players are not just playing a solo game while others are doing the same. There is direct competition as players vie for the public objectives and try to be the first to claim a Visitor. This creates a social game that is further enhanced by the poor (or good) drawings that people create.
So…what’s not to like?
As with any game with dice rolling, the randomness can suck some of the fun from the experience. We played once where the first three rounds of the game had a value of three, four, and three, which severely limited our options and made some Visitor cards completely out of reach for the remainder of the game. This isn’t something that has happened often but it could very well be off-putting for a first time player.
The random draw of Visitor cards can also result in some somewhat boring games as players build the same Pen over and over again just to fulfill the objectives in front of them. There just isn’t enough cards to truly randomize the objectives that much. There are twenty-seven Visitor cards, which results in nine unique cards per scoring value.
The lack of cards is one of the bigger problems I have with the game that I fear might hurt its replayability down the line. While there are a ton of different combinations since Visitor, Lab, and Facility cards are drawn at random, there are only so many that exist in the game that they become common knowledge after playing a few times. There are clearly some cards that are more fun than other cards. We played a lot of Welcome to Dino World when we first received it but several games felt similar as the cards were too close in meaning to one another to create different experiences.
Something else to note is that at least one of the Visitor cards (seen below) shows the image of the Velociraptor but the text is the Compsognathus. We followed the text (as that seems to be the easier task to complete for four points) but it’s poor quality control that a mistake like this was made.
I also wouldn’t recommend the pencils that came with the game. While they work perfectly well as pencils, the colors on the player sheet either requires to press pretty hard when drawing or use a pen to ensure they see everything clearly. We had a terrible time seeing what we drew using the pencils and our normal way of writing. Most of us moved to pens after the first round of game one. Moving to pens means you can’t erase and might cause games to last a few minutes longer as players really plan out their options, but I found it a much better solution than the graphite option.
I hope we return to Dino World at some point in the near future. While there are expansions available, they are small in the grand scheme of board gaming. I feel like there is a lot of room for growth regarding this game, whether that be additional cards for objectives or new dinosaurs or a bigger park. That being said, I have enjoyed what Dino World has to offer now and will continue to enjoy the game until I run out of player sheets (which there are one hundred and fifty of for both modes). If you’re looking for a roll-and-write with a fun theme and some more depth than other popular roll-and-writes (Railroad Ink, Welcome to…), I would steer you towards Welcome to Dino World.