Digging Those Dino BonesMarch 4, 2019
A preview of the upcoming family game, Dino Dig. The game player count is 2-5, and in Dino Dig, players will be digging up and piecing together dinosaur skeletons and hoping to end the game with the most points.
Designer: Amelie Le-Roche
Publisher: Zerua Games
Player Count: 2-5
Mechanics/Genre: Set Collection
Note: A copy of this game was given to The Inquisitive Meeple for an honest review.
In Dino Dig you are doing exactly what it sounds like, playing paleontologist searching for dino bones. Players will each have some special one-time use cards. The board is a 5×5 grid of cards, stacked 3 high. There are 3 types of dirt cards: flat, boney and rocky – each with their own actions that can be found in them. On a turn, a player has 2 action points, either they can move, dig or use a one-time use card (they can do the same action twice if they like). When digging you collect pieces of dino bones that you are trying to put together for more points. For example, a T-Rex skeleton is spread across three cards. The game ends with X number (depending on the number of players) of dirt piles have been dug-out. Then players will score all their paleontology finds.
Let me say first thing off the bat, I really enjoyed my plays of Dino Dig. It’s coming from a new company and a new designer, but it is really is a solid family designed game. As a reviewer, I may enjoy a game a little, think that its pretty cool or even sometimes need multiple plays before it grows on me. With Dino Dig I wanted to immediately play again after finishing the game (though sadly we didn’t).
While I am not a huge fan of the steal something mechanic (well swap) where you take from another players cards (though I suppose that could be taken out) – the cards all have abilities that you will want to use for the duration of the game. The wheelbarrow which can be used to actually stop the end of the game by filling up end game triggering holes is a nice touch. The fact that all cards are held by all players and can only be used once, ensures none of them are overpowered. I also enjoy the fact that negative point scorpions (which adds a little push your luck to the game) can be positive points if you have the most. That causes 2-player games to become a collect-a-thon of scorpions. And while you may normally swap a scorpion for a dino bone with the Swap/Steal action – you may not want to lose that scorpion in a 2-player game so you net yourself 5 points, instead of taking -2 points per scorpion.
The set collection with many of the dino skeletons spread across cards is not only cool mechanically, but it looks really cool on the table. There are even some 1pt cards, that are just bones and don’t connect to anything but they allow the player to do an imminent special action. I will say that in a 2-player game, if someone wants to end the game, they can end it pretty much whenever they want, and since one other player has the card that extends the game longer, and it’s one time use, you will get maybe another turn or another two turns out of the game before it ends. Also scoring is open, so you may be able to figure out who is ahead and if you should end it if you wanted to. If I want to extend an end game – it takes up half my turn to do it. Speaking of those special action cards, they do take up 1 of the 2 actions you can do on your turn, instead of being a free action (but only one can be used per turn), so players need to keep that in mind. That is actually something I would love to ask the designer why they made that choice – not that I think it’s a bad design choice, just be interesting to see what playtesting lead to said choice. Though we enjoyed the game, I would add more end game tiles to the 2-player game to make the game longer. Also, be forewarned, as seen the 2-player picture below, the game can take up quite a bit of table space to play, if you are going to play with more than 2-players you will need something bigger than a standard card table, you will need to play more on say a kitchen table.
My 10-years-old thoughts: I think Dino Dig is really cool, I like the art style and the theme is done really well like how you have to match the bone tiles in the game to make the dinosaur. I like that there are different types of sand so that you can take a safer option if you want to and not have to worry about scorpions. I also like there is a positive score if you get enough scorpions. It’s great there are the special ability cards, that do things like being able to keep the game going and how you can use the radar to be able to peek at some of the top tiles. There is a great selection of dinosaurs and it’s fun building them. Oh and that there are eggs to help finish building the dinos, but at the same time, the eggs are limited in the game. Overall, I think it is a fun, awesome really cool dinosaur game. I think it could help kids with math (adding up scores) and learning some about dinosaurs like their names and what they look like from their bone structures. I’m always up for a game of Dino Dig.
Dino Dig’s gameplay is streamlined greatly and flows quite nicely. The age of 8+ seem right on the money. Overall, this game feels like an amalgam of a Kid’s Table game and a Gamewright game in feel. That is pretty high praise if you know the quality family games they both tend to put out. If you don’t mind a tiny bit of take-that in your games (which many family style games have) and you have children (or spouse) that are dino lovers, don’t hesitate to back Dino Dig on Kickstarter.