What was that?
…I hope that rumbling was just my stomach! I have a peculiar feeling about today. I don’t think visiting a theme park full of teeth, bad attitude and a prehistoric urges to dismember me, was the best of my ideas. Mind you they are all in specially secure compounds with electric fences and electric doors. I know I’m safe so long as I can hear the perimeter defences electrically buzzing away….
…mind you, on that note, I must note, it has been rather tranquil…rather quiet… too quiet, in fact… There is a distinct absence of buzz… and an absence of any wild life noise at all. I wonder why?…
…there’s that deep guttural tummy rumble again, although I have just eaten a packet of Jaffa Cakes so it couldn’t be my tum…
(Press play for a Dinotopian ambience to accompany your read!)
Welcome to Dino World : a dinosaur-themed roll and write game from Alley Cat Games. In essence this is said to be a complex spatial puzzle set in a theme park for dinosaurs… and by that I mean the park is filled with implausibly themed dinosaurs for the delectable entertainment of the morbidly curious park visitors.
What’s All The Fuss About?
Every square of our theme park, for the park is gridded for our convenience, is he ultimate in valuable resource. Space, like in any land development ,is of the utmost premium. Enclosures for our exhibits…our deadly, live exhibits must be easily accessible to visitors both able-bodied and disabled alike, which means that every decision about path-laying, structures/enclosures and power generators must lead directly somewhere and join to make a visual feast for our punters… so what am I yammering on about? Well, the implausible is no longer impossible and, as a result, has become the possible. We can coin in huge quantities of cash… or, perhaps more accurately, victory points (displayed as stars on components) by building and running a theme park crammed to the rafters with psychopathic dinosaurs. What could possible go wrong?
Immersion or Subversion?
In its most stripped-down form, and hidden behind a dressing stand for modesty’s sake, before us stands a puzzle game. A game of logistics and management. The setting of a Dino World themepark, with its fine visual veneer, add not only to the look of the game but also give us purpose when playing. As with most Roll and Write style games we roll dice and use these results to aid us to victory. In the case of Welcome to Dinoworld, we are building enclosures to house some very wild animals, powering said enclosures’ security fences, maintaining general park security and providing a walkway or network of paths to link the entire park together for the viewing delight of our ‘guests’.
The Draw, Roar, Score actually materialises as a game of logistics and economics. We have a pool of three dice to provide us with pip counts to facilitate the path network, dice scores (singular or combined) as resources to permit construction of paths and special buildings (enclosures tailor-made for each available dinosaur) There appears to be a sizable array of choice, regarding actions available to us, but with a mere three dice, achieving all of these is not going to be easy. I never felt I was actually at a theme park, watching the spectacle, but definitely felt the pressures the ‘top-brassk of such a venture might experience, ensuringbthe Park fulfils thebvisitors requirements (and allowing us to score bonus victory points when achieving such requirements). So with that in mind, I would conclude that this is not a ‘pretty-pretty-build-a-theme-park’ video game in tabletop mode. This is quite a harsh logistics exercise which manages to subtlety immerse us into the game’s theme via means of its decision-making.
I won’t wast time explaining how the roll and write system works (any details of this nature will be available on the kickstarter page, I am sure) What I do want to mention, though, is the shared resource notion used quite a lot throughout the game (which is particularly effective when playing with three or more park builders). Firstly the dice, obviously crucial for a roll and write, are a communal resource. The face pips and dice totals are available for use by all involved in the game to be allocated to whichever action is required (values permitting). They can be used in various ways as “currency” to pay for pretty much all actions/activities.
In the same line, based on my understanding of the rulesheet, Visitor Cards are handed to players who lay them to the left side of their player board. These are available to that specific player but they are not heir sole ownership … no! The player to the left also has access to these cards (which would be on their right). If we extrapolate this around the table, we all end up with access to two separate sets of cards. This is a nice touch as all of us sat about the table suddenly have something akin to an asymmetrical setup…. not as in powers or abilities but in what bonus stars/victory points we are each able to access for our achievements… fur us successfully fulfilling the visitor requirements. Following this trend, when we are playing with nine players or fewer, the rules say we have a central pool of various different sets of Special Building Cards and Lab Cards of which all of us have access to.
This goes some way to generate player interaction which, otherwise for a multiplayer game, is pretty low. But this element of shared resources/cards/visitors adds some excitement as we all need to maintain high levels of vigilance, keeping a close eye on what our opponents are doing.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
Used a print and play copy of the game for my testing and game play but to cut down on my cost for repeated games, laminated four player sheets and dug out some of my HexPlore It drywipe pens. I believe the finished game will be shipping with a pad of these sheets but it’s actually quite fun to draw and wipe…I used this on the train so repeated games used up no additional resources. I am going to assume finalised component material quality will be kept up to date on the Kickstarter (Link)
…my initial, feeble attempts at creating a visitor friendly park. The layout of the sheets is actually really well done. All potential actions and costs are there at a glance power generator allocation can be monitored, security, animal threat levels and game rounds are all milling about the central theme park area.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Cazar Al–Jasar, Kuly Heer
- Artist: Beth Sobel, Sabrina Marimon
- Game Publisher: Ally Catgames
- Playtime: (recess for those of the US persuasion): 30-60 mins
- Gangs of One: Initially 2-1000’s (so it is calmed…assuming the table is big enough) A solo mode with an Automa deck has been announced now
- Age of Consent:
- DOB: 2018–9
There is a solo variant to the game which interested me greatly as it employs a form of Automa deck but sadly it was not made available at the time of my playthough games. There is some information about how the game s intended to be played solo which I have “lifted” from the Kickstarter campaign page.,pasted below
It looks like this should function well as a fairly competitive opponent, offering sixteen double-sided cards with the AI actions listed which should, if constructed well, offer a wide and varied level of opposition.
As a multiplayer format, sharing communal dice and the generic Research cards (X, Y and Z cards) has for me, an interesting competitively-multiplayer solo game experience. Sharing dice results will affect each players board differently depending on their strategy, but there is not what could be considered much in the way of player interaction other than use of mutually exclusive cards (to players left…not so much in two player, but definitely a more in a game with three players and above). As such, I suspect, based on what I have seen rather than played, this factor should lend its self well to a purely solo game against a competitively scoring AI opponent.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: As a competitive game there will ultimately be a winner but getting there requires careful planning, strategic theme park layout and rigorous vetting of the untamed beasts to be introduced for your viewing public’s pleasure. I am interested to see how much of a challenge the AI Automa deck will present us solo players.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The Rules I was given access to, covering ten pages, include illustrations of components and some gameplay situations. They make light work of explaining the fundamentals allowing us to get into the thick of Dino park development fairly quickly. I assume there will be some additional information regarding solo setup and use of the Automa cards in the final draft.
- Lucky Buggers: Dice rolling features heavily, as would be expected if a ‘roll and write’ style of game, but because we all share the dice that are rolled (as a communal resource) the luck is equally shared amongst us. What we do on an individual basis, be it use of pips for paths or die scores for structural development re:the type of Dino enclosure. All of the blunders and successes made are entirely down to our own misjudgement. Drawing cards for set up is a random affair too, but as we (in multiplayer) share these with our neighbours, we Are all in the same boat…or park, as it were.
- Highs and Lows: There is no graphic/visual representation of the possible dinosaurs on offer and no overly descriptive flavour text, so there is no negative spin on the game from a horror aspect. Visually and mechanically this title is light-hearted and should be accessible to younger players.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: Player count influences this aspect but only marginally. Each player has a player sheet a little smaller than A4. Once the building cards and Lab cards have been set up, there is little more than 50cm X 50cm
- Build It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: As the game currently only comes with about forty five cards (based on my copy), three main dice and player sheets, there is very little set up required. I would be surprised if it takes anything more than five minutes to set up or pack away, whatever the player count which means this is a very speedy game to get cracking with.
Me, Myself and I:
I would like to see how competitive and challenging the Cretaceous AI will be.. and just on an aside, I wonder why the big film franchise has Jurassic in the title as many, if not all, of the dinosaurs were not even mooching about in the Jurassic era. Just a musing… anyway, I think that the AI Automa system should lend itself to individual play but I am eager to see how challenging the AI will be for myself.
I digress… This was, in fact, a light, fun game considering I have only one other Roll and Write style of game to draw comparable experience. It is rather abstract in nature when the imagery is stripped back, but entertaining nonetheless, especially to see the ridiculous dinosaur renditions emerge on each player sheet. We had a little more difficulty than those trying pencil and paper, as the dry-wipe pens I own were rather broader than a pencil. However, this didn’t impede gameplay or game enjoyment in any way. It is interesting to have to share cards and dice rolls… a rather nice factor that means luck will never favour one player over another. Despite simplicity, the game does pose quite a cerebral challenge despite its light, breezy appearance… logistically speaking, how do we grow our park? How do we locate cages? How do we wire up and power everything to try to negate the inevitable power outage?… (it is bound to happen, and Hollywood has shown us the way… that ominous click as the electromagnet fails and a retaining door eases open, release cunning raptors all over the place, diving into the Candy floss machine, eating all the ice creams covered in hundreds-and-thousands.
It is competitive, obviously, but equally fun for groups so despite us striving for that ultimate accolade of Best Theme Park, we are actually all lumped in the same dilemma. Welcome to Dinothingy is never going to twist our brains like a tedious heavy euro worker-placement-resource-management-all-singing-all-dancing-game, but as light as it is, it still gives us a significant challenge, giving us opportunity to gain a different feel to every game we play.
Yay or Nay?
From a personal perspective I am not sure I would want big pads of player sheets to hump about on holiday, for example (as this has the feel of a game I Might consider taking away on holiday to play with the family… especially as my laminated sheets work great as write and wipe… but this is definitely a title that works well as a group game, what ever format it adopts. Now as I have yet to try is the all important (to this website, at any rate) solo mode, it would be a little unfair to allow the sharpened gnashers of the more ferocious carnivorous inmates to bite at the BSoMT 1d8 die. Once I do get that chance, however, then obviously they can whittle away at the die as much as they like.
As a multiplayer game it is simple to access, easy to learn, has an economic footprint, can scale from one player to…well, as many player sheets as you have, I suppose… and good fun to play. I was accused of using a dictaphone to write this article and not bothering to check how text to speech translated this onto the page.
I have been informed by the publisher that I have made fundamental gameplay errors too, but as they have failed to expand on this, I have not been able to revisit/reassess, so I would urge anyone interested in the game to take a look at the Campaign page for the project (which I believe has already reached its funding goal) At least here you should find out what is on offer in the game, and hopefully how to play correctly (with more details on how the solo Automa is going to play…. and the game experience we soloists are likely to encounter in comparison to multiplayer.
…it was not my stomach rumbling after all. It was nothing to worry about at all. It was a cute little chap.. a chicken sized dino obviously having squeezed through a small crack…
…I was unduly worried as this little critter couldn’t do me much harm, although I am surprised it would be out and about on its own… what with being so tiny and cute. I wonder if it’s a youngster lost…
…there is that rumble again… why has this little chap suddenly got excited and started jumping up and down?
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Welcome to Dinoworld Kickstarter page:
welcome to Dinoworld BGG page: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/232524/welcome-dinoworld
Ally Cat Games: https://www.alleycatgames.com/welcome-to-dino-world
Videos can be found on the campaign page