Review: Dinosaurs of the Lost World
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Tagline: An Adventure Game for Ages 8 and Up
how we met
I bought Dinosaurs of the Lost World on the Geekmarket! Bill had played the game years and years ago. After he described it I was eager to give it a whirl. I actually found a sealed copy for a very fair price. When it arrived I ripped that plastic off and away we went!
I think I paid $40 for this copy, and I was very happy with that price. I still have never seen it in the wild, but my friend Melissa got a copy at a swap meet. Miracles do happen.
how it plays
The first thing to do in Dinosaurs of the Lost World is to set up for play. Place hexes face-down throughout the game board to represent unexplored sites. Mix up the tool markers and place them face down in a stack on the TOOL space. Shuffle the EXPERIENCE and EVENT decks and place them nearby.
Finally, each adventurer gets to choose any eight tools to bring with them on their trip, and no more than two of each. These are secretly written down on a scrap of paper by each adventurer (you will not get markers for these). I think guns are a good choice, but generally this is a crap shoot so just go with your gut and call it good. The back of the rules will tell you the options and where they may come in handy. Once gameplay begins your choices are no longer secret.
Your turn involves three things:
1) Roll two dice and move your EXPEDITION along the board. Note: your EXPEDITION is shaped like an arrow, and this is helpful so make sure it points the way that you should be moving. You will bounce back and forth since you can’t turn corners without enough Victory Points, so movement is not always clockwise.
2) Perform the action of the space you landed on.
3) Move your regular pawn on the Lost World Map up to the number of spaces indicated by the space your EXPEDITION landed on. Regular pawns always start in camp and can move outward in their exploration. They are often sent back to camp.
The entire time you play, you will gain and possibly lose Victory Points. They need to be tracked on your scrap of paper because they are key to your escape.
There are times when you will need to go into battle, either with a competing EXPEDITION or with a creature such as a dinosaur.
VS EXPEDITION, if you win the battle you get to take one experience card, or a non-weapon tool, or an event card of your choice (event cards and escape items can’t be lost, although BGG has some interesting takes on that) from the loser. If you lose, you return to camp and lose your next turn.
VS creature, if you win the battle then you get to stand your ground and remain where you are. If you lose, you are getting chased on the super fun CHASE TRACK.
Oh the CHASE TRACK, my old friend. This is you running for your life while a creature chases you. Roll one die and move forward. One of the other players will roll for the creature chasing you. Creatures never move past you, but if they hit your square then you lose one tool or experience card each time. It really sucks, so run fast! When you get to the end you move back to camp.
Certain hex locations on the map have red stars on them. If you begin your turn on one of the hexes with a red star then you can choose to HAVE AN ADVENTURE instead of rolling the dice. This involves going through the comic sheet for that particular adventure until completed. It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure except the die and any EXPERIENCE cards make all your decisions for you. If you have any of the recommended Tools for that adventure, shown in the upper right corner of the sheet, then draw an EXPERIENCE card for each tool you have before you begin.
Once a player has received 25 Victory Points then they may attempt to escape the island! There are three ways to do this:
1) Landing on the last frame of the Indian Caves adventure and having either the Lost Map tile or event card 22.
2) Landing on the last frame of the Pinnacle adventure and having either the Role tile or event card 21.
3) Landing on the last frame of the Geyser adventure and having either the Tarpaulin or event card 23.
Then you win!
Note: most adventures may not be repeated once you complete them. However the three above (Indian Caves, Pinnacle, Geyser) may be completed again since they are your means of escape.
how it went
Dinosaurs of the Lost World is probably one of the more complex games I covered on the blog here, at least so far. But it’s honestly really easy once you get started. Don’t be intimidated by the long (Avalon Hill) rulebook. It’s really a game on the outer track of the board, a game on the inner portion of the board, and occasionally a comic adventure.
I have played Dinosaurs of the Lost World a number of times, with anywhere from 2 to 4 players. I found the gameplay to be enjoyable at all of those levels, but with a few nuances to be aware of along the way.
With 4 players gameplay takes a bit longer because you potentially have more people going through adventures, getting chased, etc. But it also helps to explore the board quickly, and it brings all of the juicy items to the table for getting plundered.
With 2 players gameplay can go more swiftly, but you have to be careful about being on the offense with attacking your fellow player. All of the weapons and allies they had pointing at creatures can quickly become pointed at you and really ruin your game. I guess it feels like imbalance can happen more quickly in the smaller player numbers.
I love a bunch of things about this game, most of which are very thematic. I love choosing my initial tools even though I don’t know what I might encounter. I love making friends and enemies in my adventures. I love collecting random items that might help me escape in the future.
The CHASE TRACK can definitely become a bummer if you visit it too many times. It always sets you back at camp and that can be a very long way from where you intended to be. Your movement can give away your immediate goals, especially when you get set back.
The comic adventures are such silly fun. If you have enough EXPERIENCE cards then your adventure can be a cakewalk, but those cards don’t grow on trees so make sure you aren’t using them when your alternative is acceptable.
We only played once with our regular Idle Remorse game group of four players, and luck was really on my side for that game. I was unintentionally, gleefully hoarding all of the items that are required for escape. It was my game to lose, but instead I blew that popsicle stand, left my terrible friends behind, and won Dinosaurs of the Lost World!
We played the first Choose Your Own Adventure game House of Danger when it came out. So much reading, so little replayability, but so unique. Dinosaurs of the Lost World is kind of like that. I mean it has replayability, but one of its strengths is that it is pretty unique.
play or pass
Super play! The gameplay is more simplistic than the long rules would lead you to believe. There are certainly more sophisticated games out there, but not quite like this one. And the theme is strong, which I always appreciate.
I’d be surprised if a lot of people became addicted to Dinosaurs of the Lost World or brought it to the table constantly. But I’d also be surprised if a lot of people decided to get rid of their copy after play. It’s a fun, approachable game and it has dinosaurs!