1-4 players, Competitive/Solo Mode, Dinosaur Corralling Worker Placement
Designer: Scott Almes
Artwork: Nikoletta Vaszi, Benjamin Shulman
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Release Year: 2020
You know, every year Gamelyn Games releases one of these new Tiny Epic games and every year I try and try to resist the urge to buy them and I always fail. There is just something to love about these tiny boxed games that hold far more strategy and intrigue than they should. This newest one is all about the dinosaurs, read on to capture my thoughts!
Overview of Gameplay
Tiny Epic Dinosaurs is a worker placement style of game that has players placing meeples down to collect resources, dinosaurs, research and contract cards and other items that will aid them in building up a nice ranch of dinos. The game is played over a series of six rounds, each round consisting of seven phases. Seven phases does sound like a lot but once you get rolling it’s pretty easy to keep up. Each round players will collect a number of resources that are still visible on their respective ranch cards. You simply keep track of the amount by moving a teensy little meat stick, leaf or box token along the track on your player card. Then players will take turns placing a single meeple on the main play area and collecting the corresponding locations resource whether it be dinosaurs, fences, cards or the starting resources. Let’s discuss a few of the placements finer points.
When collecting dinosaurs you will roll this special “Wrangler Die” (no not the Jeep variety) and some specific action might befall you. There are three different icons that are possible, a net that basically means that nothing extra happens, a scratch which means that both you and the dino you are capturing are injured and must move to the medical bay and a dino egg which means that you capture TWO of that dino. The capture dino/s immediately move to your player mat to the “Holding Area” to be placed in your ranch later. Now I know what you’re thinking, “holy crap, what happens to that poor, poor dino that I injured when I was selfishly trying to capture it like those a-holes in the second Jurassic Park movie?!?!”. Well, the only thing that really changes when you get zipped on over to the medical bay is that it opens up that spot again for future placements, no injured dinos here really, phew. There is also a spot to place to buy any dino if you have the resources to spend. Moving along, there are placements to collect and cash in those contract cards which you can fulfill to gain leet points by trading in a specific assortment of dinos depending on the contract. Spots to collect and move around some of your fences and spots to collect research cards, which is the only place you can find those SUPER RARE unique dinos that each have an interesting and exciting ability. And finally there are the standard spots to collect the basic resources of the game.
Once everyone has placed all their meeples players will collect them all back and then start arranging their respective ranches. Now, this was the tricky part for me as you HAVE to be careful and not go wild collecting too many dinos during your placement phase or your will run into some trouble. You see, you have to separate all the different kinds of dinos into their own individual enclosures or they will escape and run amok. One game I had four different types of dinos (out of the max of 5) and not a single fence acquired. Now, each ranch mat comes standard with ONE enclosed area already so you are guaranteed to have space for your first dino but after that you HAVE to have fences. Since I forwent fences I was able to pop one dino down but all the others ran off. Normally they will also create some havoc, Herbivores will destroy a single fence piece and Carnivores will eat another dino before vanishing into the night. Luckily, my carnivore ate one of the escaping dinos and I had no fences built to be destroyed by the Herbivores. Yeah, we’ll just use this example as exactly what NOT to do during the first round of the game.
Oh but it doesn’t end there. After everyone has arranged their dinos and got them all fenced up and secure, you still have to feed them. You do this by moving your little meat or leaf resource marker down the number of notches depending on the type of dino. Of the four regular dinos there are 2 herbies and 2 carnies, each worth 1 leaf/meat’s or 2 leaf/meat’s. SO, even if you were able to fence them all up, if you don’t have enough of the required resource to feed your dinos, well, they escape. These are hungry beasts, they need sustenance!! Oh and because they are super hangry they will also wipe out fences or eat other dinos just like before. NOW, if you survive all that, if there are any pairs of dinos remaining of the same species then they will breed and have a baby, dawwwwwwwwww! But…..if you don’t have an enclosure……yes, the baby will flee! Also, because the baby is SUPER ANNOYED because, well, it’s a baby, if it escapes it will also ransack the place just like before. HERE’S THE THING THOUGH, these escapes only ransack once a round for each of the herbies and carnies so don’t worry too much about your entire ranch being decimated like the first Jurassic Park movie. And now we come to the very last thing you do in a round, refresh the research and contract cards and advance the round marker.
Once you hit round four each player gets one more meeple to start placing which extends the length of the game just a tad and once you finish round six the game ends! You then calculate each players points based around dinosaurs collected, contracts fulfilled and research cards collected. Whoever has the most points is the winner!
These components are just adorable but what’s more, they are awesome! You have these tiny dinosaur meeples in the shapes of stegosaurus, velociraptors, brachiosaurus and allosaurus. However, the thing I am most impressed with are the unique dino meeples, these are totally unique each one! With 15 unique dinos with specific research card to go with it, this really creates a large amount of variability with plays. The card stock for the playing area is of a nice quality and the cards are oversized and double-sided depending on the number of players. Overall, I am impressed with the component quality!
The box matches the same size as all the previous Tiny Epic games so you can expect to find a spot for it in your shelves easily. One of the things I love about all the Tiny Epic games is how you can display the game either laying down or standing up as each side is oriented in such a way to make the box look great on the shelf. All the components fit in the box easily although there is only a single baggie for all the tokens and meeples. This isn’t a huge issue but unless you sort them into multiple baggies (which might be overkill for this game) expect to sort out everything into different piles when you setup.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The game is very colorful inside and out with the box art instantly appealing to children. The colorful baby dinosaurs on the front of the box make the game seem like a children’s game but I can tell you that is not entirely the case once you get into the gameplay aspect. All the components are painted up in different stark colors to easily differentiate them. The theme is fun, with players building up a dinosaur ranch and I actually felt it come through in the gameplay. Collecting the meat resource for example made me feel like I was storing up food to feed my carnies instead of just ticking numbers.
The rulebook is so-so. It has a good setup and layout to it but it still suffers from those various rules ambiguities that previous Tiny Epic games have encountered. I had to visit the game forums a couple times and watch a playthrough video to completely wrap my head around some of them, such as the escaping dinosaurs. I feel like that portion in particular needs a FAQ.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
There is an ok amount of player interaction as players will inevitably encounter one another on spaces that they themselves want to visit. In which case you just have to send even more workers. There is also the possibility that other players will snatch up that luscious unique one of a kind dino research card. But, all this isn’t REALLY player interaction, this is just a way to hinder your opponents. At the end of the day players are all still doing their own thing on their own ranch trying to gather up enough points in the most efficient way possible.
That said, this game holds quite a bit of fun! It’s for sure in the “Euro” category with players finding the most efficient route to collect those delish VP’s and trade dinos for more points through the project cards. There is a teensy bit of luck with the Wrangler Die but to be honest it’s extremely negligible and just adds to the fun. I love the variety of research cards and honestly those cards are my favorite thing about the game. Each unique dino held within those holds a special ability that is ONLY available through that dino/card. This creates a splash of excitement every time you acquire one.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
The game has double-sided cards for the main play area dependent on the number of players to keep it balanced. The more players, the more spaces to visit during the placement phase. This keeps the game rolling along smoothly however there are still spots that are more delicious than others, such as the space that gives two resources compared to the space that just gives one. Because of that, I think the game works well at all player counts. For those solo players there is a dedicated solo mode that is designed very well! In this mode you have your choice of four completely different opposing ranchers to pick from to go against plus a special set up cards that are shuffled up and placed during the placement phase to determine what action the opposing rancher takes. I had just as much with this solo mode as I did playing with others honestly.
The replayability is decent, mostly coming from the variability of the unique research cards. This creates a sense of new discovery for the first few times you play the game. After that it’s still a fun worker placement game to bring out quickly even if it doesn’t have many exciting features that you can’t find in other worker placements. The theme mixed with the ease of play makes this one a keeper.
Positive Final Thoughts
The research deck is my favorite aspect of this game by far. I LOVE uniqueness in games and how each special dino in that deck is one of a kind along with all the other different enhancement cards. Add that to the basic worker placement and it makes an interesting game. The dino meeples are really fun and colorful and the game stands out due to its colorful nature and looks good on the shelf. The solo mode is interesting and actually difficult! Be prepared to spend a decent amount of time trying to beat the four different opposing ranchers.
Negative Final Thoughts
Beyond the research deck of unique cards and theme there isn’t much more that really sets this worker placement apart from others. The instruction manual needs smoothed out a bit to cover some of those rules ambiguities.
The Bottom Line
Overall, this is a fun little worker placement Tiny Epic game. I love the theme and the variability it has as well as all the components. Once you understand the bit of rules you will find yourself really entranced with collecting dinos to fill your ranch and eventually “sell” off to gain more points. It’s a simple game but at the same time has quite a bit of strategy when it comes to confining all your dinos in your park with no escapes. Because of this, even though it resembles a children’s game from the cover art, it has a depth to it that adults will love.
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