Title: Dino Dodge
Designed By: Arrio G. Amirgholi
Art by: Linh Nguyen
Published By: Blue Gear Games
Released: Coming to Kickstarter August 3rd, 2021
Player Count: 2-5
Time to Play: 15-30 Minutes
Outwit, outplay, outlast: can you be the sole survivor? Introducing Dino Dodge, a fast-paced game where you are a dinosaur trying to survive the falling meteors and be the last remaining dinosaur. Play as one of five adorable dinos and run as far from the danger as you can, while tossing your former friends into lava pits or under the falling balls of fire. Friendship only goes so far when the world is going boom!
We were provided a deluxe copy of Dino Dodge for review. For set-up and how to play, we will just look at the base game. Set-up is almost the exact same when using the expansions, but just has a few extra steps at the end depending on which expansion(s) you choose to add in. But be sure to check out an overview and our thoughts on each expansion in the "Our Thoughts" section below!
Start by laying the 8 land tiles out in a circle, with each card facing the middle of the circle. Make sure cards are all land side up, not lava side up.
From the deck of cards pull out all of the cards labeled "move you". Shuffle just these cards and give a random card to each player. Then shuffle the remaining cards back into the full deck. Deal each player 4 more cards, so they have a hand of 5 cards total. If playing with 4 or 5 players, give the last player an extra card. Put the remaining cards in the middle of the land tiles. This will be the draw pile.
Give the player token to the oldest player and make sure it is fossil side up. Shuffle the meteor tiles and have the starting player pick one and place it above a land tile of their choice. The highest number of the card should be directly above the land tile. Put the remaining meteor tiles off to the side within reach of all players.
Have each player select a dinosaur to play as. Players take their respective dino meeple and player card. All players then add their dino meeple to a land tile of their choice. Players can share land tiles if they wish.
Set the safe token off to the side for later use.
(If you were playing with any expansions, now would be the time you would set those up as well!)
You are now ready to begin
How to determine the first player:
The most prehistoric player (oldest player) goes first.
How to Play:
Dino Dodge is played over multiple rounds, each consisting of three phases.
The first part of a round is the Active Player Phase. In this part the active player will do four things:
Add a meteor - flip a meteor card over and add it above a land tile of your choice that does not already have a meteor tile on it. Just like in the setup, make sure the highest number is just above the card.
Draw 5 cards if you have no cards. If you have any cards, skip this step.
Play an action (or multiple actions). You must do at least one action, but may do more. Actions will be things like moving yourself or enemies, using your dino power, or manipulating land tiles.
End phase - flip the player token to the sky is falling side and optionally draw a card if you have no cards in your hand.
Just a note, during the first round of the game, you will not add a meteor as one was already added during setup.
This is the phase where you will be working to position your opponents under meteors in order to take them out. You can also work to set yourself up for the best chance of survival. You cannot end your turn in lava (if you do, you go extinct), so if you are in lava this is also the time to get out!
The next phase is the Sky is Falling Phase, where three things happen.
Rotate all meteors down by one number, so a 3 would become a 2, or a 1 would become a boom!
Draw check - any player who is under a meteor can choose to draw 1 card if they wish (pending it doesn't put them over their 5-card hand limit)
Boom Check - see if any meteors have gone boom! If none have boomed, pass the player token to the person on the left and flip it back to the fossil side. Begin the next round. If meteors are booming, enter the boom phase instead.
The Boom Phase will only occur if a meteor gets to the Boom part. Otherwise, it is skipped for this round.
In the Boom phase, any player who is on a booming land tile will need to get out in exactly one action, or they get hit with the meteor and go extinct! If you are on the normal side of a land tile, you can use either a single card with an action such as "move you" to get out of the meteors way or play a matching pair of action cards to either use your dino power or land effect to try and escape. If you are on a lava tile, you are now in what is known as a deadly impact situation and you must play a pair of cards in order to escape. Fail to escape and you lose.
Continue resolving player's under meteors until everyone has either been eliminated or is safe from the meteor's impact. Once that is finished, flip any land tiles that boomed to their lava side (if they are not already there), place the boomed meteors in the discard pile, and flip and pass the player token to the left.
You are now ready for the next round. Begin with the new starting player and repeat the steps above. Continue until there is only one dino left. That person is the winner!
The first thing that caught our eye about Dino Dodge was how bright and colorful it was. We really love the cartoon style it is drawn in and while there is not a ton of art on the actual cards themselves, even the cards with text are vibrant and look nice. We also liked the mix of poker cards and square cards. It gives the game a more interesting look on the table than just poker cards would have. Also, the dino meeples are really precious.
Dino Dodge was simple to learn and the instructions do a great job providing picture references to help you out along the way. Dino Dodge uses a lot of iconography over text and it makes the cards much cleaner to look at. After a game or two, you know what each icon is, as they make sense for what they do. However, until you have them memorized the rules have some good reference guides and clarifiers for each icon. The rulebook for the expansions was particularly well done and does a great job breaking down individual cards and tokens so you always know what the symbols mean.
Regarding gameplay, Dino Dodge is a great game for those that like hand management games. As you can only ever have a maximum of 5 cards, and without the expansions, cards are hard to replenish in large numbers, you need to think carefully about using your actions to save yourself, move another dinosaur into a perilous position, move land tiles or meteors, use your dino power, or save your cards for when a meteor strikes you. And trust us, a meteor will strike you sooner or later. For those that like push your luck games, there are opportunities to be risky and run out of cards in an attempt to get a full hand back next turn, but if you are not careful you may find yourself getting hit with a meteor and having no way to run away!
Dino Dodge is also a lot of fun for those that like "take that" games. There are so many chances to try to throw other dinos into lava or under meteors. After all, it's every dino for themself.
We even liked the little bit of asymmetry happening. As each dinosaur has its own unique ability, you can work to use your ability to both help yourself and mess with the other dinosaurs. We tried all the different powers and they feel well balanced.
Now let's talk about expansions. We had the opportunity to test out the Deluxe version of Dino Dodge, which contains four expansions. One thing we found surprising was that adding all of the expansions to the game actually sped up gameplay. Normally when you add expansions, it seems like the game gets a lot longer, but with Dino Dodge when we added all expansions at the same time, our games actually wound up being quicker. We think it is because the expansions either add elements that hinder players from surviving meteor attacks or because being able to draw cards more frequently lets you cycle through your hand quicker and take more actions as a result. With more actions, come more chances to hit your opponent with a meteor. Either way, we thought it was cool that adding different things to the game didn't make the game take longer. We also like that you can mix and match expansions to fit your group's playing style.
Let's look at our thoughts for each expansion so you can figure out what looks most interesting to you.
Mysteries of Mother Earth - this expansion adds the most chaos into the game. It adds many new hidden challenges that players will need to navigate as the land becomes more and more filled with lava after the meteors keep falling. The action tokens escalate the challenge of staying alive by adding either one-time effects or persistent effects when activated. The velociraptor is a push your luck element where you can attempt the get other players to lose a card, but risk losing one of your own if you get unlucky.
Primal Powers - this expansion allows players to enhance their dino's special ability. The more you use it the stronger it can become as you can hoard power tokens and use them in one giant move if you wish, or you can be boring and just use them one at a time. Just kidding, you're not boring, and this is actually a pretty okay strategy!
Cataclysmic Events - this expansion provides additional challenges that players must overcome. It adds events that impact either the world at large or what players can do in the game, such as restricting the use of land tiles or moving the meteors. As these events are unpredictable and usually cause more challenges for players, it is best to try and work some flexibility into your game strategy. Otherwise, you might end up like me and think you are good and ready to run from the meteor only to lose the card you needed to be able to do so.
Prehistoric Pals - the last expansion adds the most strategy. Player's can try to get to the dinosaur egg and use it to get more cards back into their hand, or they can enlist the help of the friendly pterodactyl taxi service and fly themselves or others around the land tiles.