Save your pair of dinosaurs from extinction by running as quickly as you can through all types of terrain and making it to the finish line before the volcano erupts. Only the fastest dinosaurs survive in Dino Race.
We’ll get to the race in a little while but first, we’ll rush through some technical stuff.
The Fiddly Bits
Designer: Roberto Grasso
Publisher: Ares Games, Devir, and Intrafin Games
Date Released: 2014
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 6 and up
Setup Time: less than 5 minutes
Play Time: about 20 minutes
The object of the game is for your two dinosaurs to make it to the end of the racetrack before any other player’s dinosaurs and try to cross the finish line with the dinosaur egg in tow.
Every track begins with the volcano tile at its beginning. All other tiles are shuffled and placed randomly in a pattern of the players’ choosing. I like a U shape because it’s the most economical in terms of space but you’re okay so long as there is a clear and single path with which to run.
The tiles, besides the volcano tile, are double-sided. Each tile has a lava side and a terrain side. There are four types of terrain: swamps, plains, deserts, and forests. Here’s a sample of the four terrains.
Both of your dinos will have to make it through each of the tiles on the track. More on that later but first, let’s finish getting the game set up.
All dinos (two per player) start on the volcano space. Players get dealt a hand of five cards each and then they decide who goes first. The player who goes first holds onto the egg—more on the egg later. On a turn, a player can play as many cards as they want so long as a card is a legal play and there are eight possible cards you can have in your hand.
The terrain cards allow you to move into a terrain tile that shares the same symbol as the card. There’s an even number of cards for each terrain and two wild terrain cards that count as any terrain. You can also pick up the following three specialty cards.
The first one lets you steal a card from another player, the second allows you to knock over another player’s dino who’s on the same space as one of your dinos (they’ll have to use a terrain card of the same type tile they’re on to stand upright), and the third lets you steal the egg from the player with the egg. Once a player’s done with their turn, they roll the event die.
The event die is a six-sided die with different faces. Four sides have the four terrain symbols on them. When any of the terrain faces are rolled, players draw cards from the draw pile for every dinosaur they control that’s on the terrain shown. The fifth side has a picture of two cards and every player draws two cards, regardless of where they’re dinosaurs are. The sixth side has a picture of lava. When a player rolls this die face, the volcano just erupted and bad things happen.
Flip over the terrain tile closest to the volcano that isn’t already showing its lava side; the lava spread to the next space. If any dinos are on that space, they receive one wound token worth one negative point. If any dinos are on the spaces before that space, whenever they enter the new space, they receive one wound token. Finally, the player with the egg takes one wound token and they hand the egg to the player to their left. About the only thing good that happens with lava is that they count as any terrain. All you have to do to enter a lava space is discard any card from your hand–this makes for a great catch-up mechanism.
When your first dino reaches the finish line, you grab a scoring token at random. When your second dino crosses the finish line, you choose which scoring token you want. As soon as both of one player’s dinos finish the race, the game ends. You score the number value on your scoring tiles. If the scoring tile’s number matches the color of your dinos, you get double points. And if you have the egg when you cross the finish line with your second dino, you get bonus points.
The player with the most points wins.
Dino Race is an excellent kid’s game. I like the modular board – that’s always a great thing to introduce to young gamers – and the game pieces are fantastic. There’s a splash of strategy to Dino Race that hints at other games in the industry but most games of Dino Race come down to luck. And that’s where Dino Race shows its kid’s game stripes.
Most good kid games have a healthy dose of luck so it evens the playing field for younger gamers; they must have a good chance at beating Mom and Dad. The subject matter is lighter, easier to get into, and the design is more colorful. Check, check, and check.
Sure, older gamers won’t give this game a chance, but Dino Race isn’t designed for older gamers. Yet it has a level of complexity that you won’t find in other kid games. This isn’t Candyland. The modular board, rudimentary hand management, and basic strategies found in Dino Race give young gamers the skills to tackle more challenging games in the future.
Dino Race is an excellent kid’s game that will have limited appeal to older gamers. As such, I don’t plan to buy it for my kids (teenagers) but I do intend to purchase Dino Race for my young niece and nephews. And Uncle Kyle has dibs on the green dinosaurs.