Review – Draftosaurus & Expansions

pic4447676

 

Designer Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, Théo Rivière

Artist Jiahui Eva Gao, Vipin Alex Jacob, Roman Kucharski, TANSAN Inc.

Publisher Ankama Games

Category Drafting

Length 15 minutes

Release Date 2019

Player Count 2-5

Draftosaurus is a family game about building a dinosaur park. In it, players will collect dinosaurs and place them into pens in an effort to score maximum points. Do you have what it takes to build the ultimate dino attraction?

Review

As its name implies, Draftosaurus is a drafting game, but players aren’t drafting cards, tiles, or dice. Instead—and this is the only game I know that does this—players draft meeples. Specifically, they draft dinosaur meeples of different colors/species.

The goal of the game is to earn the most points. Each player has their own board, and they gain points from filling the pens on their board with dinosaurs.

The game takes place over 2 rounds of 6 turns each. To begin a round, all players draw 6 dinos from the bag. Each turn, 1 player rolls the die, which determines a placement restriction for all other players. (The person who rolled is exempt.)

Then, each player chooses 1 dinosaur to place on their board, honoring the restriction, and passes the remaining dinosaurs to the player on their left. This pick-and-pass action is then repeated until all dinos have been placed. The die also gets passed each turn, so everyone will have some rounds where they can ignore the placement restriction.

Each pen has its own placement requirements and scoring conditions. In the basic game, these include:

  • FOREST OF SAMENESS: All dinos placed here must be the same type. The more there are, the more points they are worth.
  • MEADOW OF DIFFERENCES: All dinos placed here must be different types. The more there are, the more points they are worth.
  • PRAIRIE OF LOVE: All dinos are allowed here, but only pairs are scored. (Each pair is worth 5 points.)
  • WOODY TRIO: If exactly 3 dinos are placed here, the player will score 7 points. Otherwise, they will score 0.
  • KING OF THE JUNGLE: Only 1 dino is allowed here. If, at the end of the game, there are more of this type of dino on the player’s board than on any opposing board, the player earns 7 points. Otherwise, they earn 0.
  • SOLITARY ISLAND: Only 1 dino is allowed here. If, at the end of the game, it is the only dino of its kind on the player’s board, the player earns 7 points. Otherwise, they earn 0.

If a player can’t or doesn’t want to place a dinosaur in a pen, they can instead place it in the River. Each dinosaur in the River will be worth 1 point at the end of the game.

Each turn, the die will impose the following restrictions:

  • Dinos must be placed in a pen on a specific land type, either in the green or brown sections of the board
  • Dinos must be placed in a pen on either the left or right side of the River
  • Dinos must be placed in an empty pen
  • Dinos must be placed in a pen that does not contain a T-Rex

After the final turn, players score their points. They earn 1 additional point for each pen that contains a T-Rex, and the player with the most points wins!

The backside of the player boards contains an alternate set of pens with different rules. This variant park offers deeper strategy and provides a more “gamer-y” experience. While it’s not recommended for first-time players, it definitely adds to the enjoyment later on.

Additionally, 2 expansions are available for Draftosaurus, both of which add in supplemental boards and new dinosaurs.

Aerial Show introduces pterodactyls, which can only be placed on their associated board (or in the River), but they are not bound by die restrictions. As pterodactyls are added, they unlock cool abilities like extra dinos, scoring opportunities, and even the ability to ignore die restrictions for all dinos for the rest of the game!

Marina, likewise, introduces plesiosaurs. These dinos always begin in the River on the main board, but they can “float” down the River onto their associated board. Each time a player places a dino shown on a bridge, a plesiosaur next to that bridge can float under it, to the next segment of water. The farther a plesiosaur travels, the more points it is worth at the end.


Draftosaurus has all the hallmarks of a classic family game. With an easy ruleset, a lightning-fast play time, and a touch of indirect interaction, it feels like it belongs in the same discussions as Sushi Go and Qwixx. Like those games, Draftosaurus presents players with a small set of decisions each turn, and asks them to choose the best one. At no point do the decisions feel overwhelming, and it’s rare for a player to get totally hosed in this game. Almost always, they have at least a couple of good options to choose from each turn, with the River as a backup.

The production of Draftosaurus is nice, with colorful meeples and easy-to-read player boards. The dinosaurs could have all been the same shape, but the fact that each color is a different species/design is a great touch. That being said, the orange and red dinos are very close in color, and their shapes, while different from one another, are similar enough that it is easy to confuse them. I found this to be an ongoing source of frustration.

Nevertheless, Draftosaurus has a good mix of luck and strategy. Obviously, the die results can vary in how restrictive they are, depending upon which dinos players have and how far along they are in the game. Take, for example, the result that requires dinos to be placed in an empty pen. If this is rolled on the first turn of the game, it is essentially meaningless, since all pens begin empty. On the contrary, if it is rolled late in the game—say, after 10 or 11 dinos have been placed—the restriction will be much harder to follow.

The expansions introduce new mechanisms and add new strategy layers. Gameplay remains pretty simple, even with expansion content included, but I still recommend that players play a few rounds of the base game before adding in the extra boards/dinos. Between the 2 expansions, I enjoyed Marina more than Aerial Show, so that is the set I would recommend if you can only get 1 of them. (Honestly, though, the base game alone packs a lot of punch, so for most players, it will probably be enough.)

Overall, I really like Draftosaurus. It’s quick, clean, and fun, another strong offering from this designer supergroup. If you enjoy light drafting games, it is definitely worth checking out.

Review copies of the base game and expansions were provided by Flat River Group.

The Bottom Line

Draftosaurus has all the hallmarks of a classic family game. If you like short, snappy games that beg to be replayed, check this one out.

 

8

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.