Boldly going where no Dinos had gone before… During their mission to explore strange new worlds, the Space Dinos found a new home after the fall of their kind on earth. They continued their pursuit of exploration, tracking Stardust and building constellations that grace the night sky. Space has become their final adventure. Join them in their continuing voyage to build constellations as they explore through space. Excerpt from Paodle Games.
Players: 1-4 Players
Duration: 20-40 Minutes
DISCLAIMER: I was provided a prototype copy of this game for the purposes of this review. These are early prototype components, and the final components may be different from these shown. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, but rather to go through a general overview, how it plays and my reaction to it. If you’re interested in the game, be sure to back them on Kickstarter.
How To Play Space Dinos
The objective of the game is to get the most points after the end game conditions have been met.
On their turns, each player will perform actions to build up a 6×6 constellation grid, place their dinosaurs, and score points for their placements.
At the beginning of each turn, the player rolls the die and then takes one of the following actions:
- Place a constellation tile in your hand that matches the die roll
- Place a dino token on a tile that matches the die roll
- Discard any number of constellation tiles and draw an equal number of new ones
- Purchase a special movement token with 4 stardust
- Take 2 stardust tokens from the draw pile
For tile placement, no constellation tiles can be placed next to a tile of the same color or number. Stardust is used to adjust your die roll if you didn’t roll exactly what you wanted. Special movement tokens allow you to move tiles around the board, add more than one constellation tile, remove constellation tiles and ask other players for a specific tile.
You get points throughout the game by surrounding your dinosaur with tiles on all four sides, completing a full column or completing a full row. When scoring, there is an opportunity to get extra points for having different colors and numbers on the tiles.
The game ends when the 6×6 constellation grid is complete or when it is impossible to place constellation tiles for every player. Once the end game conditions are met, any remaining star dust and special tokens are turned into points. The player with the most points wins!
If you’re interested, the setup and basic how to play is explained in the rulebook and also clearly illustrated in this video.
To start off, I absolutely have to gush about the theme. Dinosaurs in space? Count me in! Plus the incredibly cute design makes this game a pleasure to have on the shelf. Each of the little dinosaurs are designed to be floating in space and has a little breathing bubble around their head, which is adorable to say the least.
Right out of the box, the game is incredibly easy to learn and pick up – you place tiles and dinos and try to put different colors and numbers together to get the most points. But its cute simplicity stops there. Despite the small learning curve, it’s incredibly difficult to get good at the game, especially while playing with another adult. Oftentimes I would feel that I didn’t know what to do at the start of my turn (in a good way) since I constantly had to calculate the different possible options and points, as well as weigh what my opponent was planning to do.
In the middle of each game I played, I found myself consciously thinking about how difficult it was to find the right tile placement to really excel in the game. I had to chuckle to myself when this happened since the cute dinosaurs in space made for a very innocuous illustration and theme; little did I know that I was in for some high-level strategy with my stegosaurus. This is especially true considering the special movement tokens at our disposal that allow you to not only manipulate the forming board in front of you, but also essentially steal tiles from your opponents.
The strategic complexity also occurs when determining the tradeoffs between using stardust for adding and subtracting die rolls. Speaking of stardust, there is great balance in the game when it comes to getting and using stardust, which adds a tremendous amount of variety to the gameplay itself for each turn.
Needless to say, although Space Dinos looks like a relatively light game of tile-laying and dice-rolling, I found there to be a lot of in-depth strategy to it. As gameplay started to heat up, things started getting more complex as we were not only trying to score the most points, but also actively trying to block each other from scoring a lot of points by placing and moving tiles in a defensive way. The various actions (aided by the use of stardust) allowed you to get extremely strategic while placing tiles, moving tiles, and placing dinosaurs.
Lastly, as someone with a lot of nieces and nephews, I can’t help but think about how great this game is to teach counting, colors and pattern recognition. Since getting 6 different colors and numbers in a row makes for the highest number of points, it’s a game that can really teach kids each of those concepts while also being enjoyable.
There were a few things that I found myself wishing for throughout the game.
For one, there were a few things with the illustration that I was hoping to see. Oftentimes it was difficult to tell apart some of the colors (red and pink; light blue and white) while other colors (dark blue) really blended in with the dark space background. I’m chalking this up to the fact that I received a non-final copy of the game and hope that in the final version, the colors will be brighter for easy differentiation and distinction. Although the illustrated stars are incredibly cute, it was difficult to distinguish between the higher numbered stars (especially 5 and 6 stars on a tile) so there was a lot of repeated counting for those tiles.
When it came to the layout, the placement of the stars also made it so that the dinosaur tiles sometimes covered stars and you had to move it to recount the stars again to make sure that you were most effectively laying the tiles. A number in the corner of each tile would have helped make this more clear. The scoring sheet, cleverly made by placing 6 cards into a connected constellation of dinosaurs, was sometimes difficult to maneuver since some of the numbers were a tad bit too close to one another
I kept going back to the rulebook again and again to determine different actions I could take during a turn, the scoring system, and the meaning of the special movement tokens. This made for a lot of flipping back and forth of the rulebook throughout the game. When this was happening, I really wished that there was some sort of cheat sheet that each player could have right in front of them, which would save us passing the rulebook back and forth. I envision the first page with the various actions you can choose from and an explanation of the special movement tokens and the back side explaining the different ways to score points.
Lastly, I wanted to see more explanation of the scoring system for the tiles. I found myself asking questions like “if dinos tiles are moved somewhere better, do they get rescored again and again?” This wasn’t definitively answered in the rulebook, which creates space for house rules (we opted for scoring dinos as many times as possible), but also makes it ambiguous for those who want cut and dry rules in place. Occasionally I’d find myself scoring a dinosaur for 4 tiles placed around it then later as the game was heating up, forget whether I’d already scored that particular dinosaur for that same placement. A system to potentially track that would help.
As mentioned prior, Space Dinos is incredibly easy to pick up, but really difficult to get good at, which makes it great for kids and adults alike. Despite the game being somewhat luck-based with the dice roll at the beginning of each turn, there are enough options during each action phase that you’re not tied down in your gameplay.
I’d recommend watching out for game designer Kathi Sjostrom; she’s a force to reckon with for games with simple design yet complex strategy. I for one know that I’ll be pulling Space Dinos off the shelf quite often for that quick weekday game night with the wifey and absolutely keeping tabs on everything else coming from Paodle Games.
If you enjoy strategic tile placement games that are immersive for both children and adults, be sure to grab a copy of Space Dinos on Kickstarter. They’re even shipping in time for Christmas this year!