Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dinosaur King - Review

My son is a dinosaur nut so getting this game was a no brainer. A quick read through the rules game me an impression that its was a simple card game with some tactics and the usual amount of luck that card games always involve.

It's a CCG, but let me say from the outset that a couple of starter decks do give you a good game.

In your starter deck, you get a random selection of dino cards and "move" cards. You also get a play mat and a random character card. Lets take a look at them.

The play mat is a single sided affair. It features three main things. The first is a set of card shaped spaces where you'll place discards, your draw deck, and the cards you've put into play (space for three of these ).

The next feature is a Health track. This is a 20 space track that you'll have to supply a counter for. During the game this starts set to 20, full health and if reduced to zero you become the games loser!

The last feature is the turn track. It runs from 1 to 10, but that's not the length of the game, it's used as a mechanism to make the game build slowly to a finale. Once again you'll have to supply your own counter for this.

The Character card shows a picture of the character in question and details the special ability that character has. These usually involve a "once-per-game" ability such as turning an attack loss into a win, or the ability to add extra cards into an attack, simple things like this.

The cards are split into two basic types. These are "Dinosaur" and "Move". Let me take you through what appears on an example Dinosaur card.

In the top right is a symbol, there are 4 or 5 of these symbols. These are used to combine with similar symbols on "move" cards for bigger bonus'.

In the top left if a paper/scissors/stone symbol. This is used during attacks to determine who have the initiative.

The main area of the card shows a image of the Dinosaur. These vary from CGI critters to cartoon images. Some of the cards have a foil effect which usually indicates the card has a special ability.

A number appear about half way down. This number relates to the turn track on the players mat. You cant put a monster into play that has a number in this location, that is higher than the turn number. The lower numbers are usually lower in power than the higher one.

On the right about half way down are a varying number of life point symbols. These indicate how many life points the player will lose if the dino loses a fight.

Then comes some text. For you average dinosaur card this is just a non-game related fact about the dino, for some dinos this is an in-game power.

Finally at the bottom appears the dinosaurs power value. The higher, the better, the stronger.

Now onto Move Cards. These are played in combat between your dinos and your opponents. The card has a space in the top right which MAY contain a symbol. If it contains a symbol it can only be played with a dino with a matching symbol. If it is blank then it can be used with any dino.

These cards also feature dino's in action with the same variation of image types as the dinosaur cards. The card also has a text block which gives either flavour text or describes a special ability or extra bonus.

Finally at the bottom is a bonus number that is added to the dinosaurs combat value.

Now we get to how the game plays.

You start the game by drawing a hand of 6 cards. At this point you can discard your hand and redraw, but only once.

Then player start taking alternate turns. The turn sequence is as follows.

1) Move the turn track marker.
2) Draw two cards
3) As many times as you want you may play dinosaurs from you hand onto the play mat and make attacks.
4) Discard down to 8 cards in the hand.

Making an attack is very simple. You indicate which of your dinos is making the attack and which of your opponents Dinos you are attacking. You compare the paper/scissors/rock symbols and the loser has to play a move card first, if they want to. The winner may then play a move card. Each player total the points of their dinosaur and move card and the winner is the player with the higher total.

The losers dinosaur is discarded as are both players move cards. The losing player also reduces his life point track by the number of life point symbols on the defeated dinosaur card.

This is very simple, but the play is complicated by the abilities of the dinosaurs in play, the abilities on the move cards and the characters ability if used.

Some cards give you pause for thought. For instance you may have a card that lets you attack with two dinosaurs but at the cost of a life point or two.

I've played the game with just a couple of starter decks and it worked very well, I will be playing again, light and fun.

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