We dug up bones, constructed dinosaurs, and sabotaged our fellow paleontologists in The Great Dinosaur Rush, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.
Basic Info: The Great Dinosaur Rush
Time: 60 Minutes
Designers: Scott Almes
Artists: Lina Cossette, David Forest
Publisher: APE Games
The Great Dinosaur Rush is a game based on the period in history known as the Bone Wars, a time of intense and ruthless fossil hunting where early paleontologists were known to sabotage dig sites and steal or destroy bones. In this game, players take on the role of an historical paleontologist digging bones, publishing papers, and building dinosaurs all the while gaining notoriety by stealing bones, blowing up fossil beds, or sabotaging dig sites.
Players start the game with a set of bones – two red, three green, and two yellow representing two limbs (red), a spine, rib, and head (green), and a neck and tail (yellow). They also get a paleontologist with a special ability, a screen, two research cards (more on that below), and a scoring cube. The game board is set up with three bones in each active game space (there is a slightly smaller board for fewer than five players). In addition, a cube is placed at the top of each of the museum categories – size, height, length, ferocity, and uniqueness. The player score markers are placed on the “0” spot, and a marker for the round and phase placed at the top.
The game is played in three rounds, with each round having two main phases – dig and build. During the dig phase, players perform a number of actions in order: pick up bones from their current dig site, move to another dig site, and publish to increase or decrease the popularity of one of the museum categories. Then they do an additional action – either normal actions like publishing again, researching (to get a bonus card), or donating bones to get rid of notoriety – or notorious actions like dynamiting a dig site, stealing a bone from an adjacent site, or sabotaging a dig site. These notorious actions require players to take a notoriety token, which will have a value of 1, 2 or 3 and come into play in the final scoring.
After three dig cycles, players then go into a build phase. They use all of their collected bones to build a dinosaur behind their screen. The goal is to have the best dinosaur in one or more of the museum categories – for example the Size category is based on whoever’s dinosaur has the most ribs. In addition, players want to match patterns shown on their research cards – the patterns must be exact for any part of the dinosaur depicted on the card.
Once everyone is finished building, players reveal their dinosaurs and score each of the museum categories. Depending on the final level of publication, players in first, second and third get a number of points for each of those categories. Then, players reveal any research cards that are met by their current dinosaur, score them and then discard.
After the scoring round, the board is set back up for the next dig phase. Any empty dig spaces are replenished with two bones after the first round, and just one bone after the second round. Also, each of the museum categories are de-publicized by two or one space, depending on the round.
After the end of the third round – and the associated scoring of the museum categories and bonus cards – players reveal and total up their notoriety. The player with the most notoriety subtracts that from their score; the rest of the players add their notoriety to their score. Then, whoever has the highest score, wins.
I backed The Great Dinosaur Rush on Kickstarter a few years ago – drawn to the theme. Dinosaurs! I was not disappointed. This game always brings laughs to the table. Sure, there are times you can sabotage other players – stealing bones before they get a chance to pick them up, for example – but there’s danger in doing that in the form of the notoriety tokens, which makes you think twice before going all-in on that strategy. There is also strategy in deciding how to build your dinosaur – do you put most of your green bones into ribs (to win the Size category) or spread them out to try and win the Ferocity or Length categories?
The dinosaur creations are always ridiculous. Sometimes one of our friends will reveal a dinosaur with a single spine bone and five or more ribs – you can’t help but giggle! As the game progresses, players get more and more bones, and the dinosaurs get sillier and sillier.
There are also a number of great decisions to make – where to you move on the dig board to get the right bones for either the museum categories or research cards? do you go all in on research cards and ignore the museum categories, only winning them by happenstance? do you take another notorious action to get that one bone you need, but at the risk of taking the game-end penalty? do you publish to help yourself, or de-publish to make life harder for someone else?
We always have a lot of fun with this game. There are a lot of steps to each round, but they are clearly laid out on the board. And, the player shields also act as player aids, with the different museum categories summarized on one flap, the required bones for a dinosaur build in the middle, and the summary of regular and notorious actions on the other flap.
I will always say yes when someone suggests this on our game nights.
How is it as a 2-player game? The Great Dinosaur Rush works well as a 2-player game. There isn’t quite as much competition for the different museum categories, so it could be better in that respect – and the dig board doesn’t get as crowded or hard to navigate even with the reduced size – but for me those are minor complaints. We definitely have fun when we pull this out with just the two of us.
How about the art and component quality? The components are good – the bones are simply wooden sticks, but you wouldn’t want custom pieces, since each color of bone stands in for a number of different types of bone. The board is clear and easy to read. The research cards are okay quality, and the player shields are a little flimsy. However, the care that went into making sure the different phases of the game were clear on the board and the information on the player shields – museum categories, dinosaur construction, and action types – outweighs any slight deficiencies in quality, in my opinion.
I quite like the art, and the fact that each of the paleontologists is based on a real person in history is just icing on the cake.
Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. I love pulling this out on game night. I always know there will be giggles at the table as we each reveal our ridiculous dinosaur creations.