Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 1 September 2023

Friday Filler: Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game

Jurassic Park
is thirty years old in 2023. It was a big hit in 1993, and although it has developed into a franchise, the original is the one that is best remembered. After all, with what was then grounding breaking CGI, the dinosaurs were brought to life like never before, and the combination of a rousing score from John Williams and a new sound system in cinemas meant the impact of seeing the film in the cinema, it is still recalled today. Sadly, Jurassic Park does not have any roleplaying games based on it, but it does have a board game or two. Published in 2018—on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film—by Ravensburger, the Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game is a light, semi co-operative game for two to five, aged ten and up. In the game, the human players must work together to achieve their goals and escape the island whilst avoid being eaten by the dinosaurs, whilst the dinosaur player must eat as many humans as he can! (well, not literally, three is enough.)

The human players control one character at a time, although the game gives them a choice of ten to choose from. Every character has his or her own deck of cards, character mat, and meeple. Although every character’s deck has Run, Sneak, and Climb cards, each character’s deck also has its special cards. For example, Doctor Alan Grant has ‘Give Me Your Hand’, which lets his move another character on an adjacent tile to move to his tile and Lex Murphy has ‘Piercing Scream’ which gives her a chance to sneak and distract without being attacked. Each character has their own Character Goal which must be achieved before the character can get to the Helicopter Pad and escape. A character who achieves his goal is awarded a Goal Token. For example, Doctor Alan Grant’s goal is to distract the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Doctor Ian Malcom’s is to successfully guess whether a die roll will be odd or even, and John Hammond’s is to not have any character be eliminated whilst he is in play. He actually starts play with his Goal Token and loses it if another character dies. Even if it is Dennis Nedry.

The dinosaur player controls three dinosaurs—a velociraptor, a tyrannosaurus rex, and a dilophosaurus. Although the dinosaur player has the one deck of cards, each card gives two or three actions—Run, Sneak, or Climb—that the dinosaur player must do when drawn. No matter the number of actions on the card, a different dinosaur does each action. In addition, the dinosaurs can do two things. First, each has its own special action. The velociraptor can run two spaces in a straight line, the tyrannosaurus rex can attack twice, and the dilophosaurus can attack a character on an adjacent tile with its venomous spit. A dinosaur special action like this cannot be done on two consecutive turns. Second, a dinosaur can attack. This occurs when they are on the same tile—except for the special action of the dilophosaurus—as a human and neither are sneaking. Attacks always succeed otherwise, and force a player to discard a card from his hand. This is removed from the game and cannot be retrieved. When a character loses all ten cards in his deck, he is eliminated. Lastly, it should be noted that the meeples for the dinosaurs are attractively illustrated, but the meeples for the characters are plain and unillustrated.

What is interesting is that when a character exits the game—either because he has been eaten by a dinosaur or has managed to successfully escape via the helicopter, his player can select another character and continue playing. Either way, this keeps a player involved from start to finish and removes the element of player elimination, if not character elimination.

The game is played on a map of Isla Nublar. This requires some construction prior to play, but the coastal perimeter frame keeps everything in place. The Start Tile—for the humans—goes in the middle, whilst the perimeter and centre tiles are placed randomly. The marked Locations are the Control Centre, Visitors’ Centre, and Maintenance Shed, plus the Helicopter Pad, whilst the dinosaurs also have their own starting tiles. Some tiles have mountains on them and these need to be climbed, as do the electric fences marked on some tiles, when they are turned off. Once activated, the three marked Locations are activated, they become safe spaces for the humans.

On a turn, each player, both human and dinosaur play a card face down on their respective mats. The dinosaur player plays his first as well as any optional actions. Then the human players do the same, plus any optional actions. The Climb and Sneak actions require a successful die roll to complete, as does activation of the three Locations. Cards can be burned or permanently discarded to gain a boost to the roll.

Play in Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game proceeds one card at a time. The dinosaur player is at an advantage with the choice of special actions and is aiming to prevent access to the three Locations for as long as possible whilst constantly snapping at and attacking the humans. Blocking is possible because a character cannot use his Run or Climb Cards to enter a tile with a dinosaur. Conversely, a human player can use Sneak and Distract cards to get past a blocking dinosaur. A human player can also turn on the electric fences from the Maintenance Shed, which block both human and dinosaur movement. Both human and dinosaur players have limited choice of cards to play from one turn to the next, their hands being limited to just three. Because of positioning—either dinosaur or human—and because of terrain like the electric fences and the mountains that has to be climbed, the choice of card to be played can also be restricted. The humans will often find themselves running even as they get close to their intended destination.

Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game is won in two ways. For the dinosaur player, all he has to do is eliminate three humans. For the human players, they have to reach all three locations and activate them, fulfil their individual goals, and only then escape from the island. If three humans escape from the island, then the humans win.

Physically, Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game is well presented, with nice artwork used to illustrate the various characters from the film. The card stock for the mats and the cards feel a little thin and whilst the dinosaurs are eye-catching, the meeples for the humans are, in comparison, bland. The rulebook is well written, easy to read and understand—clearly marking the text for the human players and the dinosaur player is a very nice touch, and includes advice on how to win for both players.

Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game is okay—and for a family game, especially one that embraces modern design, is also okay. It introduces co-operative play, the humans having to work together, the options are simple, and the film will be familiar to almost everyone. With ten cards to lose humans are more resilient than at first seems, but the dinosaurs are tenacious, have more options and more powerful options as to what they can do, and at best the humans can only corral them with the electric fences or sneak past them. And that, for the human players is not very interesting, because whilst Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game does have plenty of theme, it feels as if the humans are avoiding the theme as much as they are the dinosaurs. The problem is that the game ignores some of the tensions in the film. For example, Dennis Nedry, the villain, is a playable character, and his special action is that he is always attacked first by the dinosaur if there are more than the one human on a tile. Which seems appropriate, because nobody likes Dennis Nedry, but he does not get to be the villain in the game. He does not betray John Hammond and you wish that he could. Robert Muldoon is not armed and cannot act against the dinosaurs in anyway. In fact, no human can do anything to to affect the dinosaurs bar turning on bar the electric fences, so the interaction between the humans and the dinosaurs is all too often one way—the dinosaurs affecting the humans. The result is a lack of tension between the humans and the dinosaurs because the dinosaurs have a human player and their actions are going to predictable. Perhaps if the game has automated to movement of the dinosaurs, it might have made their actions less predictable and so increased the tension?

Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game is a serviceable, modern family game that can be enjoyed by casual or younger board gamers. For the more experienced board gamer, Jurassic Park: Danger! Adventure Strategy Game is slightly underwhelming, leaving him wishing that it had a bit more bite.

No comments:

Post a Comment