Jurassic snack (2018) review
2 Player abstract games are games that my daughter and I enjoy immensely. Most of the time, my wife is too busy or too tired to play games with us, so my daughter and I get out something like Onitama or King & Assassins. After being given a copy of Jurassic Snack from Blackrock Games at Essen last year, I thought my daughter would fall in love with this beautifully presented game, as it fits in with the criteria that we normally like. But she was not enamored. She was a little bored of it after a few plays. But I was…
Please read on.
This is another Bruno Cathala game, and there seems to be more and more popping up from the woodwork every year. He seems to be throwing out titles here, there and everywhere. And the majority of them have high praise, much like another dinosaur title called Raptor, some years ago. But is this herbivore chomping game one of them? Well, it’s presentation seems to fit that category of excellence. It’s cartoony and colorful art will attract the eye of the young and old, but also when displayed on a table, the 3-D dinosaurs will blow anybody's mind with it’s cuteness.
Each player will have four Diplodocus of their color scattered on a four map tiles, surrounded by a lush vegetation that they can eat. In turn order, players will take two actions which are tradition, in the fact that they are movement actions. Moving one of you dinos orthogonally across open spaces until it reaches the end of a tile, or bumps into another dino (down Dino, DOWN!). More importantly are the bushes. Moving up to one of these allows you to eat it. Eating a bush means you reveal a power depicted on the underneath that token, that at the beginning of the game are randomly places and take up 95% of the tiles. Meaning the start of the game is restricted in movement options, until a bit of space has been cleared. Thus opening up the possibilities for tactical movement and cornering the market of your dinos snacking.
When revealed, the token goes by your side and will score you points depending on the type of token it is. It could be some tasty grass which will earn you two points , or it may reveal something else. There are six other types of effects that can either, give birth to another one of your dinosaurs or give you the ability to look at multiply tokens effects on one tile. There is a volcano that will remove two random tiles from play and there is the surprise of a Tyrannosaurus Rex landing in the game. And finally there are the flying tokens that can whisk you Dino out of harm's way, or greener pastures and the other that whisks the T-Rex to any locale. Maybe to save your own skin or put pressure on your opponent.
When one of these monsters arrives, the game changes a little. As the T-Rex will eat any Diplodocus it meets. The arrival of this beast gives the players a choice to either move their own dinosaur to move this one. Like any good abstract game, the extra rules are the same in regards to the movement for this predator. Moving up to a Diplodocus mean that it is removed from the game. Eaten. Dead. Another level of planning is need when one of these arrives. And when the second one comes…(Oo-oh) It offers a moment of reflection as you try to position your pieces into places to make it easy to get points and not so easy to get eaten. The balance between either moving your dinosaur or the T-Rex is even more intriguing as every token that you pick up will gain you a certain amount of points. After the last token is removed, it’s game over and you count the points. The player with the most wins, unless... All your dinosaurs are eaten by the T-Rex meaning the other player has automatically won. Again, this is a wonderful turning point in the game, should you go for points or elimination.
Players can have a great time playing this game in a light fashion, even though there is a nice level of strategy and planning to be add in positioning your pieces. But unfortunately some games can be unbalanced if you have the misfortune to find both T-Rex’s. They jump out from the bush and eat your Dino’s, so you're at a disadvantage. Two less Dino’s than your opponent, and then they manage to hatch extra dinosaurs giving them the upper hand of the game. All they have to do is eat your two remain one to win easily. Yes, luck can spoil this game for one player (even worse when it's a crying child). Which is a shame as it is as I said, strategically deep abstract with simple rules and fun to play. On top of that the tactile feel of the game created from these wonderfully smooth plastic plating pieces makes the game elaborate and fantastic.
Every game can feel the same, so to shake it up you can the position the tiles in different formations. You’re not limited to just creating a 4 x 4 board, you can create an L-shaped map, rectangular one or even a O-shaped one. This also adds some different playing styles and calculations to the game, to make it work in your favor. May be getting to one bush will take you three actions this time while another dinosaur can do it in two. All these mental calculation that are simple enough for a child are fun. But it is when your child starts calculating what action you will do next and they do their best to make your life hard by snatching a bush that was right next to you or placing a T-Rex in you line of movement, forcing you to detor. That is when the game becomes magical.
There are actually two sizes that the game comes in. I have the regular edition, but there is an extra large edition with bigger figures and pieces. And it looks just as fantastic. I only hope that it all fits in the box, as my regular version is going to require a removal of the insert. I can not sit the lid on the box with it inside.
There will also be a second edition of this game that will have different dinosaurs for players to control. The purpose of this is so that you buy the two different versions and add them together for a four player slaughter. This could be very interesting, as games with luck are not much fun with two. But add some more players to balance out that luck. Form silent allences, create bigger maps, add more T-Rex’s or remove some, could all be a bonus for this game. Thus leveling the playing field a little or adjusting the level of difficulty for younger players. I’m up for that and will keep hold of this version of the game until then.
Technical school 9.5 out of 10
Fantastic colorful art, elegant playing pieces and sturdy tiles that are unfortunately a tad too big to fit back into the box without removing the insert.
My BGG school 7 out of 10
A wonderfully elegant to play or abstract game that is affected largely by luck.
Combined score 8.25 out of 10
Now, it’s over to you...