mesozooic (2018) review
Mesozooic is a little game by Florian Fay (Apocalypse Chaos, Greenville 1989) that fits in a little Z-Man Games box, illustrated by Atha Kanaani (Aquarium, Century: A New World). The game plunges you for twenty minute, into the world of dinosaurs.
To be exact, the theme leans more towards building a zoo with dinosaurs inside. Yes, as the title of the game suggests, Well played! After choosing your director (your color), you’ll take the direction of your future zoo. Now, we will have to get to work on bring as many visitors as possible.
A game is played in three rounds. Each round is divided into two parts.
The first is to choose cards, by drafting them. This is where you will previsualize the cards that will have the joy of being part of our future zoo. The public loves beautiful things, so choose well. To please them, you have the choice between several constructions. You have at your disposal, attractions (ideal for children or the big child in you). For fans of vegetations, you can plant and sculpt topiaries (must decorate your zoo, no?). Everyone loves monorails, so you can connect all areas of your park with your pieces of track. And the highlight of the show, of course, you have the pieces of dinosaurs enclosures (to allow your dinosaurs to live in good condition). Yes, I did say pieces. It's not easy to create a zoo. You thought you were going to have everything on a map? Apart from the topiaries, which are self-sufficient, the rest of the buildings will need several cards, depending on the difficulty to construct. The choice becomes quite important. Being careful to take the cards that bottoms can match and top, right sides that connect to left sides, so the two parts of an herbivorous or carnivorous enclosures can be closed ... It’s work, I tell you. Since this is a draft, the others will be hoarding the best cards as well. Sometimes, you’ll just have to do with what has been left. Once all the players have created their starting hand, you’ll go to phase two.
You will mix your eleven carefully chosen cards during the draft. Once done, you will randomly create a grid of 3x4 that will form the site of your future zoo. But there's a hole, say you? Yes that's right. I would say even more, but for now, it's normal. At this point, your future zoo does not look like much. You will have to work to make it attractive. For this, take the second sand time provides in the box. When everyone is paying attention, you turn it to begin the assemblage. Everyone plays at the same time. In very limited time, you will have to drag the cards from your zoo from the hole, like a sliding puzzle. And with one hand. Yes, it's a sliding puzzle. Smart, isn't it? You will have to go as fast as possible to connect the parts together, extend the capacity of your monorail, find the right location for all components of your park. And time passes very fast. No time to pause to think, we must act. As we know, speed and haste are good ... oh wait! That's not true. Then, good luck.
Once the time is up, you take your director's card and place it in the remaining hole (ah, that’s what the hole is for!). Everyone then scores points. Mix the cards up. Start again a new round. You’ll do this three times and the one who has managed to get the most points wins the game.
But how to score points? This will depend on your ability to choose the right cards during the draft, but especially on how you assemble them later.
There are two types of enclosures: herbivores and carnivores. Each is composed of two cards. The herbivores are placed horizontally, the carnivores vertically. If you manage to close an enclosure, it will bring you six points. Visitors will be able to see your dinosaurs safely.
* Attractions only earn points if you have maintenance trucks nearby (your manager card, for example has one). An attraction pays two points per adjacent truck.
* The topiaries are there to plug the holes. Easy to install, they bring in one point no matter where they are placed. Placing greenery, always pleases tourists.
* Finally, nothing like a little ride in monorails to make the most of the park. Each connection between two tracks is four points in the pocket.
Easy, isn't it?
But is that all? For a normal game, yes. And that’s not a bad thing. You will have had already a lot of fun. But if you want more challenge, it is possible to insert some advanced cards (replacing normal cards). These cards offer other ways to earn points based on their location. Some variants are also given to increase or decrease the difficulty of a game to prolong replayability.
When I read the rules, I was not necessarily convinced. In the first game, we took our cards a little at random during the draft. But once the first game finished, we only want to play again to improve our score. The sliding puzzle has a limited mode, but is a great idea. The pressure is really constant. Its cute design makes it look child's play. In reality, the game hides an excellent family game. Quick to play, quick to explain but smart enough to keep adults hooked.
The interaction is not very present. Even in the draft, we found ourselves trying to choose cards that would try to annoy others at the table. The sliding puzzle phase is clearly solitary. This lack of interaction (which might seem negative) is counterbalanced by the very short game duration.
The two phases of games fit together excellently and a bad choice in the draft necessarily impacts the construction of your park in the puzzle phase. It is possible that you jump quickly straight into the expert cards to increase the diversity of what is available. Like this, you have a good replayability. Sadly, the theme is quickly forgotten. The interest is more in creating your perfect square than creating your dinosaur zoo. Although it is always a plus to be immersed, for this type of games, it is not penalizing.
Its small size makes it easy to transport. But beware, the game once installed takes a little space. Each player having their grid of 3x4 cards in front of him. The intended audience is clearly family. It works great. Even, if it is taken as a means of discovering how to draft. Children and parents will find themselves enjoying this around the table. And it's not always the adults who win. For fans of the puzzle, the game can diversify the pleasure with its real time element.
Icing on the cake, between players it can work well as a filler game between two expert game.
A pack of cards, an sand time and a score pad, that's enough to have a good time. Florian Fay gave us a very nice surprise with this smart and fast family game.
Technical Score 7/10
Nothing extraordinary but everything is functional. Design maybe too childish. Rules are clear.
(Not pencil in the box!)
My BGG Score 7/10
(Good game, usually willing to play.)
Easy to learn, easy to play with a good challenge. Smart and fun.
Combined Score 7/10
And now it's over to you ...