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Dinoblivion Kickstarter Review

Quick Look: Dinoblivion

Designer: Jean-François Gauthier
Artist: Jean-François Gauthier
Publisher: Goblivion Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-2
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 30-45 min.

From the publisher:

Dinoblivion is a game of strategy: a combination of Tableau and Deck Building Elements set in a Universe where Humanity has to coexist with Dinosaurs. Playing Solo or against each other, you control primitive people who must fight off Dinosaurs and conquer the promised land of Dinoblivion. It is a quick strategy game where you can take advantage of Multi-Use Cards to make sure you always have interesting choices. Based on the ever-changing cards in the hunting grounds, develop a long-term strategy and find the best combinations between cards to become the most glorious clan!

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Dinoblivion. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. Dinoblivion is live on Kickstarter until December 10, 2019.

The prototype of Dinoblivion was provided to me for the purposes of this review, but the opinions here are my own.

Review: Dinoblivion

Overview and Theme:
In Dinoblivion, your Clan is fighting an array of massive dinosaurs and competing with another Clan for prominence at the same time.

Dinoblivion is both a deck-builder and an engine-builder, with strong modes for solo and duel play. There are many intriguing mechanics and good strategic choices available in a game with a small-box footprint and a short, 30-45 minute playtime.

Components and Setup:
Dinoblivion is a card-based deck-and-tableau-building game, so you'll want to get to know the 122 cards a bit before you play the game!

106 of the cards share the same back, because they'll make up the Dinoblivion deck that you're using and adding onto. Each player gets 9 starting cards (Sun Clan or Moon Clan) and 1 Clan Chief card (chosen from a set of 4). There are also 6 Enemy cards which are only used in solo play, so those can also go back in the box for a dueling game. The remaining 78 Dinoblivion cards are an equal mix of Clan and Action cards and will get shuffled together to make one big Jungle deck. It doesn't take long to be able to recognize the different cards here, which makes the game easier to teach and learn.

Besides the cards, there are some boards: one Main board and two Player boards. The Main board will be stocked with the Jungle deck as well as some of the Dinosaur cards (these have a different back to make them easy to separate).

Each player gets a Player board, their starting Clan deck and a Clan Chief card, plus 6 Dino tokens, 3 dual-sided Food tokens, and 6 Buddy pawns. The Player board does a good job of showing where things go, and you'll start with only some of your pool available to you: 2 Food tokens and 2 Buddy pawns start on your Player board, while the other tokens and pawns are your available bank and should be placed nearby.

You'll also set out the Egg tokens, which show 1 or 2 victory points on the flip side and can be earned throughout the game.

Before you begin, you'll need to determine which player will go first--and this was one of the hidden highlights of the game for us! Instead of "the oldest player" or "the player who has most recently seen a dinosaur," you'll play a tiny mini-game of Evolution. Each player will toss their 6 Buddy pawns onto the table (like rolling dice), and the player who has the most evolved creatures--the most pawns that are walking erect and standing on two feet!--gets to go first. Everyone I played with really enjoyed this fun, interactive, unique way of choosing the first player. The first player gets the Mace token and gets to choose their Clan Chief card first, from two randomly revealed cards, and then the other player gets to choose from the remaining card and another random one.

I've included some pictures, but please remember that the copy that I have is a prototype copy! I can't comment on the final card, board, or token quality, but I can chime in to say that I really enjoy the cartoon-style artwork and the very polished graphic work of the box, rules, cards, etc. The icons are clear and easy for us to read and the card art is entertaining, like the worker on the Dino Tool card who happens to have a head just like the Easter Island statues! There's a dash of the over-feminized women thing going on here (what cavewoman would wear a strapless, low-cut dress?) but we enjoyed most of the art.

Game Play and Mechanics:
Dinoblivion is an interesting game to play and learn because it combines aspects of a deck-builder (you are buying and adding cards to the deck that you have available to draw from) as well as aspects of an engine- or tableau-builder (some of the cards can be played out in front of you and will stay there throughout the game).

Gameplay will feel familiar to anyone who has enjoyed deck-builders in the past: shuffle your deck and draw a hand of 4 cards. On your turn, you can use these cards in any combination you like, which may include some cards that let you draw more cards, and you can continue to play cards and buy cards until you have nothing left that you can or choose to do. When you buy new cards, they go in your discard pile, and when you run out of cards, you'll shuffle your discard pile to create a new draw pile.

There are several ways where Dinoblivion stands out from other deck-builders. One is in the use of an ongoing engine, or tableau. Certain cards have Totem icons on them, and when those are played, they go on the table to the left of your player board and can be used once per turn for the rest of the game. You'll find that these Totem cards are especially valuable and you'll want to think carefully about which ones you buy and deploy to build up an engine that can support you in your quest to fight the Dinosaurs. I happen to love engine-builders and so this aspect of Dinoblivion really appeals to me!

Another distinction in Dinoblivion is the multi-use Clan cards. Each of your grey Clan cards can be used in several ways:
  • to go hunting for food (using the number in the hatchet), 
  • to fight a Dinosaur (also using the hatchet number, but you will need to combine several cards to have enough power to battle even the smallest Dinosaur), 
  • to use its unique power (shown at the bottom of the card--this can be producing food, drawing cards, adding Buddy pawns, etc.), 
  • to add a new Buddy pawn to your Player board (using two Clan cards that match on the sides to make one complete Buddy silhouette), or 
  • to play a brown Action card.

That last one is an additional distinction for this game: in order to play the powerful brown Action cards, you have to use a grey Clan card, which means you can't use that card for any of its other effects. This one rule adds a whole layer of strategy that permeates the entire game! You have to try and balance the number of Action cards you're buying with the number of Clan cards in your deck, because an Action card with no Clan card to activate it is worthless. As you buy better and better cards and make your deck stronger, the decision to sacrifice playing a Clan card for its unique power or to go hunting for food in order to play an Action card becomes a tougher choice. All the Totem cards that stay on the table as a part of your tableau are also Action cards and so will need to be played with a Clan card. It really gets you thinking about the makeup and use of your deck in a new way.

There are some other interesting mechanics to be found in Dinoblivion, including the way the Jungle deck and Hunting Grounds areas work--there are two Hunting Grounds, one in front of each pile of Dinosaurs. These piles will be filled with cards from the Jungle deck, flipped over when you go hunting or when the Dinosaurs "rage" (each time either player depletes their draw pile). Instead of a static market, the only cards available for you to buy on your turn will be the ones on top of the Hunting Grounds. This adds some interesting strategy because you may want to go hunting to get more food (to buy Action cards) but as you hunt you may cover up a card that you could have bought.

Fighting the Dinosaurs is the main purpose of the game--there will be two piles of 6 Dinosaur cards and you can fight the top card of either pile on your turn. You'll need to amass a lot of strength to be able to take them down, but when you do, you'll be rewarded with Egg tokens, Buddy pawns, and/or free cards. Be sure to use your Dinoblivion card strategically--this card is powered by the Dino tokens and can do up to 8 damage!

In the example below, I defeated a Raptor by using an Artis Clan card to play Rotam, who deals 5 damage; I discarded a food to raise Patrak's strength to 3, and I played Gilir for an extra 1 point, making my Clan's strength 9 points--just enough to defeat that Raptor and earn an egg and a free card as a reward!

The game will end when either one of the Dinosaur piles or the Jungle deck is empty, but both players will get an equal number of turns. You'll add up your score, including points for:
  • Egg tokens (one or two points each, marked on the back), 
  • one point for each Dinosaur you vanquished, 
  • one point for each Totem icon in your tableau, and 
  • one point for each Buddy silhouette you can form from the Clan cards in your deck at the end of the game.

There is also a Solo version, which uses the Enemy cards and a reduced Jungle deck--gameplay is very similar, but the appearance of an Enemy from the deck will deplete it that much faster. Your goal is to vanquish all the Dinosaurs before the Jungle deck runs out. There is plenty of solo meat here to sink your dino teeth into--the designer's previous game, Goblivion, was primarily designed to be played solo with an optional co-op mode, so the roots of his designing for single players show strongly in Dinoblivion.

The Good:

There's a lot to like in the compact Dinoblivion box, including:
  • eye-catching cartoon-style art with a big dose of humor and an engaging theme,
  • intriguing strategy from multi-use Clan cards and the need to use a Clan card to play an Action card,
  • a meaty engine-builder using the Totem cards, 
  • constantly churning markets on the Hunting Ground spaces, and
  • strong gameplay in both the duel and solo modes.

The Bad:
I don't have much bad to say about Dinoblivion except that, as an educator, it does rub me a little bit the wrong way to see humans and dinosaurs portrayed in the same game! I'm able to put myself in a Flintstones frame of mind, though, to enjoy this one.

Players Who Like:
Dinoblivion may appeal to folks who enjoy deck-builders like Ascension, engine-builders like Splendor, head-to-head games like Neolithic, or solo games like Friday and Goblivion.

Final Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed Dinoblivion and found its mashup style of deck-builder/engine-builder to be a huge hit for my game groups, as we enjoy both of those mechanics separately. There are many smaller, intriguing rules and mechanisms that we wanted to get to know better through repeated play, so Dinoblivion is a keeper for sure!

Check out Dinoblivion on:


On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends December 10, 2019.

Alexa Chaplin- Reviewer

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!

See Alexa's reviews HERE.
Dinoblivion Kickstarter Review Dinoblivion Kickstarter Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on December 03, 2019 Rating: 5

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