Dinosaurs of the Lost World by Avalon Hill (1987)

DinosofLostWorldGame Description

A LAND THAT TIME FORGOT…

Deep in the impenetrable Amazonian wilderness of South America, an unscalable plateau rises from the jungle floor. This strange land has never been trod upon by Twentieth Century man — until now. Your band of intrepid explorers has made the ascent and now stands at the edge of a treasure trove of immeasurable value. Before you lies a land teeming in flora and fauna long thought extinct or has never been imagined in the mind of man. Strange, terrible bellows reverberate in the dense forest before you until, at last, the very ground shakes to the approach of a prehistoric beast. Truly, riches beyond measure await those who bring proof of these discoveries back to the civilized world. But behold… the cruel twists of fate or the greed of man has betrayed you. Your tenuous bridge across the gaping chasm is gone!  Marooned, the task now becomes one of survival and escape… certainly a frightening enough prospect against the background of such terrible prehistoric monsters, but even now other eyes are watching you from the recesses of the trees.

DINOSAURS OF THE LOST WORLD is inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s class work of fiction: The Lost World. And just as that famous book was the prototype for a whole genre of “Lost World” literature, DINOSARUS OF THE LOST WORLD breaks new ground in the field of innovative game design. Players explore this Lost World, ever aware of its horrible inhabitants, in search of sites where they can embark on adventures yielding great scientific discoveries and means of escape. Each adventure site leads players through an illustrated trek of great peril and reward. Comic book style story lines give vent to the player’s imagination as his adventures are visually pictured before him in an ongoing narration as he proceeds from frame to frame. Front and back full-color views of the dinosaurs actually stand erect and loom ominously across the plateau.

DINOSAURS OF THE LOST WORLD is different from anything you played before and changes with every game you play. Although simple in concept, the game comes in two versions — a basic game suitable for 8-year-olds, and the full game which will challenge even the most erudite game player while allowing his children to be competitive in the same contest. With a playing time of approximately 90 minutes per game, it is great family fun. Actually three games in one, DINOSAURS OF THE LOST WORLD also contains an excellent solitaire version for those wishing to play alone – pitting themselves against the forces of prehistoric nature in a race against the clock.

*Box art courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

My thoughts

Dinosaurs of the Lost World is a board game I’ve wanted to get my hands on for a very long time. It took years, but I finally found an unplayed, almost mint condition copy at a reasonable price through BoardGameGeek. Was it worth the wait? Most definitely, although I acknowledge this is not a game that will please everyone.

There are two versions of Dinosaurs of the Lost World. In the first, up to four players lead competing expeditions into the lost world, trying to be the first to reach 25 victory points by making scientific discoveries. The second version is a solitaire campaign in which the player must earn 25 victory points in either 40 turns or before the volcano on the plateau erupts. Play in both versions is nearly identical, the main difference being that in the solitaire campaign, dinosaur movements are determined by a die roll rather than other players.

Play Beginning

The game board itself is rather busy with three main areas. The first is an outer movement track. On your turn, you roll two dice and move the same number of spaces as the result. The space you land on tells you 1) which action you perform – such as draw an event card or move a creature – and 2) the number of hexes you can move on the central map, the second main area on the board. The map is covered with counters depicting various locations in the lost world where you can have adventures. These counters are face down, so you don’t know which location is which until you reach it and flip the counter. The third area is a chase track running along one side of the central map. This only comes into play if you lose a battle against a dinosaur or other inhabitant of the lost world: The creature chases you back to your camp, and every time it catches up to you, you lose one tool or a victory point.

As for victory points, you score one point every time you discover a new location. However, the main way to earn points is to go on adventures. Each location comes with its own adventure track, which is a large sheet of paper covered with comic book panels depicting various hazards and discoveries associated with the location. On a turn, instead of moving along the movement track, you can instead choose to go on an adventure if your pawn is at the appropriate location. You roll one die to determine how many panels you move along the adventure track, or you can use an experience card to move a predetermined number of spaces, as indicated by the card. The trick is to balance your die rolls with your experience cards to avoid the hazards and land on the discoveries.

The winner is the first player to earn 25 victory points and successfully escape the plateau. I’m leaving a lot out because this review is already a little long. But it is worth noting that quite often players are instructed to draw event cards, which can either be helpful or very, very bad. Also, players start the game by equipping their expeditions with eight tools, which is easier than it sounds. (Hint: You usually want to equip two rifles and a camera.)

Play Close Up

My opinion? I won’t go as far as to say Dinosaurs of the Lost World is the best board game about dinosaurs ever made, because there are a lot of games I have yet to try, but it is one of the best adventure board games I’ve played. It is dripping with theme – you really feel like you’re exploring a prehistoric wilderness. A lot of little touches, like the chase track, make the theme come to life, as does the game’s excellent black and white comic book art.

As far as game mechanics, I really enjoy the simplicity of the design, but at the same time realize they may be the biggest drawback for serious gamers. Dinosaurs of the Lost World is not a game of deep strategy. It is one of luck. Your success largely depends on dice rolls. I don’t mind this because for me, the game about going on an adventure and seeing what crazy things happen along the way. But if you are a gamer who enjoys outsmarting your opponents or challenging gameplay, this is not a game for you.

My only complaint about the game is some of the components are of poor quality, particularly the cards and location counters, both of which are printed on thin cardstock. That said, it is a real crime this game is so hard to find these days. There has been a recent trend of game publishers reprinting older, hard-to-find games, like Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Talisman. Let’s hope that someday an enterprising publisher puts up the money to republish Dinosaurs of the Lost World – I’ll be the first in line to pick up a copy.

Trivia 

  • Dinosaurs of the Lost World is a family game published by Avalon Hill, a company that was better known for its complex strategy games. The company is still around, although it is now owned by Wizards of the Coast, which itself is owned by Hasbro.
  • The game was designed by Mick Uhl, who designed at least six other games, including Wizard’s Quest.
  • More pictures and additional information about the game is available on its BoardGameGeek page.

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