Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write is a game that has been on my radar for some time. I don’t 100% remember why I didn’t back the original Kickstarter campaign. It was in September 2020, and shipping costs have been a major thing since. It might have been timing with Alpal. Whatever the reason, the Rawr ‘n Write tagline still makes me smile.
So for my last Advent order, Dinosaur Island (I am not going to keep calling it Rawr ‘n Write) was an easy addition. It has been sitting near the top of the pile on my table, and last week I decided to jump into it. Unlike Roll Player, the setup of Dinosaur Island is incredibly quick. I can see myself playing this solo on the table much more because of this fact alone.
So what is Dinosaur Island? It’s off-license Jurassic Park, the Roll and Write game. You collect resources and build a park to take people through. The more exotic dinosaurs you have, the more excitement is generated bring in more customers. To help manage things, you can hire specialists and build normal park amenities.
Before I jump into everything I liked about Dinosaur Island, I am going to get a couple of gripes out of the way early. First, you play with a set of custom amber dice. These dice are gorgeous, and the Jurassic Park amber nod is appreciated.
But the dice have some small pips and many colours look very similar on the dice. Be prepared for players to need to ask what is on the dice, or pick them up for a closer look to make sure. It won’t be an issue for everyone, but I found myself examing dice for threat quite a bit.
The only other very small gripe is the final scoring area on the pad skips an area for solo objective scoring. Now I understand that most people will be playing Dinosaur Island multiplayer. This means you either have an extra area not used most of the time, or have a missing area for a game variant.
For a game where players rely so much on the printed order to play correctly, this caught me out. Now that it has, I will remember for next time. But so much attention to detail has been given to Dinosaur Island that this stood out as a glaring omission. It’s like an amazing landscape photo with a smudge in one corner. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of the photo is, the imperfection stands out in stark contrast.
After all that, Dinosaur Island is the Roll and Write for players that enjoy a bit of weight to their gameplay. Dinosaur Island has simple-to-understand rules, but there are a lot and they interact a lot. To teach it in less than 15 minutes, I think I would need to play the first phase talking through the process.
One common Roll and Write weakness is the puzzle they represent. Once you have ‘cracked the code’, you earn some massive points then put them to one side.
Dinosaur Island has a large number of random buildings and specialists to help combat this. Yes, there are standard staff and buildings available each game, and solid basis to build off. But if you play with the random setup every time, there isn’t one real way to score big. You even have more dice than you need for most games, and each dice is different. You can’t count on a 10% chance of rolling coins – it’s incredibly random.
I will talk more about Dinosaur Island in the near future. I have only had one game, and it was a lot heavier than I anticipated. Playing early morning while tired wasn’t the best decision.
But here is the best thing – I want to play it again. I can see where Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write can be a great bridge to heavier games. It also has appeal to players that would normally overlook the Roll and Write genre. I wouldn’t recommend Dinosaur Island as a first game – it’s probably a little overwhelming for that.
But have a player that is looking to broaden their horizons or a more casual game for a heavier player? Dinosaur Island will scratch a lot of itches!