Something survived. On a remote, tropical island in the Pacific, a team of scientists has made the discovery of a lifetime! A mother velociraptor and five babies are alive and thriving in the wild. These cunning paleontologists will stop at nothing to bring home some ‘samples’ of this historic breakthrough, even if it means destroying the entire habitat. However, the bond between mother and child exists regardless of the species and splitting up this family won’t be easy. Mama raptor will do anything to keep her brood safe and hey, if she gets to eat a few scientists along the way, so much the better.
Ten years ago Bruno Cathala teamed up with Ludovic Maublanc to design a classic two-player strategy game about a mysterious killer, trying to escape the authorities. Mr. Jack introduced some unique mechanics and even inspired a sequel. Raptor feels a bit like a spiritual successor to Mr. Jack. It is a two-player tactical game, with different win conditions and asymmetrical powers. Cathala has designed a game that while unique in its own rights has the same puzzle solving feel of his previous hit.
The board is constructed randomly each game with six large tiles being arranged into a 2×3 grid and four L-shaped tiles with exit points making the edges. You can decide from two different environments for your play area, jungle on one side of the board and savannah on the other.
The game will start with four scientists on the board, two on either end and the family of raptors penned into the middle. The player taking on the role of the raptors will win if three baby raptors are able to reach the exit points and escape the clutches of the scientists or if the mother raptor is able to clear the board of all humans. The scientists will win if they are able to nab three baby raptors or to neutralize the mama raptor with tranquilizers.
Each player has a deck of nine cards with both a number (between 1-9) and an action. They will always have a hand of three cards to choose from. Simultaneously, players select a card from their hand and reveal it. The player with the lower card acts first and gets to execute the special action on the card. The player with the higher number gets action points equal to the difference between the two cards played. So, if the scientist plays a 3 and the raptor plays a 7, the scientist performs the special action on their card and then the raptor gets 4 action points.
The special actions will allow the scientists to move quickly around the board by jeeps, set fires to further trap the raptor, add reinforcements, or put baby raptors to sleep. The raptors’ special actions include inducing fear into some scientists, calling the babies towards the mother, or recovering from tranquilizers. The mother can even disappear from the board and reappear somewhere else…clever girl.
For an action point, scientists can move one space around the board, put a baby raptor to sleep, capture a sleeping baby, recover from a scare they had, or shoot a tranquilizer at the mama raptor. Raptors can move a baby one space, wake up a sleeping baby with the mother, douse a fire set by the scientists, the mother can move as far as she wants in a straight line, or eat a scientist on an adjacent spot.
If the baby raptors leave the board by either being captured or escaping, they are placed as a point on the appropriate player’s personal board. As the scientists are being picked off by the mama raptor they are removed from the board. The scientist player has bullet tokens on their board. When the mama raptor gets shot with a tranq she takes one of those tokens. It now costs her an extra action point to perform an action. For each shot she takes, she gets sleepier and sleepier, costing more action points to move her. If she ever takes five doses of tranq she’s incapacitated and the scientists win.
Raptor is a bit of a puzzle. Figuring out first, what your opponent might play and then making the best use of either the special action or action points you get to spend on the round. It’s pretty simple to learn what the different rules and mechanics are, but I think dedicated players could really mine some deep strategies.
The components are pretty retro cool. The scientists are like little plastic action figures and the raptor family are (dare I say it?) cute. I like the fact that you can choose the side of the board, which does little more than switch up the terrain. The 3-D rocks complete the feeling of truly being out in the field. As always, Vincent Dutrait’s art is pretty great. Each of the player card decks are individual and cool!
Raptor certainly has a similar feel to Mr. Jack, but I think you have a bit more control of your actions. Anticipating when is the right time to play high or low cards and go for special action or action points can be key. Figuring out the optimal moves to make with those actions is something that will come with time.
Raptor is a quick, interesting, two-player tactical game. It’s not necessarily a must-buy, but if you have a hole like that in your collection, this might be one worth checking out.