Brilliant scientists have done the easy work of cloning dinosaurs, and now it’s up to you to do the really complicated job of building a theme park to house them. Cautionary tales be damned, there’s money to be made and you’re going to get some of it.
Draftosaurus combines the talents of some of my favourite designers of all time. The result is a fun, fast, and deceptively tricky game that plays in about 15 minutes.
In Draftosaurus, you are trying to fill your various zoo pens with combinations of dinosaurs. The trick is that you have to draft them from ‘hands’ of dinosaurs rotating around the table. You’ll only be able to pick from the ones handed to you. Further complicating matters, unless you’re the active player, you are constrained by the role of the Placement Die, which determines some restrictions on your placement.
At the start of the game, everyone takes six dinos from the bag. They are represented by cute, colourful meeples in six different species. You’ll have to select one of them to go in your zoo. One the standard board, the zoos are broken up into six different pens. In the Forest of Sameness you can only place one type of dinosaur, while in the Meadow of Differences they all have to be, well different. In the Prairie of Love, you’re hoping to make a breeding connection by placing matching pairs. The Woody Trio is a place to house up to three dinosaurs that don’t fit anywhere else. Then you have the King of the Jungle and Solitary Island. Each of these pens only hold one dinosaur. In the King, you want it to be a species that you have more than anyone else of, and in Solitary, you’re hoping it is the only copy of that species in your zoo. Each is worth seven points if the requirements are met.
The pens are further defined by being in either Woodlands or Grasslands, and on the cafe or washrooms side of the river. All of that is important given the restrictions of the Placement Die.
The active player rolls the die to start a turn and the result will indicate that you have to place your chosen dino in Woodlands, or the cafe side of the river, or maybe in an empty pen. Everyone but the active player has to follow this rule. They can place wherever they want. If there is no valid pen for you, the dino can always be tossed in the river for a measly point.
Play continues until everyone has drafted six dinosaurs into their zoo. Then everyone takes six more from the bag and a second round of drafting commences.
After two rounds, you total up your scores and a winner is crowned. Now, I’m sure that sounds simple, and it really is, but there are some fun decisions packed into this little game. You have to craft your zoo based on the dinosaurs that you know are out there and hope that people have a different plan than you. Like most drafting games, as you get later into the round and your options are more limited, you might get screwed with a dino with no place to go. That’s kind of the point and the fun of these type of games.
For a bit more variety, you can flip the zoo boards to the opposite side and work with six new pens. These include the Lovers’ Bridge, A Well-Ordered Wood, and the Pyramid. Both sides offer their own unique challenges, but for new players, I would definitely recommend starting with the original side.
Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Riviere have done an incredible job with this easy to learn and highly re-playable title. I think younger or first-time designers are often concerned with making a masterpiece on their first go, and think the way to do that is by packing in the complexity and rules. As designers get more experienced and more confident in their vision, they can release games with extraordinarily simple rules, that are super fun to play. Some examples that come to mind are Vlaada Chvatil’s Codenames and Use Rosenberg’s Patchwork. Complex games are great, but there is a lot of fun to be found with straight forward rulesets.
If you get the chance, please try out Draftosaurus. It’ll only take you about 20 minutes…at least the first time. You’ll log hours in multiple plays.
Thanks to Luma Imports and Ankama for providing a media copy of Draftosaurus for this article.