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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Fossilis: Digging up the Past

by | published Friday, October 11, 2019

Millions of years ago, giant creatures roamed the Earth. Now, all that remains of them is their fossilized bones, giving us a hint as to what life might have been like so many years ago. In Fossilis, the new game from Kids Table Board Gaming, you get a chance to dig through layers of terrain and discover a piece of the past.

You take on the role of paleontologists searching through a dig site for valuable fossils. The star of the game is definitely the unique 3D board representing the site. Its recessed pockets are seeded with bones, and then it’s covered with thick chunky tiles of different terrain types.

At the start of the game, you place your meeple on one corner of the dig site. Then in turn order, you have three energy points to spend on actions. One of the big things you’ll be doing on a turn is digging. The dig site is covered with Sand, Clay, and Stone Terrain tiles. You’ll have to work your way through them to get to the fossils below. Sliding a Terrain tile costs 1-3 energy points depending if you’re moving the relatively light Sand, the super heavy Stone, or the remarkably medium Clay. Once you uncover one of the holes in the site, everyone is going to want to take a look and see what, if anything, is revealed. As the Terrain tiles fall off the board, you are going to want to collect it. They contain Trace Fossils which can be spent to collect Tool or Supply cards that can be really helpful.

You can move two spaces around the site for one energy, or collect plaster (the substance paleontologists use to transfer bones) for one energy point. You’ll also be able to Extract fossils from the site assuming you have the requisite plaster.

The fossilized bones cost a different amount of plaster to Extract depending on the type. Teeth and Limbs are relatively cheap, but if you want Hips or Skulls, you might have to save up for a few turns.

Once you have found a fossil and carefully pulled it from the ground, you can start working on completing a Dinosaur. There is a display of four face up Dinosaur cards, each with their own point value and fossil requirements to complete. You need to have at least one of the required fossils to claim them and move them to your lab. Once a Dinosaur is in your lab you can continue to collect the fossils required to complete it and get full points, but you’re not required to. You can chose to complete a Dinosaur at any time and take partial points for what you’ve collected.

Why would you want to complete a Dinosaur early? Well, for one thing, you can only have one Dinosaur in your lab at a time. You may be having trouble finding those ribs you need to complete the T-Rex and it might just make more sense to start working on something new. The other reason you may want to complete more Dinos for less points each, is because you’re also going to earn end game points for collecting different sets.

The Dinosaur cards, featuring beautiful art by Apolline Entienne, have three characteristics: their diet (herbivore or carnivore), their environment (Land biped and quadruped, aquatic, or avian), and their era (Jurassic, Triassic, or Cretaceous). Getting a set of three of any characteristic is worth points as well as having the most of any one. You can also earn points for getting at least one of all nine different characteristics.

Aside from the fossils you can find, there are also lost tools scattered around the dig site. Finding these will earn you special powers, like digging for less energy or gaining extra plaster each turn. You can have up to three abilities, but you’ll start to forfeit points the more you take. You have to decide if the ability is worth paying for.

At the end of your turn you can spend some of the Terrain tiles you’ve collected to gain either a Tool (which usually helps you dig a little bit easier), or a Supply (which usually earns you points, plasters, and sometimes even fossils).

Besides being one of the currencies of the game, plaster also works as a bit of a timer. Four plaster tokens per player are placed on a stack of Event cards. Each time you take plaster, you take it from this pool. On the turn that the pool runs out, the Event card is resolved and the pool is refilled. Once the last card is revealed the pool is filled one more time and the game ends when it is exhausted.

You earn points during the game for Dinosaurs you collect and score end game points for sets and Supply cards you’ve collected, as well as any bones that didn’t go to a Dinosaur. The player with the most points is the winner and will get their name in all of the most popular paleontology journals. And your mom said you’d never get famous digging in the dirt!

Fossilis is a product of the gaming community of Toronto. Designer David Diaz first connected with Helaina and Josh from KTBG at Proto T.O. last year. The game has been in development for the past 18 months, and the team has definitely taken advantage of the various prototyping events around the city to fine tune it.

Just like all KTBG games, Fossilis is modular to allow for certain elements to be removed, letting youngsters and those new to the hobby to enjoy alongside veteran gamers. Fossilis is the follow up to the very successful Wreck Raiders and they have high hopes for it as well.

Fossilis is coming to Kickstarter on October 15.


Note: Images show prototype components and are subject to change in the final copy.

Sean J. is a member of the KTBG team. This article is intended to provide information about the game rather than as a traditional review.


  • Sean J.

    Sean is the Founder and Photographer for the DWP. He has been gaming all his life. From Monopoly and Clue at the cottage to Euchre tournaments with the family, tabletop games have taken up a lot of his free time. In his gaming career he has worked for Snakes & Lattes Board Game Cafe, Asmodee, and CMON. He is a contributor to The Dice Tower Podcast and has written for Games Trade Magazine and Meeple Monthly. He lives and works in Toronto.

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