PLAYlist 25: Jurassic Park: Danger!

May 04, 2018 By Austin Trunick
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Remember when you were a kid, and dinosaurs were just the bomb diggity? (Of course they’re still super rad, but you probably aren’t wearing dinosaur pajamas to bed every night any more. Get what I’m saying?) If you’re around my age, you probably remember begging your parents to take you to see Jurassic Park – a movie that somehow received only a PG rating despite being required to carry a disclaimer warning mom and dad that the film contained “disturbing scenes.” You might also have become a little obsessed with the film afterward, carried a Jurassic Park lunchbox to school, and asked Santa Claus for one of those T-Rex figures with the disgusting, removable skin.

Can you believe that was 25 years ago?

Yes, Steven Spielberg’s landmark achievement in special effects and bizarre Jeff Goldblum chuckles turns a quarter-century old this summer, managing to both stand the test of time and remind us of our own, fragile mortality. Games publisher Ravensburger are getting in on the 25th anniversary celebration with Jurassic Park: Danger!, a new board game inspired by the original film – which we’ll be covering in this 25th installment of PLAYlist. (That was a lucky coincidence, but we’re going to pass it off as if it were our grand scheme all along.)

Now, I’m usually wary of games based on film and television licenses. When it’s not simply a paint job on a popular game, they’re often cases of game mechanics being slapped together in an attempt to emulate a property, rather than being a good game built from the ground up. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule – Legendary: Alien successfully feels like you’re playing through familiar installments of the franchise, and there are few better ways to turn friends into enemies than with the vicious backstabbing in Battlestar Galactica – but we’d put money on mediocrity when it comes to most of them. Jurassic Park: Danger!, however, manages to feel like it was truly inspired by the classic Spielberg film and be a fun game in its own right, regardless of the license.

Jurassic Park: Danger! is a game of chase and avoidance for two to five players, and takes just under an hour to play. From the start, one lucky player will get to play as the dinosaurs – all of the dinosaurs. (There are three: a velociraptor, a dilophosaurus, and everybody’s favorite T-Rex.) The other players will then likely fight over who gets to be Jeff Goldblum, and once that’s done, the non-Goldblums will then be given the roles of other characters from the film. (There are ten.)  The human players work together to pull off their characters’ unique goals and, ahem, GET TO THE CHOPPAH! That is, escape the park alive by scrambling to the helicopter. This whole time, the dinosaur player will be doing their best to eat their opponents. The game ends once three characters escape – the human team wins – or the dinosaurs eat three characters, triggering a win for that player.

There are a few especially cool elements to Jurassic Park: Danger!. The biggest one is that the human characters all play a little bit differently – each has a unique deck of cards which dictates their movement and grants them a special ability that’s powerful enough to strategize around. (The powers are inspired by famous movie lines; Samuel L. Jackson’s is, of course, “Hold onto your butts.”) If you shake things up each time you play and always try to use a new character, the different roles do a lot to diversify your games. And when you’re eaten, which will happen semi-regularly, you’re not out of the game – you simply re-spawn as a new character and keep playing until you win, or the dinos eat three of you. This helps keep the game feeling fresher longer. (The modular, randomized board also helps you avoid repeat experiences – some layouts could be a bit easier or harder than others, depending on how your shuffle shakes out.) The dino player, on the other hand, will always play as the same three dinosaurs, but each one has a special ability of its own which they’ll need to keep in mind and plan their attacks around.

Movement is dictated by cards; players will choose one from their hand at the beginning of each turn. The dino player will flip hers first, move their dinos accordingly, and take one of their dinosaurs’ special actions. Afterward, the human players will reveal their cards and take their turns. (The dinos have the benefit of striking first, but the humans will have the ability to react and respond to those moves.) Movement is broken down into running, sneaking, or climbing, each which has a time and place where it would be more beneficial than the others. Players can’t move into the spaces occupied by dinosaurs; if a dino maneuvers into the same space as a human player, they’ll attack – which burns one of that player’s cards at random. (A player that has been hurt will have fewer options for movement, which fits well with the theme.) Once no more cards are left, that character is considered dead.

Jurassic Park: Danger! feels like a new take on the ever-popular Scotland Yard, where everyone is working together to beat a single player who has an advantage over them. Both sides are fun in their own way, though, playing the dinosaurs feels a little tougher at a higher player count. (We’d recommend the most seasoned player take that role and allow the newer players the benefit of teamwork.) The components are pretty nice, with the terrain tiles coming pre-punched out of the box, an assortment of ten colorful meeples, and double-sided wooden dinosaur tokens.

If you’re a fan of Jurassic Park or just looking for a fun, medium-length game to add to your collection, Danger! comes with our recommendation. (You’ll be able to find it at Target.com.)

For this column’s playlist, we’ve picked an assortment of our favorite tracks by dino-themed artists: T. Rex, Dinosaur Jr, and Jurassic 5. We were wary of how it might all mix together – ‘70s glam rockers, an college radio staple, and an eclectic hip-hop group don’t seem like obvious bedfellows – but like a slice of peanut butter and bacon pizza, we’re quite satisfied with how it turned out. Enjoy!

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Previous PLAYlist columns: PhotosynthesisIce CoolFood Truck ChampionArs Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.



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