Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Six board games for the bored paleontologist

There is no shortage of board games about dinosaurs and paleontology. Most, however, are aimed squarely at kids. And while there are many fantasy- and science fiction-themed board games made for adults, few of them feature prehistoric creatures.

That said, a handful of paleontology-themed board games have come out in recent years that can be enjoyed by grown ups. Chances are I will never get to review most of them—I’m more a miniatures gamer, and I usually only play board games that can be played solo. But I didn’t want to leave them out.

I’ll post reviews of some RPG and miniatures rulesets in coming weeks. In the meantime, here are six notable board games you might find at your local game store or online. In each, I post a link to the game’s BoardGameGeek pages, which has videos and reviews of the game in question.

Pirates vs. Dinosaurs


Ahoy! Envision Treasure Island crossed with King Kong and you get Pirates vs. Dinosaurs, a game designed by Richard Launius of Arkham Horror fame. Players are pirates who lead their crews into a dinosaur-infested island in search of lost treasure. I don’t know much about the gameplay, but I do like the cartoonish art.

Triassic Terror


Right away any dinosaur lover can spot the errors on Triassic Terror's box art: None of the dinosaurs depicted lived in the Triassic, and T. rex and Stegosaurus lived millions of years apart. Still, board games are rarely concerned with scientific accuracy. Triassic Terror apparently is an area control game where you are trying to build the biggest dinosaur herd, all the while using predatory dinosaurs to pick off your opponents’ herds. It seems to be getting generally positive reviews.

Bios: Megafauna


Know how I just said board games are rarely concerned with scientific accuracy? Bios: Megafauna sets to prove me wrong. It is a “simulationist” game in which you evolve your dinosaur or mammal species over millions of years. It has a solitaire variant but I’ve been afraid to pick it up because its rules are very complex. This is probably only a game for the most die-hard of paleontology geeks. Also, the game was previously released as American Megafauna.

Dominant Species


Dominant Species is an abstract board game in which players are one of six species trying to survive a coming Ice Age. It is not as concerned with scientific realism as Bios: Megafauna, but again, its rules are complex. Players who do not want to shell out the full price for the board game can instead buy the iPad version. The title also has a card game variant.



In EVO, players evolve their dinosaurs so they can survive a changing climate and other dinosaurs. This game has had two very different editions. The first edition features cartoonish art with a humorous tone. The second edition boasts an odd fantasy theme about tribes of humanoids who live with the dinosaurs and genetically engineer them. It also makes several changes to the rules. Which version is better? I can’t say, but the second version is the easier one to find.



Fans of Dinotopia will get déjà vu with Uchronia. This tile-laying game is about building a civilization populated by humans and dinosaurs that work together. The art is quite nice.

If you want more suggestions for games about dinosaurs and evolution, check out 152 Dinosaur Board Games. You can also find a wide variety of titles under the “prehistoric” category on BoardGameGeek.


Craig Dylke said...

I adore Evo, but have only played/owned the 1st edition. It is a fantastic simplified game version of evolution, that accurately includes selective pressures, environmental constraints, random mutation all while being a game.

Also like evolution the outcome is typically based on random chance. So winning is usually down to the wire (asteroid impact actually :p ). We've found this infruiates hard core strategy gamers, but is great for causal players and science geeks (I play games with the often regional champions of main board games... So I love Evo as a break from getting my butt kicked all the time).

DoubleW said...

Sounds like Bios: Megafauna may be the next step for you. From what I understand, it is far less random than Evo. Still, as I said, its rules are pretty complex (although apparently much less so than American Megafauna, which was basically its first edition). The designer is a rocket scientist who designs games with science themes. More information:!/~/product/category=482250&id=3724930