I first heard rumors of Draftosaurus before Origins 2019. Bright colors, cleverly shaped dino meeples, and quick fun gameplay made it very appealing to me and my family. Alas while I wasn’t able to get Draftosaurus until after Gen Con, I’m sure glad I did. There’s not much depth, but there is lots of fun, and isn’t that what gaming is all about? Let’s take a look at Draftosaurus from Ankama Games and see if you have what it takes to build a dinosaur zoo unlike any other in the world.
Draftosaurus Overview & Gameplay
In Draftosaurus 2-5 players will be drafting dinosaur meeples to build the best dinosaur zoo, earn lots of points, and
feed their opponents to the velociraptors defeat their opponents.
Drafting means that each player selects one dino from the 6 whimsical dino meeples that they drew from the bag at the beginning of the round. After selecting, each player places their dino simultaneously. Then they pass the remaining dino meeples (concealed) to the player on their left and receive the same amount of dinos from the player on their right. Play continues like this until each player has placed 6 dinos. After two rounds, when players have 12 dinos on their boards, the game is over and scores are tallied. The player with the most points wins the game and the title of “best dino zoo”!
The game is very simple to play, but dino selection and placement options aren’t quite as straightforward as you might think. Unlike other drafting games like Sushi Go! or 7 Wonders, Draftosaurus introduces a random and limiting element in the form of a wooden die. This die has 6 distinct faces, each of which requires something a bit different from the players. At the beginning of a single turn the active player rolls the die and everyone except the active player must place a dino based on the current rule.
Woodlands – The dino must be placed in one of the three wooded pens.
Grasslands – The dino must be placed in one of the three grassland pens.
Restrooms – The dino must be placed in one of the three pens on the right side of the board.
Food Court – The dino must be placed in one of the three pens on the left side of the board.
Empty Pen – The dino must be placed in an empty pen.
Watch out for T-Rex – The dino must be placed in a pen where there is no T-Rex.
If at any time a player cannot (or chooses not to) follow the rule they may place a dino in the river which will earn them a single point at the end of the game.
Gamers who’ve played Sushi Go! before will be immediately familiar with the scoring in Draftosaurus. Placement options are as follows:
The Forest of Sameness – This Pen can only hold dinosaurs of the same species and must be filled from left to right with no gaps. At the end of the game, the Forest earns points based on the highest number reached.
The Meadow of Differences – This Pen can only hold dinosaurs of different species and must be filled from left to right with no gaps. At the end of the game, the Meadow earns points based on the highest number reached.
The Prairie of Love – This Pen can hold any dinosaur. At game’s end, players earn 5 points for each same-species dinosaur couple in it. Duplicate couples are allowed.
The Woody Trio – This Pen can hold no more than 3 dinos of any species. At the end of the game players earn 7 points if there are exactly 3 dinosaurs in it regardless of species; otherwise it earns 0 points.
King of the Jungle – This Pen can hold only one dinosaur. At game’s end, players will earn 7 victory points if their Zoo has at least as many dinosaurs of the species contained in this Pen as there are in each of your opponents’ Zoos. Otherwise this Pen earns 0 points.
Solitary Island – This Pen can hold only one dinosaur. At the end of the game players will receive 7 victory points if the dinosaur in this Pen is the only one of its species in your Zoo. Otherwise it earns 0 points.
In addition to these scoring options, the player boards are double sided and feature a more challenging set of pens on the opposite site.
Draftosaurus Final Thoughts
If you’re familiar with my game preferences, you’d probably expect that I’d really enjoy Draftosaurus…and you’d be right. It checks many of my boxes: drafting, cleverly shaped wooden pieces, and quick and thinky gameplay. Draftosaurus is a delightful breath of fresh air and a perfect way to start or end a game night, or for filling in the corners while waiting for other players. It’s also a great option for getting in a quick game with your kids before bedtime.
The components are really well constructed and brightly colored…those dino meeples are simply wonderful, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself playing with them between games.
The player boards are thick and full of little details. They’re also easy to read with clearly marked symbols to help guide players choices.
Mechanically speaking Draftosaurus is quite easy to play, and while the die does limit choices for the non-active player, you can generally find a spot to place at least one of the dinos from your hand. Like many drafting games, it becomes more challenging towards the end of the round when your choices are more limited. While the river is only worth one point per dino, allowing players to place dinos there is a good way to avoid ruining your perfect setup.
The use of bit bowls to hold the dino meeples works great for those nervous about spilling dinos on the table, keeping them concealed in hand, or who have sensitivity issues.
This review might not be very long, but then neither is the game…and that’s just fine. If you’re looking for a light and breezy game that you can enjoy with anyone, then Draftosaurus is a roar of a good time, and well worth picking up. If on the other hand you’re looking for a dinosaur themed game with a bit more…bite…then check out our review of Dinosaur Island.
I’ll leave you with an interpretation of what the Greataceous period might have looked like for these magnificent creatures.