Dino Dude Ranch is a great family, surprisingly adult-friendly, dice rolling game of wrangling dinosaurs and avoiding tar pits. Fairway takes a look at this Kickstarted game and its deluxe, velociraptor expansion.
Dino Dude Ranch is a dinosaur-collecting game by Letiman Games for two to four players. It takes about 20 minutes and is playable even for the smallest gamers.
- Nice components: boards, large cards, thick box, heavy chits, wood bits, custom dice
- Simple gameplay that’s easy to teach (and easily adaptable for young children)
- Nice, “happy” art.
Dino Dude Ranch is a quick, light game. It pits players against each other trying wrangle the most valuable dinosaurs into their ranch. Players take turns rolling custom dice which usually gives the player dinosaur food: leaves, fish, and meat. Using that food and, in the case of the T-Rex, other dinosaurs, players capture one of the dinosaurs from the Hunting Grounds. The more difficult the dinosaur, the more points you score.
The game also uses hidden objectives which add to the players’ scores at the end of the game. Some objectives award points for specific combinations of dinosaurs. These objectives make obtaining specific kinds of dinosaurs (instead of just the highest value one) important.
The dice also can result in drawing “Hired Hands” cards which provide one-time bonuses. They’re powerful when you can use them letting you do downright dirty deeds like taking another player’s dinosaurs.
You can also end up rolling “tar pits” which lose you points and consume a space in your ranch.
The game ends when a player has exhausted all of the space on their ranch. Players then total their score and the player with the highest score wins. In our playtests, the scores are usually close.
On the green
Dino Dude Ranch has nice components that work well in the game. The deluxe version included wood bits for the food which are nice, but not, strictly speaking, necessary. The deluxe version also included the Velociraptor expansion (a set of additional dinosaurs).
The base game features custom dice (with faces for leaves, fish, meat, tar pit and hired hands) and tiles featuring the dinosaur art.
The gameplay and the components are intuitive (see the hired hands notes below): roll dice, collect the corresponding food, exchange food for dinosaurs in the hunting ground, and proceed. The scoring and food requirements are well set out on the small tiles which make for an easy learning curve.
The game also has nice graphic design and uses a muted color palette, which by itself separates it from many childrens’ games.
While this game clearly has a young player bent (from the art, theme and mechanics), it is fun to play even for adult players.
Where it comes up short
Dino Dude Ranch is a solid game and lands very close to the green, but these merit a mention:
- Hired Hands. These are a great addition for the adult gamer. But they are non-obvious to young players and rely a lot on reading. Iconography might help a bit, but probably not enough. Removing these from the game and making the Hired Hands rolls a “wild” (pick any food) works well for non-reading players. This variant is suggested, smartly, in the rulebook itself. It was playable by my four-year-old.
- Velociraptors. I love the purple velociraptors, but the likelihood of getting more than one in a game is low (frequency and draws). I really wanted it to be something more. They’re a little stronger in two player games.
In the hole
Dino Dude Ranch should appeal to anyone looking for a light game. While anyone can enjoy feeding a cute triceratops to a T-Rex and should make it to an adult table, it has a definite, family-gamer feel.
Dino Dude Ranch (and its Velociraptor expansion) make it to the hole for a birdie.
This review originally appeared on The Inquisitive Meeple.