Game at a Glance
- Designer: Kristen Mott
- Art: Jerry Padilla
- Players: 1-6
- Ages: 6+
- Length: 60-90
- Mechanics: Roll and Write, Tile Placement, Set Collection
- Availability: Coming to Kickstarter 2/01/2022
Note: This game was provided by the game designer in exchange for my review; however, I always strive to provide fair and honest opinions.
This review is based upon the prototype copy, rules and components are subject to change in the final version.
Dinosaur Exhibit is a family-weight roll and write game with tile placement and set collection elements. Players compete as museum curators vying for a newly discovered Spinosaurus skeleton. For your museum to be considered Spinosaur-worthy, players must expand exhibit areas, manage storage rooms, and create fossil layouts in their dinosaur exhibit.
As with many roll and write games, setup is very simple. Players each get an exhibit map, pencil, and pillar tokens then the fossil tiles are set out within reach of everybody. Players take turns rolling the two dice that feature various museum tools. The active player chooses one die to take their resource from and the other die face is used as a resource by the remaining players. Resources are taken by shading in a corresponding symbol on the exhibit map. The active player may also choose to use a pillar token to expand their exhibit space, and finally may place fossil tiles onto the shaded areas of their map (if possible). Turns continue until each player has taken the allotted number of turns. At the end of the game players may place more fossils if their exhibit allows for it, and finally the scores are tallied.
Fossils added to your exhibit each grant three points to the final score, but these fossils also have symbols which grant bonuses. Some fossils are worth extra points, while others create opportunities to expand exhibit spaces (and potentially lead to combos allowing multiple fossil placements on a single turn).
Points are also awarded for classification matches adding a set collection element to the game. Any unused pillars are worth one additional point each, and players will also score for storage units (solitary shaded squares in the exhibit).
This game can be used to introduce several different mechanics to young players. It’s a roll and write game but there are also elements of set collection and tile placement included. Little decisions throughout every step of the game lead to a lot of learning opportunities for small children who are being introduced to this style of game.
The game length is quite short and that works to its advantage as a family game. Turns go very quickly and every player has placement decisions to make when it isn’t their turn. This helps keep players engaged during all stages of the game. Growing bored between turns is something my kids stuggle with in some games, but it was not an issue for us with this one.
Dinosaur Exhibit is a low-complexity game, making it extremely accessible to younger players. The rulebook lays out all the necessary information succinctly and after about 10-15 minutes I was ready to teach the game to my children – a process that took less than 5 minutes. The age recommendation is 6+ which seems to be about right to me although I do believe younger children would be able to catch on with a bit of coaching.
The cover art by Jerry Padilla features a lovely Spinosaurus fossil – the crown jewel that all the museum curators are competing for in the game. Although the game I played was only in prototype form and subject to change, the components were were very nice and functional. The tiles are bright and color-coordinated by fossil classification and the symbology is clear. The exhibit map pad is thick and full of double-sided maps (the back being slightly different in order to mix up the game somewhat). The dice and colorful tiles are especially appealing to children without having any “cheap toy” gimmicks that some games aimed at this audience default to. Overall this seems like a nice production for children’s game.
As a mom and a board game enthusiast I often struggle finding games that are age-appropriate for my children yet still fun for me to play with them. There are some popular games aimed at children that I dread playing because they don’t offer any sort of interesting decisions for the adults.
For me, a good children’s game allows them to make meaningful decisions, has a shorter length and snappy turns, and has just enough luck peppered in to level the playing field between the adults and the kids. I want my children to win fair and square without having to go easy on them. It’s also important to me that they learn something – whether that be educational content, sportsmanship, game mechanics, or strategy, I want my children to grow in some way while they’re having fun.
So how does Dinosaur Exhibit do on my Children’s Game Metrics? Pretty good, it turns out. First of all, there are meaningful decisions to be made at every turn and not just by the active player. Players will have to choose one of two dice to use – the best decision will be pretty obvious to older players but the younger ones will have fun trying to work out what their best option is. Determining which areas to shade in is another decision that has to be made on every turn. Players have to think ahead to plan for their tile placements. The fossil selection is a decision with some weight, as well. Children may be tempted to choose their favorite dinosaur but will need to learn to choose based on tile bonuses and set collection in order to do well. Adults won’t find these decisions tough, but there’s just enough for them to do to make this kids game interesting.
I genuinely had fun playing this with my kids. And they beat me! I believe on my first game I came in last place, behind a 7 and a 9 year old and I was not holding myself back. I haven’t found many roll and writes that my youngest child can play confidently. She is 7 years old and was able to play Dinosaur Exhibit independently once she got the hang of the rules. Adults playing will have plenty of their own decisions to make but still should have time to coach children if the need arises. In our case it wasn’t really necessary.
This game is a really wonderful gateway into a bigger world of roll and write games. Dinosaur Exhibit does an excellent job walking that line between accessibility for emergent gamers and engagement for their parents. I recommend this game for anybody looking to play with children in the 5-9 year range and especially if those kids are dinosaur enthusiasts. If you’re looking to please a young dinosaur fan while supporting a first-time game designer, definitely check out Dinosaur Exhibit.