Dino Dynasty development diary by Matti Bergh

Dino Dynasty development diary by Matti Bergh

Welcome to Dino Dynasty!

 

Dino Dynasty has been in the works for quite some time now, and as we get closer to the official launch on Kickstarter, I’m excited to give you a bit of background and insight into the process behind this game. 

 

From the start, our design goal has been to translate the remarkable world of dinosaurs that Johan Egerkrans has created into a game. With several books filled with fascinating facts and colorful illustrations, he has made an imaginative portrayal of these unique animals for a younger audience. But as you probably agree, you are never too old to be interested in dinosaurs! 

 

Jon Manker, the lead designer, had the ambition to create a game that was both simple enough for younger boardgame players, but also challenging enough for more experienced players to enjoy. With one of Ion’s strong points, bringing real-life facts and events to life through gameplay, we’ve created a fast-paced game with a lot of variability. 

 

Each player chooses 1 of 6 dinosaur families, called Dynasties, and 1 of the 4 Dino species in each Dynasty. Every Dino has a unique combination of characteristics that will affect how they perform actions in the game. Picking one of the 60 different Scenarios as a starting setup, players continue building the map during gameplay by placing Territory tiles. Different Biomes on the tiles impact the players’ actions, and special Event tiles can change the map in catastrophic or beneficial ways. 12 Challenge Cards decide the victory conditions for each game, that players draw based on player count. Up until the last minute, each player still has a chance to tip the scale in their favor and snatch the victory from their opponents! 

 

Now that you’ve got some of the basics, we’ll dig deeper into different aspects of the game. If you have any specific questions about the game, please let us know and we will try to answer them.

A Triceratops with Horns and Frills

 

 

Triceratops from the Dynasty Ceratopsia, 1 of 6 Dynasties in the game. 

 

Dino Dynasty comes with 24 different player boards, each with a unique Dino species inside a family called Dynasty. The player boards highlight the Dinos as much as possible, a collaboration between Johan Egerkrans and our talented game artist Madeleine Fjäll, who has adapted Johan's art to work inside the game format. 

 

Each Dino is sorted into a size group from 1-6, which will affect some of their possibilities in the game. Each species has 8-16 Dino meeples and 1-3 Eggs, which is based on the real behavior of the Dinos, if they were presumed to be more solitary or moving in bigger herds, and what is known about their breeding. Each Dino also has slots for 3 Morph tokens, with every species having 1-2 Morphs preprinted. The Morphs will be explained below, but first, we need to take a closer look at the action grid!

Compete, Spread, Migrate and Evolve

 

 

Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Dynasty Tyrannosauroidea, 1 of 6 Dynasties in the game. 

The player boards have an action grid to the right, where the player places 4 Evolve markers and 4 Action frames at their indicated starting positions. The Evolve markers simulate 4 fundamental characteristics in a Dino Species: Size, Reproduce, Diet and Adapt. The Evolve makers’ positions decide the positions of the Action frames, and the Action frames value decides how a player can perform that action. 

 

The 4 Actions are: 

  • RED = COMPETE: The player attacks another player’s Dino meeples or eggs, comparing the strength of their herds along with a Compete Dice roll. 
  • GREEN = SPREAD: The player adds new Dino meeples to a herd, or tries creating a new one by making a nest. 
  • ORANGE = MIGRATE: The player moves one of their herds.
  • PURPLE = EVOLVE: A player can move 1 of the Evolve markers 1 step, which also moves the 2 linked Action frames. This changes the value inside the frames and impacts how a player can perform those actions. 

 

When designing the main features of actions, we really wanted to include variability and the balancing of choices. Jon’s ambition from the start was the concept that all actions were linked to each other, and if you become stronger in one category you would automatically become weaker in another. 

If you just glance at the player board above, you might think that the Tyrannosaurus Rex is in the strongest position in all action, but that is not the case. The Evolve maker for Size is at the top, and the big T-Rex has +12 strength when they Compete against another player. But the disadvantage here is that smaller animals tend to Spread faster, and the T-Rex can only add 1 Dino to their herd, and hasn’t gained the ability to lay eggs yet. If a player wants that ability, they have to either change their Size and also get a lower Compete value, or change their Diet and downgrade their ability to Migrate with a bigger group. 

 

In Dino Dynasty, there’s no one way to be the best Dino. It all depends upon the combination of the player’s choices, the opponent species and their abilities, how the Map expands and which Challenge cards decide the victory. With each Dino player board having a unique combination of Action frame values, it’s all up to the player to make the most of each game!

 

A Dino with wings?

 

Microraptor from the Dynasty Dromaeosauridae, 1 of 6 Dynasties in the game.

 

 

After we created a good flow and balance for the 4 actions, we took a closer look at other ways that players could make interesting choices in gameplay. A game of Dino Dynasty is intended to represent about 5 million years of dinosaur history, which meant we could take a look at those processes that usually take a really long time. 

 

Morph abilities let the players develop their species, adding physical traits like wings or claws, or behaviors like burrowing or brooding. The possibilities are a mix of established and more uncertain theories, but all with a foundation in dinosaur research. Each Dino player board has slots for 3 Morph tokens and comes with 1-2 preprinted abilities, that players can choose to develop by adding a new token on top. Each Morph will give the player abilities that affect their actions, allowing them to burrow down to hide from attack, glide-fly across water tiles, brood to protect their eggs, and of course the claws, sharp teeth and horns of the more combative Dinos. 

 

 

The Dinos are sorted into 3 Major Groups: Theropoda, Sauropodomorpha and Ornithischia, as well as size groups from 1 to 6. The Morph tokens show any limits in what size of Dinos and which groups can add a specific Morph. Some are available for anyone, like claws, while some are limited by size and/or group, like Wings and Burrow. This adds an asymmetrical aspect to the player’s choice of species. How would you like to play? What types of actions do you want to expand? A balance between reality and fantasy also gives the players the exciting option to explore what would have happened if a Dino had developed another evolutionary direction than they did! 

 

How to get your claws on a Morph token? Next we’ll have a look at the Map!

Who will survive the meteorite crash?

 

Patagotitan from the Dynasty Titanosauria, 1 of 6 Dynasties in the game.

At the start of each game, the players draw a Scenario card. There are 5 different sizes A-E, and each size has 12 different setup options. These are inspired by what is known and theorized about the changing world of the Cretaceous. Some have starting positions clustered closer together, making players more vulnerable to early attacks from opponents, and some are much more widespread, letting players build up and protect a more secluded part of the map. The map is surrounded by border tiles puzzled together.

 

After setup, the players will build the map by picking tiles from 4 open piles and matching them to existing tiles on the map as part of the Migrate action. The general map tiles, called Territory tiles, have 6 different biomes, and each Dino has a few preferred biomes among these.

 

There are also 6 different Event biomes on specific Event tiles that are found in the 4 stacks of tiles. As soon as an Event tile comes up, an Event takes place. The Events come in 2 groups, with One-time Events (Mountain, Volcano and Crater) having instant effects, and Permanent Events (Desert, Tundra and Floodplains) affecting the map for the rest of the game.

 

The Events may kill Dino herds, stop players from using certain actions, limit their abilities, and always change the map for better or worse, depending on where your Dino meeples are. 2 custom dice are used to determine placement and aftermath effects of the Event.

Well, what about those tempting Morph tokens? Changes in the environment could also be part of what triggered changes in dinosaur Species. Therefore, Morph tokens may be added to a Biome with a dice roll after the Event, simulating the ability to develop new traits and behaviors.

 

Which Dino will be victorious?

 

Oviraptor from the Dynasty Oviraptorosauria, 1 of 6 Dynasties in the game.

Now that you hopefully have a better overview of the different Dinos, actions and building the Map, one important question remains: how do you win?



The goal of the game is to become the most successful dinosaur species, best adapted to the conditions set by the Challenge cards that are drawn at the start of each game. The Challenges are related to how well players succeed with their actions, like making a nest that survives and hatches, or conquering opponents. They can also include how a player is positioned on the map, like which areas their herds inhabit at the end of the game. All Challenges are worth 1 victory point and are only counted at the end of the game, so players have the chance to snatch the victory from their opponents until the very last round!


As soon as the map area is filled, players draw an End game card, which will give the condition for when the last round starts. The End game cards include conditions like when a herd Migrate into a specific biome or when players perform a certain action. The race to the finish line starts, with players in the lead trying to finish the game quickly, and those just behind try to catch up.

Campaign - the ultimate challenge!

 

Gasparinisaura from the Dynasty Ornithopoda, 1 of 6 Dynasties in the game.

Dino Dynasty offers several game variants, making it suitable for a wide range of players. It is fitting for the family that wants to introduce a more complex gameplay to younger or inexperienced players. It’s easy to simplify by removing some components, like playing without Morph abilities, drawing fewer Challenge cards or using the Simple Biome card for an easy setup.

The game also offers enough variability, asymmetry and choices to challenge the more skillful player. In the Campaign variant, gameplay continues in 5 consecutive Scenarios where the map size progressively becomes bigger and the different Scenarios affect each other. In the Team variant players join forces in groups of 2 or 3, helping each other and fighting the opposing team together. Players can also choose to use a save variant, where they have a starting Dino in each Dynasty. To be able to change and unlock other species, they have to meet certain conditions during play.

Thank you for reading this far and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions!

 

Oh, yeah, and here's the Kickstarter!

 

Matti Bergh

Developer of Dino Dynasty

Ion Game Design

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