dinosaur island

Dinosaur Island

The bad news is that the Kickstarter for Dinosaur Island has already wrapped up and you cannot contribute. The good news is that Pandasaurus Games raised over $500,000 to bring this game to life and you will almost surely be able to nab a copy when it’s available later this year. The best news is that Dinosaur Island is a thinly-veiled riff on Jurassic Park where each player is building their own dinosaur-centric theme park and must balance running a successful park with keeping all of their visitors, well, alive. This sounds great.

It helps that Pandasaurus is a reliable publisher with their fair share of great games and that designers Jon Gilmour and Brian Lewis have quite the track record (I’m especially fond of Gilmour’s Dead of Winter, which managed to breathe new life into the zombie board game). Here’s the description of the game:

In Dinosaur Island, players will have to collect DNA, research the DNA sequences of extinct dinosaur species and then combine the ancient DNA in the correct sequence to bring these prehistoric creatures back to life.  Dino cooking!  All players will compete to build the most thrilling park each season, and then work to attract (and keep alive!) the most guests each season that the park opens.

Do you go big and create a pack of Velociraptors?  They’ll definitely excite potential guests…  but you better make a large enough enclosure for them.  And maybe hire some (read: a lot of) security.  Or they WILL break out and start eating your guests—and we all know how that ends.  You could play it safe and grow a bunch of herbivores…  but then you aren’t going to have the most exciting park in the world (sad face).  So maybe buy a roller coaster or two to try and attract guests to your park the good old fashioned way?

Although the theme is wild and outlandish (and totally aware that it’s riffing on Jurassic Park and unapologetic about it), the game itself looks like a thoughtful, crunchy game filled with challenging decisions. The player boards remind me of Agricola, but instead of planting crops, you’re building dinosaur enclosures. While it certainly looks a bit complicated for board game newbies who may be attracted to the theme, the best of these complex, European-style games tend to function like clockwork – once you understand how the various systems interact, they are easy to grasp and often relaxing, relying more on personal puzzle solving than direct, mean-spirited conflict between players. Keep your eyes out for this one.

Wet Hot American Summer documentary

Wet Hot American Summer: Fantasy Camp

Even as designer board games find themselves being embraced by a larger audience, tabletop roleplaying games often seem quarantined in their own tiny corner. Ask someone on the street to describe an RPG, and they’ll talk about basements and and Dungeons & Dragons. And while D&D is better than ever right now (the new fifth edition really is the fantasy adventure game I’ve always wanted), RPGs are so much more than elves and paladins. Games like Fiasco drop players into a Coen brothers movie. Our Last Best Hope tasks you with saving the world, Armageddon-style. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a group storytelling experience that, somehow, plays even better when everyone has been drinking. RPGs are more varied, and more accessible, than ever before.

So this Kickstarter campaign for an RPG based on the cult comedy classic Wet Hot American Summer isn’t that crazy. The game finds players taking on the roles of counselors, campers, and staff at Camp Firewood, thrusting everyone into a variety of increasingly wacky and bizarre situations. The emphasis here seems to be less on dice rolling (although there is some) and more on improvisation and interaction between players. As someone whose RPG sessions tend to be more about character dynamics and interesting choices than simply making the numbers on my player sheet get bigger, I definitely see the appeal here.

The only potential roadblock is that the very nature of this game requires everyone at the table to be funny and that simply won’t appeal to every kind of gamer. In fact, some of the best RPG sessions I’ve ever played involved more outgoing players bouncing off the more reserved players, with the resulting character dynamics proving delightful, insightful, and sometimes totally insane. Hopefully, Wet Hot American Summer: Fantasy Camp is designed to allow some players to take on more straight characters, giving them the job of reacting to the more outlandish moments instead of causing them (although it remains to be seen if playing that kind of character would be fun).

Here are some of the features from the game, taken from the Kickstarter page. I especially like how this game can be played in one-off sessions or as a longer campaign, based on the preference of the group:

  • Play as Wet Hot Heroes: The manual includes so many playable characters, like lovelorn Coop, top dog Beth, or a surprisingly nimble Can of Vegetables.
  • Create Your Own Custom Character: Whip together a character in minutes with our simple character sheet template. Choose your rank – camper, counselor, or camp staff – their personality, and their special powers. Even the lamest campers have special powers!
  • Explore Camp Firewood: Take the jet ski for a spin. Dominate the Capture the Flag field. Score big in the sports equipment shed. Firewood is yours for the camping!
  • Design Your Own Camp: Take your game higher and higher by designing your own custom camp. Wanna liberate an oppressive fat camp or go astro-nuts at space camp? The possibilities are endless.
  • Activities Galore: Do long RPG sessions give you MCB (Moist Chair Butt)? Fantasy Camp integrates activities as varied as singing, dancing, scavenger hunts, walking outside (gasp!), and arts & crafts – okay, arts & farts & crafts – to create a more immersive camp experience, and because it’s funny.
  • Collect Firewood Treasures: Wanna sneak a peak at Andy’s gernal? Looking for a sweatband to help your New Way training? Need some lube… for your pussy? Camp Firewood has tons of items to discover that will assist your character.
  • Roll the Dice of Fate: When your character gets in a major jam, they’ll roll the Dice of Fate. They may discover bug juice with regenerative powers… or fall off a cliff and get struck by lightning. Whatever happens, you cannot sue the camp.
  • Evolve Your Camper: You can play your characters for one ridiculous game and throw ‘em out, or play multiple games with the same characters for a bigger story. The more games you play as your character, the more your character evolves and changes – like Pokemon who get sexier.
  • Wet Hot Bonus Content: The book includes a foreword by David Wain and game tip interviews with cast members on how to kick butt playing as their characters.

The Kickstarter has reached its funding goal already, and you have a few more days to chip in. $10 will get you a digital copy of the game, and $20 will get you a physical copy.

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