The cardboard form of racing has always suffered a little bit from the stop start syndrome, where the flow of a continual race is something that is difficult to present in the real time game mechanics. It’s maybe one of the few genres where the videogame will easily dominate as planning and reaction are something that happens at the same time. The only way to make it work is to drag racing into the luddite arena and force it to play by tabletop rules. Dodos Riding Dinos arrives on the table with a cartoon racing familiarity that hopefully will have you cheering at the side of the racetrack.
Dodos Riding Dinos is a prehistoric racing game which runs using a planning and action phase plus a mixture of physical dexterity as you chase around a choice of several themed tracks trying to complete a circuit and win the game.
Racing games need to be one of two things. If you take the likes of Steampunk Rally, the planning phase is such a huge part of the gameplay, creating a machine that powers your craft forward with race progress being the result of excellent planning. The engine building is almost the main mechanic and therefore inching forward is highly reward. On the other side, you need to keep the planning so it is quick, simultaneous, and constantly moves everyone forward at a pace. In Dodos, every player picks one of three cards, where the standard cards move you forward and have a slight effect, while green reactions will move you but also potentially interrupt other players actions. The most interesting cards are the red rage cards, who offer the most devious actions, but if more than one player plays a red card, then the cards cancel each other out and both players trundle forward instead. The player order then dictates who plays first, with players moving spaces and then carrying out actions on the cards. So it moves fast and it definitely moves faster as the game progresses and there’s a tiny amount of gambling going on as well, with players trying to bluff through their red cards to take a bigger advantage over everyone else. Games will grind to a halt when you start to throw wooden pieces at other players based on the cards you’ve played. This is when it ramps up, and this is when the laughter happens and when the vendettas are formed, and this is when you realise that when you can’t get the licence to make a game. You do the best with what you have, throwing feathers underarm, dropping meteors, rolling logs and throwing bananas in order to knock players back spaces and making them lose cards from their hand. You cards are you energy, lose enough and you’ll need to recover, so you’ll drop back a few spaces and refresh your hand. It works well because at the end of every round the leader doesn’t get another card for their hand and so increases the chances they could end up running out of energy altogether. You need to allow others to overtake to keep you hand topped up and it helps to keep things close in the pack, and with the dexterity element, grouped together Dinos have more chance of being hit. It’s all designed to move fast and keep players moving, without huge stalls in game play. With each dinosaur having their own special powers, it offer additional tactics for how each player plays and if you want to make it more difficult, then you can roll out the smaller wooden meeples for an additional challenge.
It is a racing game. So you win by winning the race by crossing the finish line faster than anyone else. All done and dusted after one lap.
Dodos has presentation that makes you wonder how it plays as soon as you glance over the box. The imagination that has gone into each of the characters is wonderful and I’m a sucker for great art direction and strong illustrations and this game definitely delivers across all levels. The sculpts of the individual racers are unique enough to make me consider giving them a lick of paint just to customise them a little bit more. The tracks that come with the game has obvious influences but aren’t too busy to take you away from the action that is going on in front of you. The card art is glorious throughout the deck, and I’m reminded of some of the power cards form King of Tokyo. It’s got that cartoonish type feel, but roars out quality. It’s the small touches, whether it is how well the sculpts match the illustrations to the fact that the dinos are named after the very people who discovered their fossils and named them. For me the presentation is where Dodos wins every time.
Well presented rule book, with clear layout and instructions. There’s a few variations available for those who want to try something else in terms of game modes. It’s really easy just to set up, deal out the player cards and start learning and playing as you go, considering the simplicity of the main mechanics. Some of the cards might require some checking for the younger players, but this shouldn’t stop you getting started.
Games really shouldn’t take much more than 45 minutes and as you learn the game better, you might be able to get that down even further. Obviously the more players will have a slight impact on the time to get the game played
You can talk about the obvious plumber in the room but the truth of the matter is that we could wait a couple of millions years and we aren’t going to be talking about a Kart racing board game any time soon that has a certain IP attached. Dodos Riding Dinos borrows several ideas where as you are playing you feel something familiar, comfortable and welcome. You’ll want to see how the overtaking works, how the movement works, how the rage cards work. You’ll want to pick up the feathers and bananas to weigh them up before you throw them. You’ll want to spend some time looking at all the player sculpts in the game just to see the sheer amount of charm on offer. Even though the game give the impression of being a simple select and move, the interrupt cards add that all important twist to keep things interesting and allow you to counteract runaway opponents. I also like the cancel mechanics surrounding the red cards, bringing in this extra level of bluff, and counter bluff. I like that the race leader advances a step but misses out on the chance to gain more energy and that you’ll often want to stay in the pack to make sure you don’t end up having to recover and drop back.
Dodos manages to keeps the race moving without too many interruptions to the flow of the game. You’ll need to play it at the higher player counts in order to get the best out of the game, as while it works with two and three, the real frenetic pace of the game makes itself heard when you’re playing with four and above. At that point, race leaders change, bananas and feathers fly and people will swear revenge as they race around the track. The most important thing here is that Dodos Riding Dinos is fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously while managing to offer some real tactical play through stealth. There’s clearly a lot of care and attention that has gone into the production of the game and it shows when a full game is in motion and you can almost imagine the roar of the racers as they try to outsmart each other and leave the losers feeling dino-sore.. Terrible lizards…
Price / Value For Money
Normal price is around the £50 mark with four tracks, a range of dinosaurs and a decent amount of replay value then it’s a decent price for what is on offer.
While red cards are meant to be nasty, its the green interrupt cards that will have other players cursing you for stopping their well planned out moves.
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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