If one name gets over-used in the world of boardgames, it is chess.
Game designers often compare their creations to chess, and some even tag the name to the new product, such as is the case with Dinosaur Chess.
In this case the term chess fits in the general 'feel' of the game, but frankly the game might just as well have been called 'Jurassica' or something.
Dinosaur Chess, created in 1993 by Richard Oldman is one of those games with a lot of good things going for it, but one which also makes a few mistakes along the way.
The good news is that the bad is predominantly associated with the aesthetics of the game.
That starts with the box, which has a couple of sort cartoony dinosaurs playing the game. It comes across as a game for younger players, in particular one for boys.
Once you get into the game though there is more depth of play that makes it challenging for all.
The box is also large, especially for its content. Large boxes are not easily stored, especially if you have lots of games, so it is a factor.
The size is in part because of the nice vinyl board rolled up inside. It is the highlight of the game, although there are paper stickers applied to the board which do tend to curl apart. I appreciate the game was self-produced, so custom printing a vinyl board was not likely feasible, but a stamp might have endured better.
The game pieces are not surprisingly dinosaurs. They are pictured on small stickers which have to be applied to the provided small wooden disks. They work fine, although a bit larger would have been a bonus.
Then there are the continent pieces. Cardboard cut-outs which start on the gaming mat, and over the course of the game shift, much as continents are said to have done over the centuries. The shifting continents in combination with the different movements of the various dinosaurs are the strong point of the game. There is intricacy to the game added by the dual movements which are excellent.
The piece selection is neat too, with the Pteranodons able to fly, and the Sarcosuchus able to go into the water.
In addition to the dinosaurs, each player has a time-traveller human piece, which is the key to winning and losing. You win by either capturing the opponent's time traveller, or alternately you can win by moving your traveller across the board to the opposition hemisphere.
The twin win conditions are also a bonus in my mind.
Overall a game with good depth and mechanics, although aesthetically there could have been more to attract a gamer's first look.
Check out www.dinochess.com
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 4, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada