Dinosaur Table Battles is a fast paced, dice balancing game pitting teams of dinosaurs against each other!
Total Game Play: 30-45 minutes
Designer(s): Amabel Holland
Artist(s): Wil Alambre
Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Who doesn’t love dinosaurs battling other dinosaurs? Who doesn’t love teams of dinosaurs battling each other? Well, that’s what Dinosaur Table Battles is all about! I truly do love this game as it has such a great theme and a great mechanic. The biggest challenge for me with this game is that dice hate me! (More on that later). But for now, get your claws out for a ferocious battle.
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This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how-to-play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Dinosaur Table Battles is a two-player-only game. I have played this game multiple times but I do not think I have played with every possible dinosaur.
Dinosaur Table Battles is a two-player game where two dinosaur teams fight against each other for some reason. The designer decided to leave that up to the player’s imagination. Each player will draft their own team of dinosaurs before facing a fierce battle. Or rolling a lot of dice.
The flow of this game is very straightforward. It is a back-and-forth of player turns until one team has been defeated! While the flow of the game is simple, there is still enough depth of play to keep you engaged as you fight for your life and hold onto your team.
The setup for this game is very easy. You pick your teams, grab your hit tokens and your dice and you’re done! Honestly, the game could probably be housed in a much smaller box, but I’m also glad all Hollandspiele boxes are the exactly same size. It looks neat. For the first game, there is a recommended team to use but after that, you get to use the draft mechanic.
Each player will be dealt 5 dinosaurs and then each player will remove one without the other player knowing. Of the remaining four, each player chooses one and then passes their hand. Now, you get to choose to keep or discard one of the three cards in your new hand! This continues until there are no cards left to pass.
The game is played with each player taking a turn. Within each player’s turn are two phases: the attack phase and the roll phase. During the attack phase, a player may take a single attack action against a specific target. But, you have to be careful, because some dinosaurs are able to react and help out their team members. An interesting part of this game is that while attacks are optional, reactions are not. Why would a dinosaur go against its instincts? That makes no sense. The attack is then resolved by either removing hit dice or having a dinosaur absorb the hit and lose one of its own abilities.
The second phase of a turn is the rolling phase. Any dice that are not currently housed on a dinosaur card are rolled, and these dice can be placed on up to two dinosaurs provided they meet all the limitations. For cards that have specified dice faces, only one type of die can be placed there on this turn. If there are two blank dice, then a set of matching dice can be placed there in one turn, and if the dice are in brackets then only one die can be placed regardless of how many you rolled.
Concept: Passive Abilities
Some dinosaurs will have passive abilities written on one of their action cards. These abilities are always in effect as long as the action card is still active. While they may only trigger at certain points, they often will not need anything t be activated.
The game ends when all a player has been reduced to zero hit tokens or if you only have a sense active dinosaur left. Generally, this means all other of that player’s dinosaurs have been exhausted. We have been assured that a dinosaur having zero action cards, will go to the dinosaur hospital and will be completely fine. It was promised.
Who Will Like it?
If you like dinosaurs, you will like this game. If you like battles, you will like this game. If you like tables, you will like this game.
All that aside, this game is pretty great for those who like to mitigate luck and optimize their position with what was given. I would say the mechanics of this game are light weight but will all the attacks, reacts, and passive abilities, we start to cross over into the mid-weight category.
What I Think
This game was given to me as a gift with a lovely assortment of other Hollandspiele games (more reviews to come!) I was excited to play it, and since our house was a mess, we set the game up on the bed and began to roll the dice.
What did I like?
I really love how this game has an ebb and flow between attacking and defending. The fact you get to choose if you want to attack can lead to a standstill and build an interesting dynamic between reactions and attacks.
Also, I have to mention, this game is absolutely hilarious. The dinosaur cards include the weight, length, height, and diet of each dinosaur. And, according to the rulebook, they have absolutely no effect on gameplay whatsoever, but they wanted to pretend the game had educational value. Also, the description on each dinosaur card had me falling over and laughing. Well worth the read 😊
What didn’t I like?
Ok, so my luck with dice is horrible and I think it’s somehow planned. This can be a little rough if you end up with a team that only uses 3,4,5 and 6’s and you mainly roll 1 and 2s. That happens. I rolled four ones. How does that happen!?!? I tried to offset this by getting a 1 and 2 dinosaur but then I didn’t have a need for 3s and 4s. And guess what? I rolled mostly 3s and 4s. I swear dice are sentient. I do not like it. But that is a minor qualm. Also, you can do your best to draft dinosaurs that need all the dice. Best to have a rounded team.
But if you do not like the luck of the dice, this game might not be your cup of tea. Because dice are the main thing in this game.
This game is a lot of fun, it’s light-hearted while still having the depth of play in balancing attacks, reactions, and dealing with your opponent. I also like the replayability this game has because, with so many different dinosaurs, the teams can be pretty unique providing for a different setup every game.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
The rule book for this game is only 4 pages. Or one very big double-sided page. However, you want to look at it. But all the information is conveyed very well within the rules so you can always find the answer you’re looking for. The flow of the rule book is a little weird for me but It’s easy enough to identify the areas and read them in the order you like. Because of the small nuances in this game, the first time you play, you will definitely have questions.
I won’t like the first play felt a bit frustrating because of my luck with dice. The two recommended start teams only need 4 of the 6 dice faces. So guess what I rolled? Yup! What I didn’t need. That being said, even with only being able to use some of my dice every turn, the game still turned out to be fairly close, even if it ended up with my crushing defeat…
Drafting the dinosaur teams felt much better in terms of finding the right balance of play for myself. The game was always engaging in seeing where you can catch your opponent off balance without exposing yourself too hard. But the change of the pre-set teams to the drafting mechanic made a huge impact that I highly appreciated.
Honestly, I wanted to rate this game higher but it being a two-player game definitely limits how often I can get it to the table. Which feels funny since we’re in a Pandemic and I am stuck in a house with one other person. That being said, I would love to play it more and it’s a game that always makes me smile.