PuzzleNation Review: The Great Dinosaur Rush

The Bone Wars marked one of the craziest, most productive periods in scientific history, as two titans of the burgeoning field of paleontology — Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh — competed to discover and catalog dinosaur fossils.

Cope and Marsh spied on each other, sabotaged each other’s digs, falsified their own records to deter spying, and even blew up their own digs to prevent the other from finding anything else there in their absence.

It was absolute lunacy, and it led to more fossil discoveries than any other point in history.

And, in today’s review, we look at a game that recreates the Bone Wars for your enjoyment. This is The Great Dinosaur Rush.

In this game, players assume the roles of famous paleontologists at a dig site, collecting bones and preparing their specimens for display at a museum.

The game is played in three rounds. Each round consists of three phases: the Field Phase, the Build Phase, and the Exhibit Phase.

In the Field Phase, you move around the dig site and collect various bones. Different colored pieces represent different bones, which can only be placed in a dinosaur skeleton in certain ways. Red are limb bones, yellow are neck and tail bones, etc.

In this phase, you can take standard actions — like determining the scoring of various dinosaur attributes (making a taller dinosaur more valuable than a ferocious-looking one, for instance) or trading bones for points — or you can take actions that increase your notoriety, like sabotaging other digs or stealing bones from adjacent digs.

Notoriety is a double-edged sword, however; your notoriety gets you points at the end of the game… unless you’re the most notorious player, in which case you lose points.

The Field Phase is all setup for the Build Phase, where you use the bones you’ve collected to prepare your exhibit.

Oh yes, part of this game is a puzzle where you get to make your very own new dinosaur. (The screens included in the game block the other players from seeing your dinosaur-in-progress, as well as offering you important information on how to build your dinosaur.)

It’s up to you to figure out how to place them in order to make your dinosaur excel in certain ways. Depending on the scoring values — determined in the Field Phase — maybe you’ll want to emphasize the neck, or the arms, or give it unique attributes like a triceratops’s horns or a stegosaurus’s spiky plates. It’s up to you — it’s your discovery.

Finally, we have the Exhibit Phase, where the screens are lowered and each dinosaur is scored on its attributes as you show off your creation. (I also encourage players to name their creations, which has proven to be great fun in each game I’ve played.)

That’s the end of the first round. For rounds two and three, you go through the Field, Build, and Exhibit Phases again, but the point values are changed.

And at the end of the third round, you settle your notoriety points, determining final scores. Highest score wins!

Although the game can look a bit daunting at the start, it’s essentially Scrabble with dinosaur bones. You get your pieces and try to maximize your points by stringing them together in creative ways. It’s just that instead of words and clever crossings, you’ve got limbs and tails and Allosaurus skulls.

[Here’s my creation, the Dallosaurus. I imagine it’s like one of those toy birds that drinks water, pivoting on its hipbone atop those long legs and dipping its head to eat or drink.]

I was thoroughly impressed by how elegant the gameplay was, and how many actions you could take in the Field Phase. There’s so much you can do as you try to collect the bones you need to make your dinosaur, and it’s a wonderful mix of strategy, skill, and luck.

And then to follow that with pure puzzle solving as you must use every bone you’ve collected to create your dinosaur… it’s a game that engages you on several levels in very satisfying fashion. (The fact that it brings to life one of my favorite rivalries from history is just the cherry on top for me.)

It does take about an hour to play (sometimes longer, when you introduce new players to the game), but it’s worth the time investment. It’s a terrific family game — especially if you use the variant rule that leaves out the notoriety aspect. And it offers a new chance to make history every time you play.

[The Great Dinosaur Rush is distributed by APE Games and appears in this year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide.]

And thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Stopping at the McDonald’s on Memory Lane

I mentioned last month that I’ve been doing a bit of late-Spring cleaning, and the process continues. This weekend, I was poring through some McDonald’s toys my mother had saved over the years (and when you’re one of six kids, those toys add up quickly).

(One section of the counter absolutely covered with toys.)

And as I was organizing and sorting an egg box full of these silly little gems, I couldn’t help but find the puzzliest among them to share with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

It seems appropriate to start with toys that resemble the brand’s signature food items.

When it comes to puzzle toys, you really can’t go wrong with something that transforms. Figuring out the proper steps to reveal the hidden character or form inside can be simple or complex, depending on the toy. Obviously McDonald’s kept it simple with these Happy Meal handouts, but it didn’t make them any less weird or delightful.

These faux foods are from two different series of McDonald’s toys — the fries and hot cakes & sausage from 1986/1987, the burger and hotcakes from 1990 — and each transforms to reveal something unexpected.

As you can see, the late ’80s toys become robots (keeping in line with the whole Transformers mentality) while the 1990 toys become curious food/dinosaur hybrids.

1992 brought us these stackable circus characters, testing the balance and dexterity of younger minds to see what diabolical human towers they can cook up. In my house, this quickly became a Jenga-like game of each person selecting a piece and taking turns to stack them, often with disastrous results.

(My tower…just before it collapsed.)

But by far the puzzliest of the toys I uncovered was also one I’d completely forgotten about.

Back in 1991, McDonald’s partnered up with NASA to spark interest in space exploration with a run of Happy Meal toys all about astronauts, space technology, and more.

One of the best and most challenging sets was this small space module, complete with two astronauts, logos, and flames.

If memory serves, there were also a lunar rover and a satellite, all built with these wonderful double-sided cardboard pieces.

It was a blast to rediscover these puzzle-fueled delights amidst a plethora of TV and movie tie-in toys, animated characters, and other nuggets of fast-food childhood fun.

Did this post remind you of any puzzly toys you found in cereal boxes, fast food orders, or the like? Let me know in the comments section below!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!