This week I bring you a rather rare, old game: Dinosaurs of the Lost World by Avalon Hill.

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Recently TacoMa’am found a complete copy of this game at the thrift store for a dollar; which was a pretty good find since all the used copies I’ve seen online run around $100. So, yeah, a good deal on that game. Anyway, the game was originally published in 1987 by Avalon hill. Eventually the company went under and it’s assets were bought by Hasboro and added to their subsidiary company: Wizards of the Coast. One of the games that was lost in that transition (either on purpose or otherwise) was Dinosaurs of the Lost World. Which is a shame, because the game is actually rather fun.

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Dinosaurs of the Lost World (DLW from here on out) is a pretty typical avalon hill game, in that it’s fairly complicated and the rules are over-elaborately described in the rule book. Indeed, just reading the rules to my little group took around 35 minutes, which was kinda uneccesarry, because the rules COULD have been described in about 1/3 of the words that were actually used by the manual. But, if you’ve ever played early printings of Diplomacy or Axis and Allies, you’d expect this from Avalon.

DLW exists in an interesting place between board game and a pen and paper RPG, using aspects of both, but not existing firmly in either.

Despite the verbosity of the manual, behind the rules there is a fairly accessible game. You basically have two primary places on the board that you play. Around the outside of the board is the movement track, which determines the number of spaces you can move in the central exploration grid that round.  This movement track also gives you one special thing you can do each round, which can be to draw an event card (which can make things happen, such as combat or item discovery, etc), draw an experience card (which gives you the ability to add bonuses to rolls as well as move specific numbers of spaces during adventures), move a dinosaur around in the exploration grid (and potentially attack other players with said dinosaur), climb a tree (which lets you peak at unexplored sites), or miss a turn (boo).

Every round, you roll 2d6 and move that number of spaces along the movement track.  You do your special action, and then can utilize the movement points on the space you land on to move your exploration team in the exploration zone (which is a hex grid in the center of the board).  Exploration is pretty simple.  At the start of the game there are a large number of unexplored sites around the hex map.  Using move points you move into a space that’s unexplored and reveal the site.  You can find nothing at all, a trap, an important site, or even a few items by unveiling these tiles.  Once you’ve got a few tiles turned over, the real fun starts.

Adventures are the core of the game.  In order to win the game you have to accumulate victory points, and the primary way to ear these points is to do adventures.  Adventures in DLW are interesting.  In the box set, you have several comic style pages of adventures, with each pane numbered in order.  Once you start an adventure, you roll 1D6 (or use experience cards) to move through the adventure.  Each pane has something on it that can award victory points, cause your team to get attacked, make you lose items, etc.  If you finish an adventure, you typically get some victory points and an experience card.  The aforementioned items can be of significant help in the adventures, allowing  you to draw extra experience cards at the beginning, allowing strategic movement rather than the random die roll.

The ultimate goal of the game is to accumulate 25 victory points and then escape the Lost World via any of the escape methods (there are four ways to leave the Lost World, which one you pick depends a lot on what you discovered during the game).  If you collect 25 victory points and escape, you win the game.

While the game lists a play time of 90 minutes, I’d expect first-time players to need at least 3 hours.  Our group of 3 new players took a little over 30 minutes to read the rules, and then played another 45 before realizing it was going to take us a while to play and stopped the game to persue a few other, shorter games (our evening was time critical).  In our 45 minutes of play, we got roughly 1/4 of the way through the game, so the 90 minutes quotes must be for a group of people who know what they’re doing and are playing really fast.  If you can find this game and are going to play it, I’d say give yourself about 4 hours.

There’s also a kid’s version of the rules included with the game which would probably allow a much faster play.  We didn’t try this rule set so I can’t really comment on it.

As a final note, this game would be great for anyone who is really into house rules and game modding.  The exploration tiles could easily be made by hand, so adding new tiles wouldn’t be hard at all, and the adventures are primarily just 8-10 spot random progression tables, which could also be produced.  Even without artistic talent, you could put together some new adventures using just text (the adventures play a lot like a choose your own adventure book, so that would be a good place to draw inspiration).  New dinosaurs, items, events, and experience cards would likewise be simple to add since those are all printed on various weights of card stock.  All-in-all, this game seems to have been made with plans to add expansions at a later date, but I’m thinking it never attracted enough market attention to merit these expansions.  A shame, really.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

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