With its cute dinosaur meeples and cartoon art, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Dino Dodge from Blue Gear Games was 'just' a kids' game. Certainly it can be played as a casual family game but don't be fooled by its seductive art and seeming simplicity, Dino Dodge is in reality a ruthless highly strategic 'take that' game.
The game is played across a layout of eight tile cards, representing the world. The 2-5 players each place out their dinosaur meeple on one of the tiles (and two or more can occupy the same tile). Players also have a hand of five action cards, at least one of which will allow them to move their own dinosaur (others variously allow you to move an opponent's dinosaur or to move and 'bump' along any dinosaurs on tiles moved into). Cards can be played in combination in order to take special actions, including to activate your dinosaur's own unique power. On your turn, you play at least one card and then you flip a meteor card and place it out above any of the locations that don't already have a meteor in the skies above them. As you might expect, the meteors are an existential threat and they rotate each turn from their highest number to the side that says 'Boom!' When they crash to the ground, you don't want your dinosaur underneath. Moreover, meteors that go Boom! cause their location tiles to flip to their lava side, making them unhospitable locations on which to end your turn: it'll cost you two matching cards to move off the tile, so your dinosaur on a lava tile beneath a falling meteor is likely to be a sitting duck. If you can't move to avoid a meteor strike, you're eliminated from the game. So the winner is the player with the last dinosaur standing.
So Dino Dodge is a game where you'll be trying to keep a step ahead of the mounting danger while manoeuvring your opponents into peril. As the meteor threat mounts and the land tiles become increasing inhospitable, it feels a lot like Musical Chairs. But Arrio G Amirgholi has also designed here a cunning hand management game. There's no limit to the number of cards you can play on your turn, so you can string actions together and, effectively, program a sequence of moves and bumps. However, unlike most other games, you don't automatically draw back up when you play a card. There are certain specific circumstances when you get to draw a single card but you only get to replenish your hand back up to five cards if you've no cards in hand at the start of your turn. This introduces a push-your-luck element to game play: it can be hugely advantageous to run your hand down to zero but it puts you at risk of elimination if, before your next turn, your opponents manage to use their actions to push you onto a lava tile under a falling meteor...
Dino Dodge isn't a complicated game but there are some icons to learn and a few rules that only kick in when certain conditions are met. This may make the game initially tricky for younger players who will otherwise find Dino Dodge very appealing, thanks both to the theme and to Linh Nguyen's charming artwork. Our plays of Dino Dodge at Board's Eye View all took around 20 minutes, so whether you approach it as an easy-going family game or a cutthroat contest between scheming gamers, Dino Dodge offers a tight exciting filler-length experience. And it's a game that's sure to leave the eliminated dinosaurs clamouring for reincarnation and another rematch.