19th Jan2021

‘God’s Love Dinosaurs’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

It’s no surprise when you get into it, that God’s Love Dinosaurs is a Pandasaurus Games product. There’s a clue in the name of course, but it’s not just that – it’s also in the way that God’s Love Dinosaurs handles the titular subject matter. God’s Love Dinosaurs is pure, irreverent silliness that never for one second tries to make a serious attempt to explain dinosaurs, how they lived or what brought them to extinction – instead, it satisfies itself by telling you that they were at the top of the food chain – and that’s all you need to know.

The good news then, is that God’s Love Dinosaurs isn’t about science or complex genome splicing. Instead, it’s a simple game of managing your own micro-economic ecosystem, whilst also adding a little bit of a spacial puzzle into the mix. This means that God’s Love Dinosaurs is very suitable for young players, with those of perhaps around eight years old and upwards being able to participate. God’s Love Dinosaurs also looks fantastic, meaning that players of any age (but especially those at the younger end) will be immediately drawn to its hundreds of tiny animal meeples depicting frogs, rodents, predators and dinosaurs.

The frame for God’s Love Dinosaurs is that each player is a God – who, as the title suggests – simply loves dinosaurs. With this in mind, each God wants to build their own landscape that will be perfect for housing dinosaurs. To do this, the players will draft ten-sided tiles (effectively two hexagons joined in the middle) each turn and place them into their expanding world. Each time one of these tiles includes an animal, they will add that animal to the relevant space. If a column on the board from which these tiles are drawn is exhausted, then the animal shown at the bottom of that column will activate for every player.

The way this works is fairly simple, though it’s easier to see it in practice than to describe it. Let’s say that you have one frog on your board, and when you place your new tile, you now have three adjacent swamp spaces (which is where frogs like to live.) The tile you took was the last one in the column showing the frog at the bottom, so now each frog on your board (and your opponent’s boards) will reproduce one time, if there is a free swamp space. So in your case, your one frog would add one more frog in either of your adjacent empty swamp spaces, leaving one empty.

Now, there are three prey animals in God’s Love Dinosaurs, including rodents, rabbits and frogs, and then there are two predators – tigers and eagles. These predators are placed in exactly the same way as prey when a tile is drawn that includes a predator printed on it, but when predators activate as the result of an empty column, they only reproduce by eating. Each tiger will move up to two spaces in any direction, whilst an eagle will move three spaces in a straight line. The first prey animal that a predator eats counts for nothing – it is just subsistence for the predator. However, if the tiger or eagle can eat a second prey animal (or a third, for the eagle) then one or two more predators will be placed.

Finally, in addition to activating animals when a column is emptied, a dinosaur may also activate if the dinosaur meeple (that moves along each animal) is in the column that is emptied. When this happens, the dinosaur on each player board may move up to five spaces, laying eggs for each predator it eats (prey don’t count, but will still be eaten.) The trick with dinosaurs is that again, they must eat (or will starve) and they must end their turn on a mountain space, which is otherwise useless. As the game progresses, the player may be able to spend an egg to create a second (or more) dinosaur, allowing them to lay more eggs (which act as points) at the risk of having dinosaurs be more likely to starve (which costs a point for the lost egg each time it happens.)

And that is God’s Love Dinosaurs in a nutshell. It’s a game all about claiming the right tiles, placing them in the most efficient way, building up a sustainable stock of prey, and then in turn a sustainable stock of predators, then eating them in the most efficient way possible! Each game lasts perhaps an hour at most, but with older players who understand the rules, it will be more like 30 or 40 minutes on most occasions. What I enjoyed most about it is how simple God’s Love Dinosaurs is to learn, teach and play. This is a very family weight game that really will not tax the average player, but it still presents some interesting challenges.

Among the things I like about it are the quality of the components – which really is very high, almost unnecessarily so when you think about how simplistic the gameplay is. The number of components and the individuality of each animal might make you feel that there are loads of small rules to work out, but each prey animal is the same (mechanically) whilst the two predators and the dinosaurs (of which there is just one kind) are easily memorable. Whilst simple, I also like that God’s Love Dinosaurs‘ gameplay leaves scope for clever plays – you can definitely build a more or less optimal world, and you can plan your prey expansion better or worse, and the movements of your predators and dinosaurs.

Nothing in God’s Love Dinosaurs is therefore ground-breaking, but this is a great looking, solid, family game that is quite unique in terms of the theme and the mechanical gameplay that it links its thematic elements to. The rapid play speed and relatively balanced gameplay make God’s Love Dinosaurs a good choice for younger players (especially alongside the simple rules) and therefore you can find yourself playing two or three games in a row with a keen young player, or someone who isn’t into more complex, heavy or confrontational games. In summary, God’s Love Dinosaurs is a nice filler or family weight game, and if that’s what you’re after, it’s worth checking out.

***½  3.5/5

God’s Love Dinosaurs is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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