26th Jan2021

‘Jurassic Parts’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

Whilst dinosaurs appear to be a recurring theme in board games lately, palaeontology and the study of these great, ancient beasts is something that I haven’t seen recreated in wood, plastic and cardboard to date. Jurassic Parts takes a relatively simplistic, set-collection based approach to representing the subject, but despite easy-to-follow rules and fast turns, it offers an interesting and unusual challenge that can be enjoyed across a broad spectrum of ages.

Jurassic Parts tasks each player – acting as a palaeontologist with their own named character – with collecting complete dinosaur fossils from a shared board made up of hexagonal tiles. Each dinosaur fossil may be from one to five tiles in size, with the larger skeletons like the T-Rex and Brontosaurus being much harder to collect (and worth a lot more points) than the smaller dinosaurs like the Velociraptor or Pterodactyl. Players may also collect fossilised ferns indefinitely, the more of which they have, the more they will score.

One of the most unique things about Jurassic Parts is the setup, which is a little fiddly at first, but it’s important to understand since it dictates almost everything about the game from thereon. After setting out their player boards (and coloured chisels) the players will split the board hexagons into two rough piles. They will then flip one pile upside down and shuffle all the tiles together, before placing them as randomly as possible into a shape of their choosing. I’ll say from experience that it’s pretty much impossible to plan the shape you’ll end up with, but it doesn’t matter too much as long as everyone is happy with the outcome.

Once the game begins, turns are very simple indeed. The first action of any turn is to refresh three of your chisels by moving them from the “blunt” side of your board to the “ready” side. You can then place sharpened chisels onto the board, which is done by placing them along the lines between hexes. Should you ever do this and leave the board in such a way that a complete line of chisels has formed a line across the board – creating a separate section of any size – then the smaller section will be split away and divided between the players.

When this happens, the split is relatively easy to work out. The player contributing the most chisels to the line that broke off the section claims half of the tiles that split away, then each other player who contributed gains half of the remainder, in order of their contribution. This means that there is a huge advantage in having the most chisels in a line, because not only do you gain the most tiles, but you also get to choose which ones you’d like to take first. The thing is, it makes sense for a player to be involved in as many cracks are going on across the board, but it’s not practical to be in all of them whilst expecting to have the most input into one or two of them.

One thing that can help change this is the use of amber, which can be earned by completing skeletons and then spent with your field leader to do things like sharpen more chisels, or ignore rocks – which I haven’t mentioned yet. Amber is basically a means of making your turns more powerful, and a turn that might otherwise have been very simple and straightforward can become a lot more expansive if you use amber to extend it. Linked to this, your first amber action will cost one amber, but each subsequent additional benefit will cost two, then three amber, making it harder (and giving less value) to use multiple amber actions in the same turn.

I mentioned rocks just now, and these represent the only real complexity when it comes to the placement of chisels. Each rock that borders a tile will cost an additional chisel in order to place your usual chisel there. So, if you wanted to place a chisel along a crack that had rocks on either side, the chisel would actually cost you three – the one you place, plus one for each of the adjacent rocks. As above, there is a field leader ability to negate this, and one to sharpen chisels, so if you can get enough amber, you can still string together some long runs of chisels that your opponent has no way of interrupting.

Jurassic Parts is fairly straightforward most of the time, thanks to the fact that amber abilities (which increase the complexity quite a bit) are only used infrequently. Young players (like some in my house) would rather keep the “pretty” amber tokens as opposed to using them, so we play without any amber abilities at all on some occasions. For older players, the amber really does bring another element to what would otherwise be a very straightforward and dare I say it, slightly boring game. Playing a simple game with kids is fine, but for adult players the amber abilities really are necessary.

Of course, there are a few other things to note about Jurassic Parts; firstly, that it comes in a really small box, which makes it good for travelling. It does take up a lot of table space when set up, but as long as you can find about 10 by 15 centimetres of space in your bag, you can take it with you. There’s also the way the game looks, which is perhaps a little bit “orange” but in general, the production is good and once the board is broken up into pieces and the dinosaurs take shape, things get more and more impressive.

Overall then, Jurassic Parts is a small box game that offers a couple of ways to play – the simplest being without the amber abilities in which case both my four- and six-year-old children were able to play. In the more complex game (which is as the designers intended) players of perhaps ten years and upwards will have no trouble accommodating the extra rules. Either way, Jurassic Parts is an interesting addition to any collection that doesn’t stand out as remarkable, but is always fun when it hits the table.

*** 3/5

Jurassic Parts 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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