The Big Picture: Jurrasic Park 3 Island Survival Game is a board game produced by Hasbro based on the movie of the same name. Many board games based off of movies tend to be poorly designed, with the intent to sell copies based off of the title and not from the game-play. Hence, many board games based off of movies are worse than the movies they are based off of. And this game is no exception. Trouble is, Jurassic Park 3 the movie was terrible! But somehow, some way, Jurassic Park 3 Island Survival Game is worse.
The Details: The first sign of trouble came when I saw the layout of the board. It looked like a classic ‘roll and move’ type board. Then a batch of dice with numbers on them. Uh-oh. A cursory glance through the rule-book later and…yep…roll and move. Nice. Ok, so, it’s a…WAIT! Are those plastic dinosaur pieces?! Yes they are! As it turns out, all of the dinosaur pieces (and there are a dozen of them) are sculpted to look like the dinosaurs they represent. Cool. Too bad that was the best part about the game. The rest of the components are average at best. The human characters are cardboard stand-up things, the life tokens are simple cardboard chips, and the event cards are nothing special.
As you might expect from a roll-and-move game, the game-play is fairly straightforward. One player controls the dinosaurs, the other 1-3 players control the humans. The humans have to move through the 5 ‘action sequences’ – which are really just 5 ‘sections’ – of the board to get to the end, where they must draw a card from a deck and hopefully win by drawing the right one (more on that later). Now there are some twists. Depending on what you roll, you might move 1, 2, 3, or 4 spaces, or you might get to move a group of humans 3 spaces. The dinosaur player can move his minions 1-3 spaces, with a possibility of moving all of his dinosaurs 1 space. Unfortunately, the layout of the board is such that there is basically only 1 direction to go, making the movement across the board more or less determined by the roll of the dice, and not by any strategic decision-making of the players.
The ‘battles’ between the dinosaurs and the humans are equally uninspiring. I was disappointed to find out that there was no way for the humans to kill, or even damage, the dinosaurs. They can only escape or get bitten. Combat (obviously) is also determined by rolling dice. No need to complicate things with decisions! So the dinosaur player rolls his damage dice. He deals that amount of damage unless the human player rolls an escape on his dice (escape is 1/2 of the time). The neat thing is that if the human rolls an escape, he gets to move either 2 or 3 spaces. “What, my dinosaur attacks you and you get to move extra spaces?!”. Yeah, awesome.
So, we’re moving on this lame board, fighting these lame ‘battles’, and then the humans get to draw cards when they land on certain spaces. Surely you can add these cards to a ‘hand’ and then use them at strategic points of the game, right? Wrong. They are used immediately, often with some fairly pointless result (such as one dinosaur attacking another), and occasionally are actually detrimental to the humans.
Ok, whatever. So we’re almost to the end of the board. We move to the last space – and draw from the deck. If we draw the ‘win’ card, then the humans win (1/3 chance). Yay! If not, then the humans are forced to back-track while pteranodons devour them. Cool, I really like how the end of the game is determined by the luck of the draw rather than my own skills. NOT. And that’s it. The ‘Win’ card is drawn and the game is mercifully over.
What to not like about this game: Almost everything. There is virtually no strategic decision making at all; you basically just roll and roll, and push on towards the objective. There’s basically just one route to go for the humans, and conversely just one place to ambush them for the dinosaurs, so again, no decision making or strategic thought. There is no need to develop an overall game plan, nor any real tactical play. Now there are some interesting decisions to make; there is a rule that allows a human player to spend a life chip to roll the movement dice a second time. But that’s basically it.
Furthermore, the game is not balanced. The humans have a big advantage over the dinosaurs, and will usually win unless they get bad luck. And that brings up yet another problem with the game – it is mostly dependent on luck! Though I suppose that is necessary given that there are few strategic or tactical decisions. Oh well, at least it’s exciting! Well, sorta.
Moreover, there is no replay value to this game. The objective is always the same, and the best/clearest route to that objective is always the same, so the game always plays the same.
The bottom line: This game sucks. I strongly encourage everyone, even die-hard Jurassic Park fans, to avoid this game. Play it only if you want to waste your time. Buy only if you want to waste your money also. The only way to make this game fun is to try and role-play with the characters and pick a favorite character that you want to save (such as Udesky, my personal favorite), and have the dinosaur player try to kill that character at all costs Of course, with a good game, the players shouldn’t have to come up with ways to make the game fun – it should be fun just to play by the rules. Overall: 2/10