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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Dinosaurs of the Lost World

“For it is only when a man goes out into the world with the thought that there are heroisms all round him, and with the desire all alive in his heart to follow any which may come within sight of him, that he breaks away as I did from the life he knows, and ventures forth into the wonderful mystic twilight land where lie the great adventures and the great rewards.” - Arthur Conan Doyle, quote from The Lost World.      
 
No big surprise that we have been playing a lot of board games lately, and recently I played one of my old time favorites from Avalon Hill, Dinosaurs of the Lost World based on the novel The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We had not played it in years so I was pleasantly reminded of the game when Honorable Son #5 (The skirmisher) suggested we play.

Cover art of the boxed game.

Dinosaurs of the Lost World is inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic work of fiction: The Lost World. And just as that famous book was the prototype for a whole genre of “Lost World” literature, Dinosaurs of the Lost World broke new ground in the field of innovative game design. We purchased the game in 1998 and there was not any other "interactive" game like it that we see so commonly today. Players explore this Lost World, ever aware of its horrible inhabitants, in search of sites where they can embark on adventures yielding great scientific discoveries and means of escape. 

When you "discover an adventure site" you move through it comic book style, hoping to gain Victory Points and materials to escape from the plateau.

Each adventure site leads players through an illustrated trek of great peril and reward. Comic book style story lines give vent to the player’s imagination as his adventures are visually pictured before him in an ongoing narration as he proceeds from frame to frame. Front and back full-color views of the dinosaurs actually stand erect and loom ominously across the plateau.

How we visualize exploring and trying to escape "The Lost World".

The actual game. Of course we used my miniatures instead of the game tokens provided!

At the time Dinosaurs of the Lost World was different from anything you played before and changes with every game you play. Although simple in concept, the game comes in two versions — a basic game suitable for 8-year-olds, and the full game which will challenge even the most erudite game player while allowing his children to be competitive in the same contest. With a playing time of approximately 90 minutes per game, it is great family fun. Actually three games in one, Dinosaurs of the Lost World also contains a really great and challenging solitaire version for those wishing to play alone – pitting themselves against the forces of prehistoric nature in a race against the clock.

In the solitaire game, you must escape before the volcano blows!

The game board itself is rather busy with three main areas. The first is an outer movement track. On your turn, you roll two dice and move the same number of spaces as the result. The space you land on tells you:

1. Which action you perform – such as draw an event card or move a creature – and 
2. The number of hexes you can move on the central map, the second main area on the board. 

Getting ready to leave camp.

The map is covered with counters depicting various locations in the lost world where you can have adventures. These counters are face down, so you don’t know which location is which until you reach it and flip the counter. 

The game has a great atmosphere as you move around the board and explore. 

I discovered the Lava Pit!

Yikes! A stegosaurus discovers me and beats me in combat. Time to run away.

Since I lost the combat I have to flee and try to escape.

Whoops. It caught me and I lose a tool. Fortunately after that I was faster, escaped to camp and lost a turn.

The third area is a chase track running along one side of the central map. This only comes into play if you lose a battle against a dinosaur or other inhabitant of the lost world: The creature chases you back to your camp, and every time it catches up to you, you lose one tool or a victory point.


Tools and useful items to escape can be found.

As for victory points, you score one point every time you discover a new location. However, the main way to earn points is to go on adventures. Each location comes with its own adventure track, which is a large sheet of paper covered with comic book panels depicting various hazards and discoveries associated with the location. On a turn, instead of moving along the movement track, you can instead choose to go on an adventure if your pawn is at the appropriate location.

Honorable Son #5 moving along an adventure.

You roll one die to determine how many panels you move along the adventure track, or you can use an experience card to move a predetermined number of spaces, as indicated by the card. The trick is to balance your die rolls with your experience cards to avoid the hazards and land on the discoveries.

Experience Card.

But it is worth noting that quite often players are instructed to draw event cards, which can either be helpful or very, very bad. Also, players start the game by equipping their expeditions with eight tools, which is easier than it sounds. (Hint: You usually want to equip two rifles and a camera.)

An Event Card. If the lettering is in red, you have to play it right away.

Honorable Son #5 (The Skirmishers) discovers (shudder) a Carnivorous Plant Patch.

But the event card he has just might win the game for him!

This game is dripping with theme and atmosphere: you really feel like you’re exploring a prehistoric wilderness. A lot of little touches, like the chase track, make the theme come to life, as does the game’s excellent black and white comic book art.

What it felt like!

What it looked like on the game board. Dang T-Rex. Time for a gas bomb.

I discover the Lost Camp of Maple White . . .

. . . and there are many useful items in the camp.

Indian allies (Tarzan was a good proxy). There are also the ape men!

Honorable Son #5 (The Skirmisher) has 25 VP's and builds a rope bridge from the plateau to the pinnacle and escapes.

How the tension felt as he did the adventure.

As far as game mechanics, I really enjoy the simplicity of the design, but at the same time realize they may be the biggest drawback for serious gamers. Dinosaurs of the Lost World is not a game of deep strategy. If you are a gamer who enjoys outsmarting your opponents or challenging gameplay, this is not a game for you. But if you like an atmospheric, pulp adventure that is different every time - this is the game.

6 comments:

  1. Very, very cool gaming, Neil - and using your lovely figures icing on the cake. Love the out of door photos too!

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    1. Thanks Dean and it was a lot of fun to play this oldie but goodie. We actually got 2 games in; no two games are the same. I took the outside pictures several years ago when I was working on my photo skills. Whenever I can integrate my figures in a board game I go for it!
      Take Care,
      Neil

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  2. Great stuff...always love the Pulp era figures......

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  3. Not a game I ever heard of before, and found it interesting! Seems to me it would make a very nice simple conversion to a full on game wit miniatures plus "vignettes" for the adventures.

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