We’ve all been there before: you’re happily sipping tea with your giant, prehistoric chums. It’s all going swimmingly until, sometime between your fifth and fiftieth cucumber sandwich, you realize that your peanut-sized brain has simply lost every bit of information regarding your friends’ names. It’s a disaster! As a nice, polite dinosaur, you realize that you cannot confess this faux pas, so you have only one choice: coyly interrogate your reptilian friends until you can jog your memory.
What Is Dinosaur Tea Party?
First of all, and this is important, the full title of the game is Dinosaur Tea Party: A Game of Civilized Deduction. I emphasize this because the game—from resident Restoration Games designers Rob Daviau, J.R. Honeycutt, and Justin Jacobson—is simply packed with charming little details, including its delightful subtitle. A restoration of the 1976 Parker Brothers game Whosit?, Dinosaur Tea Party is a quick 20-minute game for 3-5 players aged 7 and up. At a retail price of $19.95, this is a small box with a big bite.
What’s in the Box?
As with everything Restoration Games produces, the components are nothing but the highest quality. The box contains:
- 20 Large dinosaur tiles
- 20 Corresponding dinosaur cards
- 3 Quirk tokens
- 14 Sugar cubes
- 75 Trait tokens
- 5 Player reference cards
First, I should get something off my chest. I normally hate when a game gives you lots of cards or pieces or really anything but includes no method to organize them (I recently got another game that comes in an almost identically-sized box and includes a deck of cards that simply fly around inside the box). So, I have to commend Restoration Games for the inclusion of all the bags needed to organize and contain the components of the game. It’s a little detail, and a cheap one, but not one I take for granted.
On top of that, plus the overall quality of the components themselves, there’s the art. Illustrated by Matijos Gebreselassie, the artwork in this game is nothing short of stunning. Each dinosaur is carefully, hilariously realized and wonderfully integrated into the serene tea party setting. Regardless of whether the game itself is for you, simply the 20 dinosaur tiles are worth the retail price of this game.
Luckily, the game itself is also pretty good.
How to Play Dinosaur Tea Party
Dinosaur Tea Party is a simple, short deduction game: sort of like what you’d get it you simplified Mastermind… and then added a bunch of dinosaurs. The goal is to determine the identity of the other players, and each time you do so it earns you a sugar cube. First player to 3 sugar cubes wins the game.
First, all 20 dinosaur tiles are laid out in a grid, with the dinosaur side face-up (the opposite side shows the same room as the front, but empty now). Then each player is given a set of trait tokens to help track what information is known. Then three dinosaurs are drawn from the deck and assigned the quirk tokens, after which those cards are shuffled back in and each player is dealt 1 in secret.
This card is their current identity, and you’re ready to play!
Each turn, players have two options. They can either ask another player about one of their traits (“Are you in a purple room?” “Are you wearing a hat?” “Are you drinking tea?”) or they can guess the identity of another player (“I say, old chum, is your name Ulysses?” “What-ho! Is that you, Harriet?”) And yes, if you’re wondering, the game is best played using voices from the BBC series Jeeves and Wooster.
If you choose to ask about a given trait (which you will do a lot at first, until you start to hone in on their identity) and receive a “Yes” in response, then that player puts the corresponding trait token “yes” side up in front of them and you get another turn. You can ask a different player a question, or you can continue to subtly interrogate the same dinosaur you began with, or you can decide that you have enough information and make a guess. Either way, your turns continue until you get a “no,” whether in response to a trait question or identity guess. (If you mistakenly call another dinosaur by the wrong name, then you are deeply ashamed and hang your scaly head in sadness).
A “no” to a trait question also puts that token out, only with the “no” side up. This keeps all the information public and keeps you from having to remember a swirling mass of information. It also keeps the game simple, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Whenever a player correctly guesses an identity, they receive a sugar cube, that dinosaur tile is turned face-down, and that player (who was guessed) discards their dinosaur and draws a new one. Once a player has 3 sugar cubes they win, keeping the game short and brisk.
The final wrinkle to the game is my favorite, and that’s the quirk tokens. There are only three of these, placed on randomly-chosen dinosaurs at the start of the game, and each adds an odd behavior that will dictate how they will answer questions. The “Always lies” token is self-explanatory, with that dinosaur always giving the opposite of the truth. The “Always says no” token means that dinosaur will answer in the negative no matter what they are asked. And lastly, the “Switches answers” token means that dinosaur will answer however they want to their first question, and then will alternate every subsequent response from yes to no to yes to no and so forth.
These tokens add a nice, crunchy garnish to a straightforward little deduction game.
Will You Like Dinosaur Tea Party?
Dinosaur Tea Party is an interesting concoction. At first blush, it’s a very light game that is a good tool for teaching deduction to younger players while still enjoying the trappings of a game. As you play, though, you start to find bits and pieces of strategy planted throughout like banana slices in a cool vanilla pudding. As more information comes to light regarding certain players’ identities, you realize that perhaps revealing more about them isn’t so good. If you get a “no,” that means the next player can take that information and reveal the identity that you’ve been working on!
It’s a light game, and I won’t try to tell you otherwise, but it falls squarely in the category of games that I cannot recommend enough for playing with kids (in fact, I can’t wait to get a copy for my niece to play with her dad) and that are in no way unpleasant for the adults in the equation. The game itself is a useful tool for young minds, while Restoration Games have gone out of their way to imbue it with enough charm and wit to ensnare older players.
The manual, however short, is a joy to read (and I don’t say that often), even going to far as to include a couple tea party recipes at the back to make your game that much more authentic. These are the touches that will likely go unnoticed by the kids but which will instantly win over their parents.
My only disappointment, when all is said and done, is that I think more could have been done to give the game more depth and longevity. I absolutely love the quirk tokens, and I am disappointed that there are only three. Including a full 20 would mean that players could select quirks for the game, or randomize them, or use quirks for every dinosaur if they want to get really crazy! With only 3 quirks in play, entire games can go by without a single one being used, which is a little sad.
But, with that as my only quibble, Dinosaur Tea Party is another stylish success from Restoration Games who, with their restoration of the seminal classic Fireball Island on the near horizon and Dark Tower in the distance, are on quite a hot streak!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.