Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘Dinos Not Assembled’

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Dinos Not Assembled coverHelp Dina, the museum caretaker, put together a dinosaur display! Dig up dinosaur bones (or steal them from other paleontologists), and assemble them in Dinos Not Assembled.

What Is Dinos Not Assembled?

Dinos Not Assembled is a dino-building game by mom-and-son team Alice Davis and Dawson Kemper for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $24 for a copy of the game. The game is targeted toward kids and is definitely family-friendly, though it can also be a lighter, casual game for adults.

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Dinos Not Assembled components
Dinos Not Assembled components. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Dinos Not Assembled Components

Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. For instance, the dino meeples were 3D-printed plastic in the prototype, but will be wood (and different colors) in the final game, which should also make them a little easier to distinguish.

  • Museum board
  • Dig Site board
  • 4 player boards
  • 20 Dinosaur cards
  • 20 Dinosaur meeples
  • 22 Dinosaur Bone tiles
  • Dig bag
  • Security token (not pictured)

There’s also a mini-expansion that will be included that adds two new dinosaur types, along with the cards, meeples, and bone tiles needed for those.

Dinos Not Assembled board detail
Some fun details from the museum board. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The illustrations in the game, by Jeff Willis, are a lot of fun. The four player boards feature a diverse set of kid paleontologists, and the museum board (where your dino meeples will be placed) is made to look like an exhibit hall, with lots of families visiting. I particularly enjoyed the fun little details on the museum board, with people dressed up as dinosaur mascots, and various dino-themed souvenirs. You also see a lot of different types of people, with a kid in a wheelchair, a girl wearing a head scarf, and an older couple out with their grandson.

Dinos Not Assembled dino cards
The cards include silly “facts” about each dino. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The dinosaur cards are also really cute, featuring colorful dinosaurs with enormous eyes. I suppose if you want your dinosaurs to look fierce, you might not like it as much, but I think it fits the theme well. Each card has three bones pictured—one rare and two common—which will be required for building that dinosaur. There’s also some dino trivia on the cards, though they’re very silly: “Lystrosaurus wore sweatpants to the mall.” The cards will also feature pronunciation guides for the names, though the prototypes didn’t include them.

Dinos Not Assembled player boards
Your player board holds your completed dinosaur cards, and up to 4 bone tiles. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to Play Dinos Not Assembled

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to be the first to complete three dinosaurs.

Dinos Not Assembled setup for 4-players
Setup for 4-players. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Setup

Place the museum board in the center of the table, and each player takes a player board and places it along one side of the museum board. Set the security token aside.

Put the dinosaur bone tiles into the bag. Set the dig site board off to one side, and draw four tiles from the bag and place them on the dig site (with the green hand icon showing). Shuffle the dinosaur cards and deal 2 to each player, and then place the rest of the cards on the dig site board.

Dinos Not Assembled daughter studying cards
My daughter studies her dinosaur cards to decide what she wants to build. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Gameplay

On your turn, you will choose one action. The first turn your actions are more limited, and from then on the options expand.

On your first turn, choose from these three actions:

  • Dig: Take 1 bone tile from the dig site and place it on your player board (green icon showing). Then replace the tile on the dig site from the bag.
  • Plan: Draw 1 dinosaur card from the deck on the dig site.
  • Clear: Remove the 4 bone tiles from the dig site and set them aside. Draw 4 new bone tiles from the bag and place them on the dig site, and then return the original 4 tiles to the bag.
Dinos Not Assembled dig site board
The dig site holds the dinosaur cards and discards, as well as four bone tiles. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

After your first turn, choose from these five actions:

  • Dig: Take 2 bone tiles from the dig site and place them on your player board (green icon showing). Then replace the tiles on the dig site from the bag. (If you have more than 4 tiles on your player board, you must discard down to 4.)
  • Plan: Draw 1 dinosaur card from the deck on the dig site. (You’re limited to 3 cards in your hand—if you have more, discard the excess to the dig site.)
  • Clear: Remove the 4 bone tiles from the dig site and set them aside. Draw 4 new bone tiles from the bag and place them on the dig site, and then return the original 4 tiles to the bag.
Dinos Not Assembled make dinosaur
With these three bone tiles, I can make an archaeopteryx! (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
  • Make: Discard bone tiles matching one of your dinosaur cards to make the dinosaur. Put the corresponding meeple onto one of your display pedestals on the museum board, and place the bone tiles back into the bag. Note that there are only two meeples of each dinosaur type—once these are placed, nobody else can make that dinosaur. Place your dinosaur card face-up on your player board.
  • Steal: Steal 1 bone tile from another player’s board. A tile may only be stolen if it has the green hand icon showing. Place it on your own board, flipped so the red hand icon is showing. (If you have more than 4 tiles on your player board, you must discard down to 4.) The player who was stolen from takes the security token. You may not steal from somebody who has the security token, so it prevents a player from being stolen from twice in a row.
Dinos Not Assembled game end
Complete three dinosaurs to win! (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Game End

The game ends immediately when a player completes their third dinosaur—that player wins! Of course, Dina will still expect the other paleontologists to complete their exhibits for opening night, but that part of the narrative doesn’t take place during the game.

Why You Should Play Dinos Not Assembled

Dinos Not Assembled was designed by Alice Davis (who also designed Thieves Den, coming from Daily Magic Games) and her 9-year-old son, Dawson Kemper. (Dawson himself is pictured in the center of the museum board.) It’s a cute game that has easy-to-understand rules, and the gameplay is a mix of set collection with a touch of “take that.”

Since you can only hold 4 tiles at a time and it takes 3 tiles to make a dinosaur, you can’t work on several dinos at a time—you’ll have to choose one to focus on, often based on what tiles are currently available. There are two copies of each common bone tile, but only one of each rare bone tile, so the rare ones will often determine which one is even possible to build. The common bone tiles are repeated across a few dino cards; the rare bone tiles only appear on a single dinosaur type—the trick, though, is that there are two cards for each dinosaur! So if an opponent snags a rare bone that you need, chances are you’re racing for the same dinosaur.

Dinos Not Assembled two cards in hand
Should I try to build the triceratops or the ichthyosaurus first? (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

That leads to some tricky choices: if you see a rare bone in the dig site that you want, do you take it? Or do you wait to see if an opponent takes it, and then you can steal it from them—because then it can’t be stolen? If you wait, though, there’s also the risk that your opponent might clear the dig site, and you’ll have to wait for that rare bone to show up again.

Clearing the dig site can be a good strategy if you think your opponent wants one of them—and experienced players may start learning the dinosaur cards enough to guess which dino you’re trying to build based on what you have. The downside, though, is that it’s your entire turn, so it may not be very effective at helping you make progress. It just slows down your rivals. Drawing new dinosaur cards is also a gamble: if you just can’t get the bones you need for your dinosaurs, fishing for new cards can be a good way to get better options. But in a 4-player game, the dig site might change significantly from the time that you draw new cards to the time you finally get to pick up some bones.

I played Dinos Not Assembled with my 5-year-old, who picked up on the rules pretty quickly, but needed a little nudge to work on one dino at a time rather than trying to collect pieces for all of them at once. She also really liked clearing the dig site and drawing new dino cards (so she could read the funny “facts”), but was not generally interested in stealing. I’m sure with older kids and adults, the game could get quite vicious if people are stealing bones and clearing the dig site strategically.

One thing I thought was somewhat amusing is looking at the gameplay from a thematic viewpoint, because it reminds me a bit of stories of early paleontology. “Hey, look at this long tail! I think it’s from an archaeopteryx!” “Nah, it’s actually from my brachiosaur—give it here!” Since the common bones can be used in multiple dinosaurs, it feels a bit like we’re just slapping bones together willy-nilly and calling them complete. Between that, and stealing bones from others, and intentionally messing up a dig site because it might contain things that other paleontologists were looking for—these are some truly unethical scientists at work here!

I think I’d recommend Dinos Not Assembled more for those who enjoy lighter games, including families with younger kids. Those who prefer heavier strategy games may not find quite enough to satisfy them, but it could be a good fit for players who enjoy playing casual games (with just a hint of conflict).

For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Dinos Not Assembled Kickstarter page!

Dinos Not Assembled completed third dinosaur
My daughter completes her third dinosaur for the win! (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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