Game publisher Ravensburger is celebrating Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary with Jurassic Park Danger!, an adventure strategy game that pits the heroes (and victims) of the first film against the rampaging dinosaurs on Isla Nublar.
By melding together fun board game mechanics from Euro-style games, Jurassic Park Danger! is far more compelling and rewarding than many family games found in the Target gaming aisle. Its dedication to the source material is immensely rewarding for fans of the 1993 film – but be prepared for the dinosaurs to come out on top more often than not.
Man Creates Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Eat Man
Jurassic Park Danger! is both cooperative and competitive. It’s designed for 2-5 players. One player always takes the role of the rampaging dinosaurs on the island – specifically a dilophosaurus, velociprator, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Each dinosaur is represented by wonderful little dino-meeples with printed pictures.
The other players each play one of ten color-coded characters from the film, including Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ian Malcolm, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and park owner John Hammond. Every player (including the dinosaur player) gets their own character mat and deck of cards.
The island board isn’t quite a faithful recreation of the park. Instead it’s randomly constructed every game through the modular hexagonal inner pieces, not unlike The Settlers of Catan. This randomizes the locations of cliffs, electric fences, dinosaur spawn points, and some of the objectives. To maintain a semblance of balance, the main objectives are always placed at the cardinal directions of the island, with human players always starting in the middle.
The human players’ goals are to active three locations, such as the control center, then escape off the island via the helicopter. If the humans can collectively get three characters off the island, they win.
At the same time, each character has their own specific goals, listed on their character mats. Like everything else, they’re drawn from the film. Ray Arnold, for example, must go to the maintenance shed location to earn his goal token before he can escape (hopefully a better fate than in the movie). These goals help add an interesting wrinkle to players’ plans – particularly when a character dies.
The dinosaur players’ goal is to eliminate three human characters. Crucially, Jurassic Park Danger! works around player elimination by letting the humans play a new character with a fresh deck of cards. In fact, the manual very plainly states on the first page that there’s a good chance the character you start with won’t survive to make it off the island!
The low odds of survival is due to the card playing and health mechanic. Every round every player selects a card and places it face down on their sheet. The dinosaur player always goes first, revealing their movement capabilities and attempting to maneuver and ambush as many humans as possible. When a dinosaur enters a human space, the dinosaur attacks, and the human has to permanently lose a card. That’s bad news for humans, because they need to play those cards to get around the island.
The humans all have similar cards in their hands: Run, Climb, Sneak, and Distract. Running, climbing and sneaking offer different means of traveling around the map, but you’ll need to roll a dice to accomplish some of them.
I like that all the characters vary slightly, and aren’t just a simple aesthetic change. Tim, Hammond’s grandson, is slightly better at sneaking but not so great at climbing, for example.
Additionally, each character has special ability cards they can deploy. Lex’s I’m a Hacker card let’s her reroll a dice. Nedry can turn a single electric fence off or on, while Grant can rescue a nearby character by moving them into his space.
Playing multiple characters with different goals and abilities makes the game far more challenging for human players than the dinosaur player. Humans must also coordinate their actions to accomplish as much as they can while they’re still alive.
It’s far easier for the dinosaur player to use their unique abilities – like the dilophosaurus spit – to spread their attacks, block paths, and generally wear down the humans.
While it’s fun to watch both sides sneak around and out maneuver each other, it’s less enjoyable to lose your human character simply because you slowly ran out of cards to play. The balance feels particularly painful with less human players, as you have far fewer options to survive the onslaught of attacks. In half a dozen plays I’ve never seen the human players win, though they have come close.
Jurassic Park Danger! is recommended for Ages 10+. Since movement is tied to card choice, and humans start with a full hand of all 10 cards, every single choice is strategic and tactical. Characters are eliminated, but players are not.
While Jurassic Park Danger! is suitable for families, it’s also aimed squarely at nostalgic fans of the original film.
I count Jurassic Park as one of my all-time favorite films, and Jurassic Park Danger! absolutely nails the themes, style, and story beats remarkably well. The randomized board setup and ten characters provide a wealth of replay value, and the wooden meeples and card-playing strategy reflect the game’s Eurogame roots rather than a mass-market family game. I didn’t think I’d ever see a solid board game adaptation using the original Jurassic Park license, but life finds a way.