Jurassic Park was a blockbuster movie that instantly made dinosaurs cool again. Who wouldn’t want to visit Isla Nublar, enjoy the Disneyland-esque facility and gawk at actual living dinosaurs? Okay, it didn’t work out too well for the first group of visitors in the original 1993 film, but still, the concept is pretty compelling. While being a visitor would be a fun way to spend a day, being part of the planning and development team – and figuring out how to keep each dinosaur in its own zone! – proves a much more interesting challenge.
No surprise then that the premise of the game Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar is to survey and build out the island, including dinosaur enclosures, research facilities, a visitor center, and much more. It’s also a legacy game, so each of the 12 adventures irreversibly alters the board, character cards, and more. Once you’ve completed all of the adventures you can replay the final challenge as many times as you like, on a board you’ve customized! There’s also a practice adventure that doesn’t alter anything, allowing you to use it to learn the nuances of the game.
The Legacy of Isla Nublar is listed as being 2-4 players, but there is a solo variant included that has you playing two or more characters simultaneously. That’s how I have played through the game and it turns out to be a fun and engaging experience. Would it be the same for four players? I’ll get back to that later in this review.
NOTE: I need to mention that it’s particularly difficult to review legacy games because there are so many things that are hidden in sealed envelopes until you achieve that particular level. Like you, I don’t want any spoilers for something cool and surprising that shows up in adventure 5 or 11 or the finale. On the other hand, the practice adventure is designed for replay (to learn the mechanics and interrelationship of characters and consequences of your choices) and its components are the base of The Legacy of Isla Nublar. And so, I’m going to share some of those so you can get a flavor for the game. If you are adamant that you want to know nothing at all about the game, then I’ll just say I find it a really good two-character solo game with rather simple and logical gameplay once you figure things out. It’s worker placement, but with dinosaurs stomping around, eating people!
Okay, if you’re still reading, let’s talk about the board, cards, rules, and so on. To start, an adventure is played in five rounds, each of which offers nine actions spread across the characters being played. With two or four characters there’s a bonus action that any character can utilize. As you proceed through the legacy adventures, I imagine that more characters show up but I’m not going to refer to the contents of any subsequent adventures.
COMPONENTS AND GAME PIECES
I know what you want to see first too: Dinosaurs!
These are two of the starting dinosaurs, an herbivore (green) and a carnivore (red). Notice the dotted sections on each card: at some point, they’re going to gain additional capabilities or features, but for now, they’re just basic dinos. Each has a set of defense icons and a vitality score. Tyrannosaurus Rex also has an attacking “might” score of 4, meaning that its attack rolls four attack dice, a formidable attack indeed. Triceratops doesn’t attack, just defend, so a skirmish between them would be a pretty uneven battle and in a worst-case scenario, T-Rex could decimate the Triceratops with a single roll (since there are four attack dice versus only two vitality).
If you want to solo four characters, you can do that, but since there are only nine actions to spread around, two is probably an optimal count. I chose two of the five available characters in the starting scenario, including John Hammond, the billionaire creator of Jurassic Park. Here’s his base card and standee:
He doesn’t have many capabilities or special powers at this intro level but as the game proceeds, the grey sections will scratch off and reveal lots of cool new stuff, I’m sure.
Each adventure is played out across five rounds, some of which may be from the particular legacy adventure, while others are from the more general Dino Danger cards:
Above the round cards are another row of smaller cards that represent the six sectors on the map. Isla Nublar is represented by 20 regions divided into six sectors. As you explore sectors, you can find items (like the Field Knife, on the lower left side) and gain boons like the ability to build a road or construct a barrier between regions. Those barriers are critical too, because controlling dinosaur movement is a pretty big deal!
With those basics, let’s look at the overall starting setup for the tutorial adventure:
Now you can see what I’m talking about with Isla Nublar broken into 20 regions and six sectors. There are four dinosaurs in this first setup (more show up in subsequent levels). The tokens help you track injuries, damage, actions, and more. There are also two buildings in this starting scenario, the Visitor Center and the Genetics Lab, both on the upper right of the photo. Each adventure has a set of required goals to attain and the tutorial goals include some that can only be fulfilled in these specific locations (which you’ll find by exploring and surveying the land). Each building essentially offers up a mini-game and yes, dinosaurs can show up in the buildings too, which is definitely no bueno!
Somewhat confusingly, the rules and instructions are spread across three components: The official rules book (the comic book-style booklet shown on the left, above), the adventure book for the specific adventure you’re tackling (not shown), and the additional rule cards ring, shown below:
It gets a bit frustrating to hunt for the various rules and instructions, but once you get into the rhythm of the game, it’s the rule cards ring that you’ll be referencing for very specific information.
Each round consists of five steps: Reveal Round Card, Scout Sectors, Take Actions, Activate Dinosaurs, and End the Round. The actions are the main activity of each round and a character can run between spaces, lead a “follower” to another space, herd a dinosaur, search an outdoor area for items, trade items, rest, or accomplish specific building actions (detailed for each building).
For example, here’s the Visitor’s Center building card:
This building has four rooms, each offering a different way to interact with the item grid on the card. This particular mini-puzzle is similar to the wonderful game Labyrinth, just a lot simpler. Adventures have different buildings and different puzzles to solve in those buildings, so whatever you think you’ve puzzled out from the above photo, won’t actually be the challenge in any of the 12 adventures.
Characters, buildings, and dinosaurs can all be in the same space, but if any of those carnivores activate, it’s going to be big, big trouble. Like T-Rex stomping down the path, eager to catch and chomp ya level trouble. This could be a very dangerous board setup with that carnivore in the back, needless to say:
The challenge is to move around the island, surveying areas to figure out where the hidden buildings are located and seek to accomplish your specified goals while collecting items that you will definitely need to not just keep yourself alive but keep those dinosaurs from dying. Why? Because the demise of any characters, followers, or dinosaurs produce consequences (the yellow triangles on the top right of the board). Each can have a 0-2 value and if at any point you reveal a consequence token that brings your sum value to five or above, you immediately lose the adventure.
WHAT ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY?
That’s plenty of discussion about the board components and how things fit together, but it’s worth emphasizing that the actual sequence of play is fast, logical, and easy. Flip a new round card, do whatever actions it says, reveal sector cards based on the locations of the characters, then take your actions. I tended to divide and conquer with my tasks, so Hammond might have gone to the Visitor’s Center to solve that puzzle, for example, while the other character roamed around the island, trying to complete the required survey and attempt to herd the dinosaurs as required.
The tutorial adventure is fairly easy, but that can trick you too; I completed all the required tasks in four rounds and only had two points of consequence (remember, if you get five or more, you lose). When the fifth and final round began, I rather blithely figured I didn’t need to do anything, just survive to the end of the round. Unfortunately, the luck of the draw had the T-Rex chomping on the Triceratops. It died, which caused me to reveal two more consequences. The result? A 2 and a 1, bringing my total to 5 points. I lost. Augh!
It turns out that you really have to focus on those dinosaurs and not let them die – or let anyone die – to avoid the risk of a consequence pushing you over the precipice, ending up as just more fodder for that mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex! Do the challenges later in the adventures change everything? I won’t say, but it’s a reasonable guess that like any legacy game, the board will keep changing and there’ll be new challenges, characters, tools, buildings, dinosaurs, and capabilities. You can play the first tutorial scenario as many times as you’d like and Funko Games assures me that once you’ve completed the Finale, you can then play with the customized board as many times as you’d like, so it’s definitely not a 12-adventures-and-done game.
Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar also has a fairly mediocre reputation in the gaming community with some notably negative reviews, but having played a number of adventures, I can’t really understand the complaints. Yes, if you have four players then spreading nine actions amongst them will result in a lot of individual downtime while you’re waiting for your mates to finish their moves, but a two-character solo game or two-player game is fun and, particularly once you get into the rhythm of the game, goes fast and offers lots of laughs and groans as those darn dinosaurs keep stomping about and attacking everyone. I also found the components worked really well with the theme and style of the game, including the nostalgic 70s comic book style.
And so, finally, it’s an expensive game, no question, but The Legacy of Isla Nublar will definitely provide you and your gaming partner many, many hours of fun and entertainment, along with some challenges that are going to prove almost insurmountable. Recommended for one or two players, not so much for three or four. A fun variant might also to have two players actually playing four characters, but I’ll leave that for someone else to test.
Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar, from Prospero Hall / Funko Games. solo mode + 2-4 players. $120 at FUNKO.COM and your friendly local game store.
Disclosure: Funko Games sent me a copy of this title for the purposes of this review. Thanks, Funko!