HAPPY LITTLE DINOSAURS
By Unstable Unicorns
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Happy Little Dinosaurs is a strategic card game from Unstable Unicorns which puts the players in the roles of dinosaurs facing extinction level events. The basic game allows up to four players to take the roles of a stegosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus, or tyrannosaurs rex. An expansion opens up the possibility of playing as a pterodactyl or velociraptor.
Each player holds a hand of five cards, most of which have numerical values between 0 and 9, although some cards have an exclamation point on them. On each turn, a disaster card is flipped over. There are four types of disasters: natural, predatory, emotional, or meteors. Each player places a card face down with the hopes of having the highest card when the cards are flipped. After flipping the cards simultaneously, the numbers played are adjusted based on the characters the players are using. For instance, the brontosaurus will add one point to the card played if the disaster is natural and subtract one if the disaster is predatory. In addition, beginning with the lowest point holder, players can further adjust their score or their opponents score using the ! cards. The player with the highest adjusted score moves along the path to safety and the player with the lowest score collects the disaster card.
The rules are not always entirely clear (and note that the first edition rules have a section reprinted, but a correction is available online). One ! card, for instance, is a score booster, which allows the player to "Add 2 points to any player's score this round." which implies the player can add the 2 points to their own score, but works better if it has to be applies to an opponent's score.
There are two ways to win the game. One method is to be the first player to garner 50 points and move their little wooden dinosaur (called a meeple) along the pathway to victory. The other way to win is to be the only surviving dinosaur after disasters have caused all of the other dinosaurs to go extinct. In a normal game, a player's dinosaur goes extinct when they collect either one of each of the three types of disaster cards or three of the same type of disaster cards. The disasters are often whimsical in nature, such as "Life is going great...Just kidding of course. You are attacked by sabretoothed squirrels. The Perils of Puberty expansion adds additional humorous disasters which are based on the worst aspects of growing up
The rules for Happy Little Dinosaurs includes a variant for two players in an attempt to balance the game, however that rule, which eliminates cards with values between 1 and 3 and changes the rules for elimination by disaster. IN playing the game, we've found that this change makes it too easy for a player to reach the end of the point track and the disasters play too small a role. Attempting to play with the point values about six removed results in the disasters taking on too great an importance. Playing with card point values between 3 and 7 tends to provide a more balanced game.
According to the rules, a game of Happy Little Dinosaurs should last between 30 and 60 minutes, however, the game goes by quickly and even a long game of Happy Little Dinosaurs doesn't feel as if it takes very long to play. The expansions don't alter the game play, merely allow for larger groups of players and additional types of disasters to befall the dinosaurs. Although the initial response is to always play the highest cards in your hand, experience with the game allows the players to employ more subtle strategies based on the likelihood of their being able to win a round and an attempt to avoid having disaster befall their dinosaur.
|Purchase this game|
|Purchase the Perils of Puberty expansion|
|Purchase the 5-6 Player expansion|