A new dino board game in test: Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar by Macro Teubner has been published by Verlag Schmidt Spiele and proves to be a simple and family-friendly board game that opens the door to the genre of deck building titles. It is a board game based on the film license from Jurassic World - but this is exactly where it gets stuck.
Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar is a deck building board game for two to four players, ages nine and up. At this point you know at least two things. First, it's about hand card management. And secondly: In view of the young entry age, the title from Schmidt Spiele cannot be particularly complex. In fact, the author Marco Teubner uses several variants in Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar, from which you can build your Jurassic experience - it doesn't get really complex in the end, but even when all the tricks are used to the full, there is still a solid rule base, to indulge in approaches of strategic point optimization.
Jurassic World: Return to the Island of the Sun
For Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar, the traditional Berlin publisher Schmidt Spiele is using the powerful film license from Amblin Entertainment and Universal. You can still see it in the pretty pack, once it's popped out and placed on the table, little is left of the implementation of the template. The use of the license is basically limited to the use of the Jurassic World logo and the naming of the factions from the films as well as some graphics. Otherwise, the dinosaur board game looks comparatively sober, even the primeval lizards play supporting roles. The interpretation of Isla Nublar is also irritating - in the films it is at least a kind of synonym for a horror island full of dangers.
In Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar, the island kingdom is more reminiscent of "Fantasy Island", where you can lie on the beach in the sun and sip cocktails with relish. Deadly dangers? Bloodthirsty dinosaurs? Except for the T-Rex and maybe the Pterodactylus, there is no such thing. Even the cute triceratops and a stegosaurus are "hunted" on the players - they are both herbivores. In any case, cunning Velociraptors can only be found in rudimentary form on some maps, and there is little evidence of the really nasty creatures from prehistoric times.
Dino theme in approaches
It doesn't matter, the dinosaur theme is vaguely recognizable and the idiosyncratic interpretation of Death Island makes it easy for up to four players to keep track. Although this isn't particularly difficult in the end, since there's regular activity on the board, but not particularly much. Boxes and camps are placed there, sometimes the four dinosaurs wander around - that's about it. The main focus is on the deck building system. And that is quite successful.
Two to four players act with their team to secure research results lost on the island. "Team" in this case only means that each game leads an expedition - although it may sound different, Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar is a purely competitive board game in which it is all about maximum points at the end.
Players start with a standard deck and as the game progresses, they must purchase cards—and sometimes discard them—to make them the most efficient point generators possible. Round after round you play your hand cards in the smartest possible order to build camps. The latter is the overarching goal, because this is the only way to trigger a rating at all. This is limited and sounds simple, but with each new move there is always a decision between upgrading the deck or collecting points. Only later in the game does both succeed to a reasonable extent.
Entertaining map building without stress factors
Adjusting your personal deck of cards in order to anticipate the most sensible combination possible is still fun, but not particularly demanding. So you weigh things up: build a camp, place boxes, buy tickets. Not everything is possible at all times due to the scarce resources – of which there are only two. Especially since you can also try to place your camps and equipment boxes with foresight in order to optimize the scoring phases. At most, the dinosaurs can put a spanner in the works, but more on that in a moment. Here and there you also decide whether to use your cards as resources or for something "utility". Then you can, for example, protect yourself from an attack or sort out a card or discard cards and draw a new one.
At the end of the day, all the little things mean that you actually have to think about what to do in which order in order to score as many points as possible per move. There isn't too much time for that, because the game ends after almost 60 minutes because one of three end conditions has been met. So the principle is: Get as much as possible on the scoreboard in the shortest possible time – and just don't be too wasteful with your actions.
There are some strategic tricks, but the deck builder genre for Jurassic World has been fully exploited – but not the return to Isla Nublar. This is a curse and a blessing at the same time. On the one hand, the variant-free basic game also allows casual gamers and children an uncomplicated point of contact with deck-building board games, on the other hand, those profound combinations that are known from Dune: Imperium, for example, unfold at a certain point. If you use all the modular variants that Marco Teubner has devised, you will at least have enough strategic options at hand to optimize points. The buyable scoring cards and the additional faction bonuses make a game of Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar much more interesting. In particular, advancing on the faction bar often leads to nice combinations of actions and expands the game by a decision level.
And the dinosaurs? They play a supporting role. From their volcanoes, the animals migrate down into the island's plains to flatten players' camps and equipment crates. Cards determine when they move. Sometimes forced, sometimes deliberately triggered. Basically, the Dino movement is the only really confrontational factor in this board game, otherwise you play side by side and compete on the score bar. Yes, the theme is quite artificial and the license would not have been needed for the board game, but dinosaurs and well-known names from the Jurassic world are a nice motivator to deal with the title. At least the dinosaurs add a bit of a hassle factor because you can tear down camps and crates set up by opponents that might have been placed for a future lucrative scoring round.
Above all, the usable bonuses of the faction variant are recommended - they ensure some noticeable changes in the course of the game on a tactical level, because dinosaurs can also be moved in other directions - otherwise only downwards - you can influence the hand of cards or at the end you can fill up your points account and unlock another equipment box, which in turn can be used sensibly for building a camp or as a source of points.
In terms of craftsmanship, the deck builder Jurassic World – Return to Isla Nublar by Schmidt Spiele is solid to well done: The board game tries to appeal to several target groups, offers a thoroughly motivating deck building mechanism and can be played down in a pleasant amount of time. However, you will look in vain for real challenges and the hunt for points is not always equally exciting for all players, because sometimes it is decided early on whether you can keep up or whether you are left behind by your opponents due to wasted moves. It is then difficult to catch up, because you will hardly allow yourself really big blunders later in the game due to the actions per turn. The game can remain exciting in this way, but it doesn't have to be - to the chagrin of those who have to stop round after round, even though they know that victory is no longer possible.
Number of players: 2 to 4
Age: from 9 years
Playing time: about 60 minutes
Long-term motivation: medium
Genre: Family board game
Sub-genre: deck building board game
Core mechanics: deck customization, points
Author: Marco Teubner
Illustrations: Universal, Nathalie Langer
Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Cost: approx. 40 euros
As a fan of Jurassic Park and Co, you might want to shake Schmidt Spiele: you just can't get the question of underutilization of the license out of your head. The brightly colored sun island offers an overview, but not a particularly large topic. The dinosaurs are present in the game, but only extras. The star of Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar is undoubtedly the deck expansion mechanic, but it didn't need the license for it. Paradox.
Nevertheless, you like to take Jurassic World with you as a framework story, because the license doesn't make the card building board game any worse. What Marco Teubner and Schmidt Spiele offer is a door opener into the genre of deck building titles. So don't expect too much complexity. Even with full use of the - quite welcome and sensible - variants, you will not be faced with any challenges as a veteran. Points full means that in the end. For the group of players, this also means: either everyone is on a similar level or, in the worst case, frustration arises.
The entertaining deck-building factor can't hide the fact that there's not much spectacular going on overall on the gaming table. Sometimes a dinosaur clears tents, but usually the tableau is just about setting up the camps and boxes as far-sightedly as possible and taking into account the risk factor, in order to then determine a score. It's a shame, because a little more action on Isla Nublar would have been good for the process overall.
To be fair, Schmidt Spiele makes no secret of the fact that Jurassic World - Return to Isla Nublar is a family game with a young starting age - in this respect the title does its job quite well. Casual players and children are offered a "deck building light" that is well-crafted and therefore works. Any tweaks to your personal deck can make sense and actually have a positive impact on scoring. In addition, it is necessary to think about the order of the triggered chain of cards - the differences are sometimes serious. And: You learn quickly from your mistakes or discover better ways to make a profit from your hand of cards – both are motivating and a lot of fun. And when you include the variants, it gets tricky, at least in the beginning.
And if you want to know more about the board game from the author's point of view, you can find it here Interview with Marco Teubner.
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