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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #3: Dinosaur Island

It's a first-person shooter.

Some of the games on this list I remember playing endlessly as a kid, my older brother and I on the floor in the basement, usually him kicking my ass. Among the earliest of these was Dinosaur Island. Released in 1980, this is one of those classic old-school board games where you roll the dice and bop around the board in search of...something. In this case, the board was a newly-discovered remote island harboring a living prehistoric ecosystem! And players were photojournalists, competing to capture the best dinosaur images.

A straightforward setup, but like all the best games, the delight is in the details. As your cardboard characters wove his (or her - the tokens were inclusive of male and female protagonists) way through the jungles and swamps and other unwelcoming climes, you'd land on opportunities to draw a card. This card might bring terrifying news of a natural disaster or other misfortune slowing your quest, or perhaps some bad luck you could visit upon a competitor. The best cards revealed those sought-after pictures of your elusive reptilian quarries, but not all of those were created equal, ranging in value from 0 to 4 points. Simple foliage would rate a zero, while a low score would be awarded to a badly-framed shot of a fleeing tail, or else a slow-moving, non-threatening beastie. The most impressive (or dangerous!) the snapshot, the higher the point values. At the end of the ordeal, whichever player amassed the the most points was the winner.

Dinosaurs were my brother's obsession in those pre-Jurassic Park 1980s, and so this was a game he adored playing. And winning. And winning. Even though I was the New Jersey Generals to his Harlem Globetrotters when it came to that game, you wouldn't have to ask me twice to go back to 1982 and spend an afternoon with tuna sandwiches, iced tea, my brother, and the unpredictable dangers of Dinosaur Island.

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