To follow up our play of Dinosaur Island, we took out Duelosaur Island for a couple of spins and had a lot of fun. This is sort of in the vein of 7 Wonders Duel and Caverna: Cave vs Cave, as it’s a 2-player-only version of more elaborate game that is played by 3 or more players. Ironically, those 3+ player games can actually be played 2-player as well, but the 2 player dynamic is different enough to warrant a different set of rules or in this case, an entirely new game.
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Duelosaur Island was part of the launch of Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus Games, and was intended as a 2-player-only companion to that great game. It’s hard to talk about this game without the context of that one, so please read that review first.
It’s still a feeling of building dinosaurs and a strong theme of developing your own dinosaur theme park, but it simply isn’t as strong as the theme in the base game. It’s all cards here, no meeple and no play mat to develop, taking a lot away from the feeling. You see the above and it feels more like another card game than having something to do with dinosaurs. You look at the colorful tracks at the bottom and it feels like more of a DNA race in this one.
What I liked about Duelosaur Island
It’s a streamlined, faster version of the base game that has some interesting dynamics of its own, especially the dual purpose of the cards have a top and bottom, a top for dinosaurs and a bottom for buildings. The way the dice-selection bonuses is also more interesting than the base game.
What I didn’t like about Duelosaur Island
I don’t think it stands on its own that well. It’s good if you like the base game, and can get enough of the feel of the base game while playing this game. However, as mentioned, it lacks some of the best elements of the base game in terms of theme and feeling.
To its credit, this setup is just so much faster than the base game, like half the time.
Theme and Components
The components are fine, but they don’t shine the way they do in the base game and in my opinion, the cents are a big part of why the base game is as fun as it is. I think if you weren’t sort of familiar with the base game, these components are only ok. The dinosaur art is fine but nothing special. There are no dinosaur meeple, no scientist meeple, no worker meeple, no customer meeple. The most interesting remaining components are the DNA dice, which remain pretty awesome, but they’re more central to the game without some of the other elements, hence I say this game is more like “DNA Race” than “Dinosaur Island”.
Interesting mechanics and game play
This part might be better than the base game. The mechanics are more streamlined, with more interesting choices. I like the dual nature of the cards, that can be played as either dinosaurs or as rides, giving you another element to balance.
I complained about the sequential non-worker-placement phase of the game, and this version actually combines phases to force you to make choices between specialists and DNA, another balancing act. Another complaint I had that was that the base game encourages you to do more of the same instead of branching out, but this card version of the game results in you putting down a lot of species and fewer copies of that species. It does away with cold storage capacity but I found I didn’t miss having one more thing to manage. Duelosaur Island doesn’t have quite as much going on as the base game, but it might very well be a better game.
Though it all happens with less theme and flair, you still definitely do something in this game by building your dinosaurs and rides, and charging customers for them. By the end of the game, you will have a bunch of dinosaurs, some rides, some DNA, and will definitely have some fun.
We played it twice and had fun both times, but there isn’t as much to explore in this version of the game. You just sort of put down dinosaur cards as you get them. There’s less of a grand “island plan” and “dinosaur plan” that you have in the base game. It’s replay-able enough for a a quick-hitting 2-player game.
Game Design Notes
It’s just interesting that games are actually designing full, alternate versions for 2 players.
Most games, you play with, say, 2-4 players. Admittedly, many of those games are designed more for 4 players, and are just ok with 2 players. A good feature of a game is one that scales to any number of players.
Then you have games like Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy, where the 2-player version of the game has slightly different rules, and thereby becomes a different experience. I personally think RFTG is best as a 2-player game, even though it’s also good with 3 or especially, 4 players.
Now, the trend is to develop an entirely separate, 2-player version of the game with similar theme and mechanics, but some differences. I have to say, however, that 7 Wonders Duel and Caverna: Cave vs Cave achieve a distinct but similarly fun version of their base games better than Duelosaur Island does, in part because the scale and theme of the base game is probably the best part of it, while the others are more gamey games.
I’d be up for playing Duelosaur Island again, but there simply are better 2-player games out there, ones with better components and deeper strategy. I’d probably rather play the base game as a 2-player game, so that I can more deeply explore some of the available strategies in that version. However, if you really love the whole concept of Dinosaur Island, and prefer to spend your 2-player games building dinosaurs, this is probably a better game than the original game in many ways and has its own strategies to explore. It’s a well-done quick and basic version of the game that still captures the overall feel of it, just less so.