Reviewed by Herb Levy
JURASSIC PARTS (25the Century Games, 2 to 5 players ages 13 and up, 30-40 minutes; $30)
Even before the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, even before Indiana Jones put on his hat, people have been fascinated with possible treasures waiting to be uncovered at the next archeological dig. In this new game designed by Kevin Lanzing, players are not searching for treasures buried with a Pharaoh nor the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, the search is on for fossils of dinosaurs in the aptly named Jurassic Parts.
Action takes place on a shared “board” consisting of the game’s hexagonal tiles. There are 3 “Piles of Bones” tiles and 1 of these is placed in the center of the play area. The remaining 57 tiles are divided into roughly two equal piles and shuffled together so that one half are face up and one half face down. These are placed around it in a more or less hexagonal pattern creating “The Slab” which will be the focus for all excavation. Many of these tiles will shown the bones of a dinosaur; other tiles depict plants. Each player takes a Paleontologist Mat, a Field Guide (play aid) and 12 “chisels” in their chosen color, placed to the right of their mat to represent “dull” chisels. The Field Leader board and 20 “amber crystals” are stationed nearby.
Whoever last saw a dinosaur fossil is the start player (but you can choose randomly) and that player gets the Starting Marker. The second player gets a “sharpened” chisel (moving a “dull” one to the other side of the board), the third player gets an amber and the fourth and fifth players each get an amber and a sharpened chisel.
On a turn, the active player “sharpens” 3 chisels (by moving them from right to left across their Paleontologist board). These chisels may be placed on ANY empty gap between two fossil tiles to create a “crack”. Some tile edges depict rocks. To create a crack where there are rocks, a second chisel must be used. (If both tiles have rocks on their edges, then THREE sharp chisels are needed to make a crack.) You may, if you wish, save 1 of your unused chisels in its sharpened state for use the following turn. As chisels are placed, there will come a time when the slab will be split into two parts. When this occurs, the split is resolved immediately.
The smaller part of the split will be divided between the players who contributed chisels to that area. At this point, any face down tiles are flipped over and the player who assigned the most chisels to that area chooses half of the tiles (rounded up but no more than 6). The player who contributed the second most to that dig gets half of the remainder and so on. If you manage to gather tiles needed to complete a dinosaur skeleton, you will score points. The bigger the dinosaur, the more points it will be worth from a Pterodactyl (a single tile worth 1 point) to larger skeletons including the 4 tile T-Rex (worth 10 points) and the 5 tile Brachiosaurus (15 points). As a bonus, 1 amber is received each time you complete one. Any leftover tiles are given to the Field Leader.
The Field Leader is a sort of “safety valve” to help smooth out any problems you may encounter and you may visit him at any time during your turn. This is where amber comes in. Amber is the currency used to make purchases from him (with the first purchase costing 1 amber, a second costing 2 and any additional purchases costing 3 amber each). Here you can buy the ability to not need extra chisels for rocks on your next two chisel uses, sharpen 2 additional chisels, take fossil tiles directly from the Slab and/or taking a fossil tile held by the Field Leader. Rather than buy, you may also sell a fossil tile to the Leader for 1 amber.
Play continues until either all Slab tiles have been claimed OR only 2 fossil tiles remain. In the latter case, the active player takes 1 with the other going to the Field Leader. Now points are totalled.
Each completed dinosaur skeleton is worth points from 1 to 15. Plant tiles score on a sliding scale from 1 (for 1 plant tile) to 35 (if you have collected 10). Finally, each unspent amber is worth 1 point. The explorer with the most points wins! (Tie? Then the player completing the most 5 tile dinosaurs can claim victory. If still tied, the next biggest skeletons are compared and so on until the tie is broken.)
Jurassic Parts is not a tile laying game but a tile removal game. Since half are face down (only to be revealed when separated from the main body of tiles), there is no “perfect information” here. Just as real life archeologists do, players must make semi-educated guesses as to where tiles needed may (or may not) be, guided by the tiles you CAN see. What makes the game, however, is that you can’t expect to do digs alone. Cracking a part of the Slab usually requires more than the 3 (or 4) sharpened chisels you have at your disposal on a turn. Since players can place chisels ANYWHERE on the Slab (except for the outside edges), you will, in almost all cases, be a (possibly unwilling) partner in excavations. Timing as to where and when you place your chisels is key. Pile of Bones tiles which act as “Wilds” can assist you in completing a high scoring skeleton when a needed piece is missing making them very useful. Despite different names, the Paleontologist mats are identical (as are the helpful play aids that show the various dinosaur skeleton configurations and scoring). Optional Resource cards are provided and can be incorporated into the game to give each player a distinctive advantage such as an additional chisel, an extra amber, a peek at face down tiles and more. (If you decide to use these, deal 2 to each player with only 1 being kept.)
Component quality is good with thick tiles and attractive amber “stones”. The game comes without an insert and that would certainly have been a nice addition to keep all those tiles in place. Tiles for each skeleton are clearly identified by initials (putting those pieces together would have been a bigger challenge than necessary if this was not done) but it would have been easier to know which tiles are missing from an unfinished skeleton and which are unneeded duplicates if the tiles had numbers to go along with those initials. You have to mention Sarah Lanzing (the designer’s wife to whom he gives credit) for the perfect name for the game: descriptive, clever and amusing. And be warned: you have to like orange! (Fortunately, I do.) The tiles, the box, the rulebook, the amber – virtually EVERYTIHING is in the orange color family!
Jurassic Parts is a light game of archeological digs in the search for dinosaur fossils. Putting the pieces together and timing your moves to carve out a bigger slice of the “pie” to get more “parts” is the name of the game! If a family friendly diversion with dinosaurs is what you are searching for, you’ll dig Jurassic Parts! – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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