My favorite class in my first term of college was anthropology and it reignited an interest in archelogy that was originally sparked by the Indiana Jones movies. I talked to my TA one day after class about archeology and paleontology as professions and he provided words of wisdom that have stuck with me to this day: “it’s hard work you’ll spend all day with your face in the dirt and all night with your nose in a beer. If I could do it all over again: I’d be a plumber.”
Jurassic Parts allows you to live the life of a paleontologist without all of the hard work, poor accommodations, and getting dirty as you use chisels to break off pieces of a large slab full of fossils, assemble dinosaur skeletons, collect fossilized plants, and acquire amber.
The slab is set up with roughly half the tiles fossil side up and half hiding the fossils with the center being one of the three wild fossil tiles. The starting order determines if you start with an extra chisel, amber, or both depending on if you’re second, third, or fourth. Meanwhile, the first player just receives a very nice piece of amber with a mosquito inside (okay it’s a piece of plastic and the bug is probably just printed on it but it’s still awesome).
Each turn you get three sharpened chisels and you’ll place these along the edges of the tiles to represent breaking it apart from the slab. Rocks showing along one of the two tiles require an extra chisel while rocks showing on both tiles require two extra chisels to break through. When the line of chisels is complete, the smaller portion of the slab is broken off and all the pieces are flipped so their fossils are showing.
Whoever contributed the most chisels gets half of what’s there rounding up, up to a maximum of six pieces. Whoever had the second most chisels gets half of what’s left, and so on. Any remaining after each contributing player takes their cut always goes to the Field Leader. Players keep breaking up the slab until it’s all been distributed to the players and Field Leader.
As you complete fossils you earn a piece of amber (crystals the Field Leader passes out like gold stars in grade school). That amber can be used for several things including getting two extra chisels, having your next two chisels ignore rocks, getting a fossil piece from the Field Leader, or grabbing a fossil piece from the slab (I don’t get the theme of this but let’s just assume he’s a boss). The first transaction each turn costs one amber, the second two, and the third three.
You score points for completed dinosaurs based on their size. So a single tile pterodactyl is worth 1 point while the five tile monstrosity Brachiosaurus is worth 18 points. The wild pieces can be used to fill in for any other dinosaur piece. Meanwhile, plant tiles are worth more based on how many you have ranging from one point for a single tile to 35 for hoarding all 10 of them. Incomplete dinosaurs and amber pieces are also worth one point each at the end of the game. And in one of the most overused, but never complained about mechanics, the person with the most points wins.
The backbone of this game is set collecting with some other important sounding body part of area control. You don’t have to jump in on someone else’s claim but you might as well always toss one or more chisels just to get something out of it. But you also need to call dibs on some claims if you want to assemble the big dinosaurs. Even choosing your fossils can be impactful. With the few random pieces left, do you start in on another dinosaur, grab some plant tiles, or a pterodactyl so you can gain one amber?
Each player card has a little bio on the back and I expected each to have some unique powers but, much like the feeling I had after talking to my anthropology TA, I was disappointed—there’s nothing different about how any of them play. The rule provides an enhancement that has one or two Resource cards given to each player that each grant a special one time (or sometimes persistent) ability for people looking to spice the game up a bit.
A nice touch with the player cards is there’s a pretty good representation between physiques, races, and genders (including one person who uses they/them pronouns). While Andrew Bosley’s fantastic art captures your attention on the box and cards, the tiles themselves are fairly monochromatic. The tiles are clearly labeled so you can easily tell what dinosaur each fossil piece goes to.
Each player has a field guide that tells them how many of each dinosaur part is in play so there’s no hidden information that allows you to pick what’s best for you or what inhibits your opponents if you’re a hate drafting type paleontologist (if this is you try cosplaying as Rene Belloq for full effect. The thing that was the most surprising is how fast points for plant prints build up and in several of the games I’ve played the person that’s gotten a large share of those has won the game.
When someone goes all Mines of Moria and takes too deep a cut they might start running out of chisels unless their compatriots help out. When you need more chisels you have to take them from the field meaning you might be undoing the work you just did.
Overall turns can be played fairly quickly with slab separation and tile divvying being the slowest actions. This is partially mechanically just separating the tiles and redistributing the chisels and partially it’s where important decisions are made. And, unlike some other games, the length doesn’t seem to change much with more players. This is especially true when players are jumping in on each other’s claims.
Jurassic Parts uses a simple and clever slicing mechanic that simultaneously forces cooperation and competition over resources. The amber economy (which may or may not be the name of my next musical project) on top allows players to take more impactful turns to control portions of the slab. If I had to pick a short-coming it’d probably be that it’s kind of a one-trick Eohippus. But it’s still a good trick and something that can be played with a wide range of people including children and non-gamers. Jurassic Parts may not have as long of a shelf-life with people who live and breathe heavier games but it could still be a good filler or gateway game to try with your coworkers before you unleash something heavier.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Jurassic Parts has some strategic depth hidden amongst the fossils you’re digging up in a very satisfying family weight game.
• Mechanically it’s a one-trick pony
• Limited options to give variable player powers
• Tiles are fairly monochromatic