Dinosaur Island: Rawr 'N Write (A Review)

 As a young boy I was fascinated with dinosaurs. I'd always want for my mother to read me books about these "thunder lizards." Play time regularly included tyrannosaurs and triceratops, perhaps even a brachiosaurus being ridden by a ninja turtle into a fierce battle against Krang. My favorite transformers were the mighty dinobots lead by the powerful, yet painfully dull, Grimlock. I distinctly remember the first time I saw a trailer for Jurassic Park. It shows practically nothing (like a good teaser should), but what was there intrigued my eight-year old brain. I begged my parents to take me when it came out to cinemas, and I prayed that "This film is not yet rated," would result in a rating that settled somewhere underneath the forbidden "R." Seeing Jurassic Park as a ten-year old is still my favorite movie memory.

All of this to say that dinosaurs were a major interest of mine when I was a child. As the years passed, my obsession with dinosaurs waned. However, the fire remains- proving to be an inextinguishable flame. While it may appear meager, it still maintains the warmth of nostalgia.

When I entered the board gaming hobby, the Jurassic Park: Danger game called to me. After two plays, it had run out of interesting things to say and was gone. Still, I wanted a high-quality board game all about building and staying alive inside a dinosaur park. Last year I saw that Pandasaurus Games had a sequel to their hit Dinosaur Island on Kickstarter, and I was intrigued. Dinosaur World, as the sequel was called, seemed to be everything I wanted in a Jurassic Park-like simulation game: dinos, exciting jeep rides, and the constant fear of a serious lapse in security. Sign me up!

Oh, and there was also a roll-and-write version of the aforementioned Dinosaur Island with the subtitle "Rawr 'N Write." I wasn't really interested in it. The experience I was looking for was wrapped up in an assortment of plastic dinosaurs and an ever-expanding park that sprawled out greedily on my table, not in drawing shapes on paper pretending there were dinosaurs housed  there. That would be the equivalent of reading a brochure about a zoo, but the only pictures were the enclosures and none of the beasts they contained. 

However, near the end of the campaign, I decided to add it to my pledge. My family enjoys similar, but lighter games. Perhaps this "Rawr 'N Write" would be a solid "next-step" game for my loved ones. It has proven to be much more than that.

Despite my slanted picture, I love the design of this box! It showcases what your park 
could look like while also including blueprints. Phenomenal decisions here!

How It's Played:

In Dinosaur Island: Rawr 'N Write, players take turns drafting from a pool of dice and collecting the resources showing on the die face. These resources include: DNA for designing dinosaurs, coins to pay for buildings and specialists, security to eliminate threat, attractions ("Merch," "Rides," and "Food") to gain bonuses when you run your park (more on that momentarily), and roads to create paths to the buildings in your park and lead to valuable exits. 

After each player has selected a first die, another round of choosing begins starting with the player who chose last and ending at the first player- snake-draft style. Once all players have two dice, players will collect the resources on their chosen dice, spending coins and roads (or saving them for later), circling DNA acquired, and building any attractions shown on the dice. There will be one die left over, and each player gets to take that resource, but also the threat shown on the die signified by small red dots in the corner.

Now that all players have their resources, the next step begins- dice placement. Beginning with the starting player, the dice will be placed in one of the spots to gain an action. These actions include: 
  • The ability to create (up to) four dinosaurs
  • Gain either two coins or two security
  • Collect two basic DNA or one advanced type
  • Duplicate the resource(s) shown on a placed die
  • Build three roads or an attraction of the player's choice. 
If a spot has been taken, players may still place dice in the spot, but must also take any threat indicated on the die that was already there. This will continue until all players have placed their two dice. 

Drafting and placing dice will occur twice during each of the three seasons in the game. Between the seasons, however, is something totally different- running the park.

When players run their park they will follow a series of steps.
  • Gain the advantage of all attractions in your park (either rolling a die to take the resource, gaining excitement, or spending a coin)
  • Use the bonus of any specialist that has been purchased. These can include gaining a security, adding three roads to your park, making up to two dinosaurs, and many more.
  • Give a tour of your park. The players will begin at the headquarters and mark off any building that they pass through, preferably ending at one of the exits. Each new building you pass through gains one excitement.
  • Gain the resources circled on your excitement track. These can be used immediately in the case of coins and security. It is also a helpful way to add a little extra DNA for the next season.
  • Check your threat. If there are any threats that haven't been circled by security, that little innocent dot now represents a death in your park. Mark it in the appropriate place. Sometimes a death will require a player to suffer a disaster. A player gets to decide which tragedy befalls him/her, but none of them are good. Perhaps roads are destroyed, breaking a path to a valuable exit. Or a dinosaur pen collapses on the animals contained inside. Maybe a specialist you have hired was one of the casualties. Avoid these at all costs!
Players will repeat this formula of two rounds of dice drafting and placement and then running parks three times and then the game will end. Whoever has the most points has the honor of being named the best dinosaur park in the world! Or on the island? Or west of Dinosaur, Colorado? The best dinosaur park on your table, to be sure.

The Board:

The board is just the right size needed for the game. It doesn't try to wow people or draw too much attention to itself. It knows its place and doesn't take too much of it. The text is clear and the spots for the building and specialist cards are perfect. This is function at its best. 

The solo/two/three-player side of the board has one position for each of the five placement spots. It can get a little crowded, particularly in a three-player game, but with the option to use spots already taken, it doesn't prevent a player from getting what he/she needs. This could be more problematic in the four-player game, but the team at Pandasaurus, the designers, or both ingeniously created a different board for games with four contestants on the flip-side. It gives an extra space for making dinosaurs and for gaining two coins/security.

Those spots can get crowded! Particularly in a three-player game.

It should be stated that even with the two extra placement spots for the build dinosaurs and the gain two coins/security on the four-player side of the board, that there is some disadvantage at that player count. The first two players have a serious edge in being the initial person to draft and place twice in the span of six turns. Players three and four only get that luxury one time. It's a fairly minor complaint, but a mark on the game nonetheless. For what it's worth, in the four-player game I played, the third and fourth player didn't realize this disadvantage, or chose not to mention it.

The Visuals:

While the park board visuals are mostly created by the player as he/she builds a fabulous dinosaur theme park, there is art to be seen. Kwanchai Moriya's distinct style is a joy to see adorned on the cards. There are several nods to existing people if you know where to look, which ratchets up my enjoyment. Two of my favorites are "The Master Chef" and "The Social Media Manager" And while I know it's not a visual, some of the names are so much dad-joke material. I love it!

Do these people look familiar to you???

That "Pteriyaki" is particularly smile-inducing.


Top marks! The dice alone would give the game high praise in this category with their translucence resembling amber. I've heard some complain about the icons being difficult to see, and while I don't know their situation (perhaps colorblindness), I disagree completely. The cards are good quality (even though mine were slightly bent in the box- it's nothing serious) and the board is more than sufficient. Retail versions do not come with pencils, but go buy a box of Ticonderogas ("Don't get cheap on me, Dotson"), or you can laminate four of each board and use wet-erase markers. Not dry-erase as it's too easy to accidentally wipe out your board, and wet-erase cleans up nicer over time anyway.

Look at those dice! Too bad I'm a terrible photographer. 
They look even better in person.


Rawr 'N Write is among the more taxing of the roll-and-writes. This complexity isn't found in the rules, necessarily, but in the number of elements that players will have to deal with. Where to spend your money (one of three buildings, six specialists, save it, or spend two for another resource)? Should you forego security and suffer casualties in order to gain all the excitement that comes with a full tyrannosaurus rex paddock? Do you go heavy on attractions as they guarantee bonuses? Which exits do you want to try and get to? 

You definitely need a plan, but you also need a pocketful of backup plans. Players may take the very die your plan is dependent upon, and they're definitely going to try and block you when it comes to the dice placement portion of a turn. Yes, you can still place your die, but is it worth the threat that will accompany the reward?

The two sheets that make up a player's park might seem intimidating for newcomers. 

I am not some expert gamer. I'd say I'm average, maybe even below (I'm modest, if nothing else), but the first couple of times I played this solo, I was a little overwhelmed. Now that I'm closing in on two-dozen plays, the gears of the machine are well greased and it plays quickly.

That's not to say I breeze through the game- far from it! I am still prone to analysis paralysis as I try and adjust to what the other players (or the AI) are giving me. I still tinker with strategies, particularly when new building or specialist cards show up in my game (each game has three random of each out of twenty-one unique cards per type). The game feels fresh each time, and while I'd love to tell you that my scores are always in the 120-135 range, I occasionally have a game where my end result is 80. 

The complexity is in the puzzle, but because of all the parts, because of the variety, it's not one that is solved once and you're done. I have found a strategy I prefer, but I'm always looking to improve. It isn't the heaviest roll-and-write ever, but it is the most strategic that I own.


Simply put-yes. I want to play this game every night. My wife asked me if I was trying to win some award for most plays. Of course not, but I am awarded each time I play in fun. This game brings a smile to my face (maybe not on the outside while I'm thinking, but definitely on the inside). It is sheer entertainment for me. It has become my go-to solo experience. Will it always be? Probably not. The excitement will fade over time and as new games come, but I would bet my highest scoring park- Triceratopsy Ranch (named after a local drive-thru zoo/nature preserve- Topsy Ranch), that the fun will always remain.


I've said many kind things in regards to Dinosaur Island: Rawr 'N Write, but I did have the complaint about a four-player game not being entirely fair. There is another- because of all the moving parts it is easy to forget what you were doing and what you had already done. Maybe this is just a dad problem, but beware.

Some people have complained about the Kickstarter exclusive bag, 
but I think it looks alright.

With that out of the way, this game is just excellent! The variety of the building and specialist cards means you might never get the same combinations more than once. The dice rolling will also keep Rawr 'N Write fresh for a long time. The decisions are varied, but not one has appeared over-powered. It gives your brain a work-out, but it's one that I enjoy thoroughly. Just like the massive creatures the game is centered around, this game fascinates me. Superb. 



  1. Me. Wants. Love your post bud.

  2. Is this the series that you collect dna to create a dino in an 80s looking mall?

    1. It’s the roll-and-write version. I’ve never played the original, but I really like this one- obviously. Had a chance to play the sequel Dinosaur World as well recently and thought it was pretty great.


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