While I tend to focus on children’s books on this blog, really I consider all paleontology-related media within my scope. I’ve had my eye on several games for a while now, and recently Laurence King Publishing kindly sent me a pair of dinosaur themed products of theirs. Today I will be taking a look at Dinosaur Bingo, though be sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming review of their memory card game Match These Bones as well! (For previous games I’ve reviewed, check out my posts on Samantha Turner‘s browser games THE BIG DIE and Lemme Splash!)
The game comes with all the pieces necessary for a typical game of Bingo. The players put all the tiles with various dinosaur species on them in a small box decorated to look like a dinosaur’s head. A gamemaster then draws card randomly from the Dino Box, placing them on the big board that depicts all the possible tiles. The other players have smaller boards with a random combination of dinosaurs from the big board, and if any of theirs get called, they place a footprint token on the respective dinosaur’s picture. The first player to get 4 in a row (whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) wins, though the game instructions also suggest an alternate long-form version of the game involving completely filling up the players’ boards.
I’ve played several times with my kids, and they’ve played with their grandparents too, and it has proven a hit with them! My oldest kid especially loves organizing and measuring things, and gets particular competitive when playing games that feature clear visual representation of his progress. While they may not have quite as big an interest in prehistory as their Old Man, both my boys still enjoy learning the different dinosaur names and repeating them back, especially in a game setting like this. I have a feeling this one will keep us occupied for some time yet!
I generally try to make concessions to artistic license when it comes to more stylized illustrations like the ones X has produced for this game, and for the most part they are quite serviceable. Many are quite good, in fact. I was pleased to see the fuzzy Sinosauropteryx decked out in the rusty coat and banded tail known from exceptionally well preserved fossils, and while more speculative, the scraggly coated Heterodontosaurus matches current scientific knowledge of its close relatives. Even some of the more “boring” dinosaurs looked really good, such as the hadrosaurs, much to my pleasant surprise. I also have to give honorable mention to the Polacanthus; many ankylosaurs, including some of the other species in this very game , tend to get depcited with just whatever knobbly armor the illustrator thinks looks good, regardless of the fossil evidence. This Polacanthus however is about as close to a 1:1 match as one can get in this art style with the known armor pattern of this species.
That being said, there were a few rather poorer examples in the set. As is so often the case in various forms of paleomedia, most of the feathered dinosaurs tended to fare the worst, with “sleeves” of feathers rather than wings in the case of critters like Oviraptor and Velociraptor, or the old “wings, but with hands” trope, with Archaeopteryx sticking its fingers out at odd angles rather than forming the anchor for its wings. In addition, Microraptor also lacks the leg wings it is so famous for. A few of the non-feathered dinosaurs also look rather generic and misshapen, though it’s harder to find the line between artistic license versus just plain inaccuracy in these cases.
A few odd design choices also stick out, such as the decision to leave an otherwise good-looking Ornithomimus featherless, or labeling what looks like some kind of theropod as Micropachycephalosaurus. The Anchiornis stands out most of all, however. Not only do we know the actual colors of this creatures feathers (similar to Sinosauropteryx), but the pose looks like a very close copy of Matt Martyniuk’s take on this small theropod, and yet it still has a more rainbow-hued color scheme that the woodpecker-like black & white & red it is known for.
I don’t mean to sound overly negative, as on the whole the entire set is very pleasing to the eye, and the number of good illustrations outweigh the so-so ones. While I wouldn’t necessarily say Dinosaur Bingo a must-have, since it’s just a basic bingo game with a theme, the bright, colorful illustrations do still make it fun to play, and have kept my own kids coming back to it. If you’re looking to buy a ready-made bingo set for your game closet, I would certainly recommend Dinosaur Bingo. For a game that gives you more bang for your buck, however, I personally prefer Match These Bones, the other game Laurence King Publishing sent to me. Be sure to check out my review for that as well!