In true JP/JW movie fashion, Jurassic World The Legacy of Isla Nublar will invite you to be in awe of a park featuring dinosaurs only to have you scrambling for survival in incredibly fun hours-long campaigns.
I was provided with a free copy of Jurassic World The Legacy of Isla Nublar for review (developed by Prospero Hall and published by Funko Games). The opinions I have shared are my own.
Spoiler Warning: This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS!!! Consider yourself warned.
In my opinion, one of the best things about JW The Legacy of Isla Nublar is that it allows players to take on a bunch of roles during gameplay. This game isn’t your run-of-the-mill offering about killing dinos to ensure humanity’s survival. No, the JW The Legacy of Isla Nublar board game is about learning how to create, manage, and run a park. It is about protecting humans while also ensuring the survival of the dinos. This game is a park management session and an RPG adventure combined in one!
As with Legacy games, the decisions you make while playing will follow you until you reach the end of the 11-adventure campaign. The interactive nature of this board game will make you invested in the park you manage to create, including the dinos you cooked up in the lab. You will find yourself doing everything possible to help them survive each adventure. Yes, I get that the T-rex likes to hunt, but she’s my baby! (Or an expensive investment. Whichever ever way you want to go.)
The basic gameplay mechanic involves players (this is a 2-4 player game) selecting a character each and then getting ready to go through 5 rounds per adventure on a quite large board depicting Isla Nublar. The objectives are detailed in an instruction guide accompanying each adventure. The players will need to move around the island (featuring 20 squares separated into Sectors and Zones) completing certain tasks including herding dinos, surveying, collecting items, finding lost people, etc.
Moving and performing tasks use Action Tokens. For a 2-player game, each player gets 4 Action Tokens. Each player gets 3 Action Tokens for a 3-player game. And in a 4-player game, each player gets only 2 Action Tokens. Certain Item cards can help you move or perform actions without using Action Tokens. Personally, I liked playing this game with a maximum of 3 players. Having 4 players with only a couple of Action Tokens each just didn’t do it for me.
To increase overall immersion, buildings such as the Visitor Centre, Genetics Lab, etc. come with their own little location maps, making it feel like your characters are really moving from room to room to complete certain objectives, which are basically minigames that include Match-3 puzzles and creating the proper DNA sequences.
The good news is that failing an adventure doesn’t mean game over. However, take note that failing or winning an adventure will impact certain mechanics and bonuses that you will receive in the next adventure.
The game evolves as you continue playing with new rules being added, unlocking new dinos and constructs, and players being instructed to tear up old cards. Being a Legacy game, you need to think of JW The Legacy of Isla Nublar as an “experience” rather than a typical board game that’s accompanied by an expected pattern of replayability. Tearing up cards might be tough, but it’s part of the “experience”. The same goes for placing certain stickers on the board. Scratching off certain portions of the cards offers some of the best fun during gameplay. The game even gives you a cool raptor claw to function as a scratch-off tool.
The Tutorial Adventure is presented as a John Hammond-induced dream sequence. The instruction guide, which is presented as a 90s-inspired comic book, will tell you everything to help you set the stage. The basic premise is to survey locations to find the perfect place to build the park facilities.
The characters you can select from are familiar faces like John Hammond, Dr. Gerry Harding, Robert Muldoon, and Dr. Henry Wu. The original character is an architect/Park Planner named Alejandra Solano. Each character comes with unique abilities. So, it can be fun to figure out which player will control which character and how said choices can help complete objectives. For example, Dr. Gerry Harding can remove an injury from a dino in his space. Hammond can move any character up to two spaces, allowing for that particular player to conserve an Action Token.
Character cards have hidden abilities that you can reveal via scratch-off as you progress through the game. The abilities on the back of the card come into play when the ‘Legacy Character’ mechanic kicks in. There’s a limit to how many times you can use a Legacy Character during campaigns. I really enjoyed the RPG-esque quality of the powerups and abilities featured on the cards.
Character actions include Run (moving up to two spaces), Lead (moving a Follower), Heard (heading dinos), Search (to be used outdoors for revealing Sector Cards and to find Item Card/s), Rest (to be used indoors to remove an Injury Token), and Trade (to give or take Items cards between two characters).
The dinos you gain access to at the beginning include the T-rex, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, and Velociraptor. Each Dino has a well-detailed miniature. Dino cards can display a character’s Might, Vitality, and Defense. Dino stats can be upgraded. Certain dinos have unique abilities. For example, the Triceraptos will injure an attacking dino if the attacking dino’s unable to kill the Triceratops during a single attack action. Due to dinos being considered assets, the death of dinos will make you suffer Consequences (which I will get to in a bit). Dinos are also capable of damaging Barriers and Ambushing, depending on whether or not certain parameters are met.
Dinos also come with Dino Danger cards which can include gameplay-altering things like not being able to defend against a Velociraptor attack, the Brachiosaurus blocking the incoming helicopter and messing up Round 5, the Triceratops falling ill (and being dramatic about it), and a lot more.
As for the Consequences, you can think of it as the game’s overall health bar or a countdown. Losing Dinos, certain types of Followers, etc. will make you suffer Consequences. There are a total of 7 Consequence Tokens which you place at the top right corner of the board. Each Consequence Token has a number ranging from 0-2. Simply put, revealing a total of 5 Consequence Tokens or more means you have failed.
When playing the Tutorial Adventure, I suggest taking your time with everything. There’s a lot to read and remember in this game. So, be patient with the process. I did mess up a couple of times when explaining the rules during my gameplay session with friends. And that’s okay.
One of the best things about JW: The Legacy of Isla Nublar is that it is a very cooperative board game because no one is playing against each other. Each player, depending on the character they have selected, has a role to play. I had a lot of fun when making certain decisions during the setup stage before each adventure began. With the ‘Budget’ coming into play, you can talk with each other to decide how to spend the Budget, where to place Barriers, hire employees, train employees, and more.
With the setup time being included in the actual adventure time, you’re looking at close to 2-3 hours to go through each campaign. That comes in at basically 24-36 hours of playtime spread across almost a week if you are able to do two campaigns a day. I suggest you do a single campaign per day and take 2-3 day-long breaks between each campaign to keep burnout and feeling overwhelmed by the rules at bay. You can also easily pause the game between rounds.
Then there are the numerous Dino miniatures you will get. The 8 unlockable Dinos include the Indominus Rex, Indoraptor, Carnotaurus, Dilophosaurus, Spinosaurus, Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, and the Stygimoloch. The Dino miniatures are made from durable plastic. You don’t have to worry about breaking them if they fall to the floor from the gaming table. The details are 360-degree in nature. And you spend a lot of time painting them if you’re into it.
As for the storyline, I liked how the creative team took certain liberties when coming up with a tale that develops across the entire game. In a sense, players will be taken through the JP to JW timeline, but with a bunch of changes to tie everything together in a way that works in a board game format. I mean, the story had to be changed a bit to keep everything focused on Isla Nublar and to allow characters from across the different movies to interact with each other. And even though the events are non-canon, a bunch of storylines do make sense when filling up gaps during movies.
Let’s begin with Adventure 1. It’s kind of a prologue before the events of the first Jurassic Park movie. The main objective is to find and rescue employees scattered throughout the park. The characters available to you are John Hammond, Dr. Gerry Harding, Dr. Henry Wu, Robert Muldoon, and Alejandra Solano.
Adventure 2, also set before the events of Jurassic Park, brings in Dennis Nedry and Ray Arnold. The campaign involves rescuing baby Triceratops during a storm. And yes, a Weather Mechanic also gets added to the gameplay. Bad weather can make the park lose power and you will need to head to the Maintenance Shed to repower the park. The repowering of the park mini-objective can get annoying, but at least the park losing power can only happen once per game. If you’re lucky enough, you might not lose power at all.
Adventure 3 focuses on the events of Jurassic Park. You have no idea how excited I was to finally be able to play as Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Dr. Ian Malcom. Alan’s a good character to play as if you’re into running around without getting attacked by Dinos. He also helps reveal item cards when certain conditions are met. Ian lets you re-roll a Zone Die or a Dino attack. He also lets you re-roll any one die once per round (depending on certain conditions).
Ellie lets you draw one additional Item Card during the Search action. Leveling her up also lets her heal an injury from a Dino. She can also help refresh Action Tokens. Ellie’s Botany Expertise lets you take a free Action to move a herbivore, including through a Barrier. Together, the OG Trio does make for a capable team.
Lex and Tim, being kids, aren’t playable characters. You just need to make sure they stay safe or else you lose the game. Donald Gennaro is a good character to have if you’re into increasing Bonus Budget, preventing huge Consequences, and yes, playing dead to avoid a Dino attack.
Adventure 4 is Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Nick Van Owen and Dr. Sarah Harding are added as playable characters. Sarah’s Legacy ability is the same as Ellie’s but for moving Carnivores. Nick’s ability offers access to more Items and even employees. We also get Ian’s daughter Kelly. And while Kelly isn’t an actual playable character, she can offer help with herding Dinos. I would have liked to see her be able to kick raptors in the face. But oh well. The main objective is to rescue Dinos from InGen Mercenaries and to find their camp.
Adventure 5 is Jurassic Park 3 with Eric Kirby being added as a non-playing character you need to rescue.
Adventure 6 changes Jurassic Park into Jurassic World, complete with new mini-maps showing the Maintenance Building, Control Center, Creation Lab, and Discovery Center. You can also construct a Monorail to move around the park faster. The main objective is to give VIP visitors a tour of the new park.
You get Simon Masrani as a playable character. He lets you have more Item Cards, including Vehicle Item cards. The original characters include Nancy Valazquez (Park Tour Guide) who can move around comparatively easily, Dr. January Echohawk (Chronobiologist) who is great for progressing through the Research Folio, and Sally Nakamura (Structural Engineer) who is good for maintaining Barriers.
Keeping in line with the first Jurassic World film, we’re also introduced to the Genetic Hybrid Mechanic. It’s basically a way to level-up Dinos by making them more dangerous. Some of the DNA upgrades include the Dinos being able to damage all barriers in each Zone they move into, changing a Dino into a Carnivore, getting to Hunt again, and more.
Adventure 7 is about Claire Dearing showing a VIP investor around the park and making sure everything runs smoothly. As a playable character, Claire is good at moving other characters. And, from what I could understand, ignoring bad weather. Ha!
You also get to add the Aviary and the Mosasaurus Lagoon to the game board.
Coming to Adventure 8, you get Owen Grady as a playable character and Barry as a park employee. Owen is good to have on your team when it comes to Items and Vehicle Item Cards. You also gain some control over the Velociraptors. The story of the campaign focuses on Owen training raptors.
Adventure 9 is a retelling of the first Jurassic World. You get Zach and Gary as non-playable characters that you must keep alive.
Adventure 10 goes over Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You’re tasked with rescuing Dinos. Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Paleo-Veterinarian) and Franklin Webb (Systems Analyst) are added as playable characters. Zia’s good for having Gear Item Cards and refreshing Action Tokens. She can also heal Dinos under certain conditions. Franklin’s good at completing the mini-games.
Blue’s also added as a character that has her own set of special rules that dictate how she can be moved and will respond when being activated as you would other Dinos.
Adventure 11 is the Finale and it basically has the entire island in ruins as lava spreads. Your job is to rescue as many Dinos as possible. The illustration on the front cover of the instruction manual showcasing the OG characters coming back is so awesome! The illustration really brings the narrative together as everyone has to work together to save the Dinos. The finale lets you choose any Legacy Character even if all three boxes have been checked. It’s basically all hands on deck at this point!
The Jurassic World The Legacy of Isla Nublar board game definitely offers something very different when it comes to the tabletop gaming genre. While there is a learning curve, the RPG mechanics, park management systems, and gameplay that really encourages positive player interaction are sure to be enjoyed by many.
Jurassic World The Legacy of Isla Nublar is available wherever board games are sold. If you’re into buying a holiday present for someone who is a big JP/JW and board game fan or you want something engrossing to keep you and your family and/or friends busy during the holidays, I suggest you check it out.
And I get that the basically north of $100 price tag does seem like an investment, but you and your teammates will get an hours-long “experience” like no other. And there are also the Dino miniatures, the awesome retro-style comic book-inspired instruction manuals, and the numerous gaming pieces that you will get to keep forever. The Dino miniatures can easily be part of your next D&D-like campaigns or other tabletop adventures.
Have you had a chance to play this game?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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