Hey folks. I’ve been working on a theme park. A dinosaur theme park. I know what you’re thinking. How do I have time for a theme park? Well, it didn’t take too long to finish. I want to welcome you to. . . Mesozooic. This is a card drafting real time puzzle game by Z Man Games. This is a 2-6 player game that takes about 30 minutes to play. Players are trying to get the most points at the end of 3 rounds.
The game comes with 20 advanced cards, 12 neutral cards, 6 sets of 11 basic cards, 6 director cards, 6 reference cards, 1 score pad, and 1 timer.
The cards are standard playing card size. Each player has a set of the same cards. On the bottom left of the card are color symbols. This helps sort things out at the end of the game. To get points you need to have trucks next to attractions, connect the monorail, connect enclosures, or collect topiary. Your director card has a truck on it, and is the last card to be placed after the puzzle portion of the game.
To set up the game, first each player will select a director and matching basic cards. All the players basic cards are shuffled with the neutral cards. Make sure to shuffle them nice and good. Put the timer in the center of the table. Each player will get a reference card as well. This will tell you what earns points at the end of the round.
To play the game, you go through two phases. The first phase is the drafting phase. Deal 11 cards to each player. Once everyone is ready, you’ll start the drafting. Grab 2 cards from your hand, place it face down in front of you, then pass your hand of 9 cards to the next player. Everyone continues this until there’s only 1 card left. During the drafting phase, you can look at the cards you’ve selected at any time. This last card goes face down in front of you. Pick up all your cards and give them a good shuffle. You then deal them our face up in front of you in a 4×3 grid. The bottom right is going to be empty.
A quick note on scoring. There are three rounds, but players only count their two highest scoring rounds. Finishing two card enclosures gets you 6 points each, attractions get you 2 points for each truck next to it, each connecting monorail gets you 4 points, and each topiary gets you 1 point.
This brings you to the puzzle phase. Since you didn’t select what card was where in your park, we have to race against the timer to get the best possible points. To do this, you’ll be moving your grid around like a slide puzzle. Remember those cheap plastic puzzles as a kid? You had to move one piece around at a time and try to complete the picture. You slide a card into the empty space and repeat the process until you get the result you want. Players have 45 seconds to get the optimized configuration of the park. After 45 seconds and the timer is done, you’ll place your director card in the empty spot. Remember your director has a truck on the card and can help with scoring. Count up the scores and record it on the score pad. Shuffle all the cards, except the director cards, and play another round.
After three rounds, and throwing out the players lowest score, the highest points wins the game. You’ve created the best dinosaur park. Just remember not to let them breed, share your genetic formulas, or hire employees that are going to betray you. Otherwise, enjoy your gigantic dinosaurs from the safe distance of a chain-link fence.
There are some advanced cards you can use, and the back of the reference card explains how to score with these. Some earn you points based on where in the grid the card is located.
First, I will admit that I thought I was better at slide puzzles than I actually am. With that being said, I still enjoyed this game. I like the drafting. It reminded me of Sushi Go. Even though the first phase isn’t timed, there’s still a sense of urgency when you’re deciding what cards to keep and the person next to you have been holding out their hand of cards for you to take for what seems to be minutes. I like the art on the cards. They are detailed and elegant. I enjoyed how the cards connect to each other. Monorails and enclosures needing other cards to finish the picture. It adds to the puzzle and trying to get certain cards next to each other. The 45 seconds definitely adds urgency to the game. You’re trying for the best layout of the park, but I would get stuck in these whirlpool like movements where the same cards kept rotating and rotating. There will be moments where the timer stops, and players are surprised or frustrated they didn’t have more time. That’s all in the fun of it. The game requires a space for the players and their cards. It also requires a flat surface. I think a card table or even a card mat per player would help. I can see this game getting worn out fast due to the second phase of the game. The box insert nicely holds everything. If you add sleeves to the cards, I don’t think the box would hold everything. This is a nice quick drafting and puzzle game. If you like card drafting and real time games, then this one would suit you well. If you don’t like card drafting or real time games, then this one is probably a pass. I’ll be keeping this game in the collection for a while, as it’s combines two of my favorite type of games, drafting and puzzle. Hopefully in time, I’ll get better at the art of slide puzzles.