Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Triassic Terror by Eagle-Gryphon Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Triassic Terror by Eagle-Gryphon Games
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Title: Triassic Terror
Designed by: Peter Hawes
Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Year Published: 2013
MSRP: $75
2-6p | 90-120 min | 14+

Triassic Terror is an exciting tactical game for 2 to 6 players. Starting with just one herd in the steamy Triassic Swamp, players must make wise choices to grow new herds and guide their migration across the four pre-historic landscapes.

This Primeval world is full of danger, with the mighty T-Rex, marauding Velociraptors and swooping Pterodactyls looking to reduce the size of your herds. Jurassic and Cretaceous Volcanoes fill this violent world with ash and dust and devastate the terrain.

The player best managing his herds and dominating not only local habitats, but entire environments, will win this challenging game.

~Triassic Terror is the winner of GAMES Magazine's Best New Strategy Game Award~

- Description from publisher.

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Very interesting area control mechanics.  The methods of distributing your dinos across the board and controlling areas based on the size of your herd present unique strategic situations.
  • Amazing components!  You get to play with plastic dinosaur miniatures!  Like the toys you probably had as a kid (or maybe like the ones your kids currently have)!
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • This is a brutal game, with a ton of destructive player interaction.  You really have to be in the mood for a game with a lot of carnage, but that destruction drives some tight strategy and is pretty evenly dished out.
  • The game has a very different feel at different player counts - fewer players is less brutal and offers more opportunities for strategic growth, while more players really has you running a tight ship with very little wiggle room strategically.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Not a game for everyone.  There is a TON of take-that in this game, although it's so widespread that no one ever feels singled out.  The carnage is everywhere!
  • The sweet spot is 3-4 players.  There are 6 possible actions each turn, including four of which mess with other players' herds, and three that cause predators to remove opponents' dinosaurs from the board.  With 6 players every destructive action is taken every turn; with 3-4 players there are periods of calm between the predator attacks so you can build up herd sizes.
Final Thoughts:
As you may have come to expect from Eagle-Gryphon Games, the component quality is absolutely stellar.  Everything from the box to the insert (with its plastic cover to keep everything nice and neat) to the wooden dinosaur tokens, to the amazing plastic dinosaur models, and everything else is top notch quality.  This game is amazing just for the table presence alone.  My only complaint is that the graphic design on the reference tiles is very busy and can be confusing.  But once you know the possible actions, the reference becomes just a reference and is easy enough to use.

The actual gameplay is a little more subjective though.  My game group is mostly gamers who like deeper strategy games.  Some come from a more Amerithrash background (especially wargames like Axis & Allies, Risk, and some of the classic Avalon Hill titles) and some are really into more Euro-style games with less chaotic strategy.  Triassic Terror appealed to both groups, but didn't seem to be an instant hit.  Everyone enjoyed playing, and felt the brutality of the t-rex, raptors, and pterodactyl were amazingly thematic, however, this brutality was also a major source of frustration among both camps.  Everyone felt it was very difficult to create any long-term strategy because dinosaurs were removed from the board almost as fast as you could add them.

This was especially prevalent in the six-player game where raptors and the t-rex actions were used every single round.  You start the game with 4 dinosaurs and in our six-player game, after six rounds of play, our herds numbered 7-12 dinosaurs.  Our herds fared better in the four-player game, ending with 12-25 dinosaurs in our herds, but the predators were still brutal and often derailed any attempt at strategic planning.  Triassic Terror is mostly a tactical game.  You can only plan slightly and instead have to react to the situation you find your herds in each turn.

Triassic Terror falls just short of a Bloom rating, leaving it as a Bud, mostly because the game wasn't quite right for my group.  We liked the area control aspects of the game, felt it was very thematic (maybe too much so), but didn't like the frustration of the destructive mechanics.  For a dudes-on-a-map (or rather dinos-on-a-map) game, this has amazing table presence.  People will definitely stop to check it out and it's a ton of fun to play with dinosaurs.  YOU GET TO PLAY WITH DINOS!!!  But in a world where games like Kemet exist, Triassic Terror falls just a little bit short.  Kemet also has amazing table presence, great area control mechanics, and interesting combat elements (plus, you can ride a dung beetle!), but lacks the brutality and outright devastation that Triassic Terror brings to the table.

If you like area control games and/or dinosaurs though, I definitely recommend giving Triassic Terror a try if you have the chance.  It just barely missed the cut for me, but you may love it.  I'm definitely keeping my copy around for a while because I have a friend that I think will love it, and I'm sure my sons will enjoy it, too.  So while I'd rather play Kemet, there's definitely a time and place for Triassic Terror.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.


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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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