If you’ve ever watched any of the Jurassic Park series and thought to yourself, “I could do this much better,” then Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar might just be one for you.
The much-loved Jurrasic Park series is one that’s survived so long because, at its core, it’s predictable. It’s a disaster movie series, one where we — in each film — meet a bunch of likeable, less likeable and background characters who then either survive when something goes wrong with the dinosaurs or die in the process. Sometimes the character deaths are arbitrary, for shock value, sometimes they’re not; either way, the protagonists manage to survive against the odds and at the end we all feel great and say ‘phew’. As such, it’s a series all about failure: Failure to contain the dinosaurs, failure to contain human greed, and failure to save everybody. That’s important to remember when it comes to Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar — a legacy-style game that carefully hobbles through the series but with you as the puppeteers.
That’s because, much like other legacy games, the gameplay is tense and failure is always just around the corner. It’s almost impossible to not fail one of The Legacy of Isla Nublar‘s scenarios during your lengthy, twelve-session-long campaign. Similarly, things persist and changes are made to the map, characters and — in this case — buildings as you continue through each of the scenarios, however, they are also each self-contained, meaning you don’t need to commit 12-36 hours (or more) to one sitting.
Because of the nature of a legacy game, I’ll keep spoilers incredibly light, except for things that might be assumed from the prologue (which I’m considering safe) and the back of the box.
The prologue is, perhaps, the most strange part of the whole thing. It drops you in as the first crew on Isla Nublar. Presumably, some dinosaurs have already been bred on the secondary island, and they’ve — for whatever reason — been dropped off with you, the first crew to reach the island to set it up. You’ve got a very limited number of turns to explore sectors (exploring reduces negative effects at turn ends) and to set up buildings through completing objectives. Time is very limited, with 9 actions split between the players regardless of the count, and each objective reset adds hidden cards for each of the island’s coloured sectors. You’ve got to balance racing to finish the objective against revealing those cards, all while trying not to get attacked by the carnivores that roam the island between turns.
It’s not just carnivores though, herbivores also roam the island and, in the spirit of Jurassic Park, you’re here to build a facility that will ultimately show off these giant beasts, and so killing them (as with them killing you, or you not setting up in time) will punish you.
If this sounds like a lot to balance, well, that’s because it is. However, that’s only because the prologue is the onboarding ramp and there is a lot to learn. There’s a keyring that holds Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar‘s rules, and by the end of the 12th scenario, it’s teaming with tonnes of cards that simply weren’t there are the start. The prologue might feel like it’s deep-ending you, and maybe it should have prepared players more for failure, but it does set the clever pace of the rest of the legacy experience.
Part of that deep-ending comes from the mini-games. These are incredibly fun ideas;, a building can be entered, and things within it can be interacted with to complete challenges, this normally comes to swapping around tiles to ‘fix storage’ or ‘synthesise DNA’ but they each have their little twists and certain characters are better at doing it than others. The thing is, when it comes to co-operative experiences there are several different structures to them, in The Legacy of Isla Nublar‘s case it’s the kind where you all need to co-ordinate and not cluster. You need to plan fast, and you need to communicate and all focus on different things. In that way, it’s closer to the XCOM Board Game, or Pandemic, rather than games where you stack up, or cluster to defeat the odds.
Once you’ve got that coordinating, cooperating and communicating down, The Legacy of Isla Nublar suddenly clicks, and once you realise that failure might not be ideal, but is tolerable, then the whole thing starts to sing.
And then you look at the box, and you see the small boxes that hold the extra figurines, the envelopes that hide inside them extra characters, extra buildings, comics (complete with your missions) and various items and tokens. There is a cascade of extra content that comes crashing through as you move on through the chapters, and a lot of the included components — like characters and buildings — also progress with the game as sections are scratched from the card using the included raptor claw. Alongside unlocking new stuff, you’ll also earn and spend your budget, which is an upgrade system that lets you customise your game to be different to others out there.
Now, I know that I’ve made The Legacy of Isla Nublar, sound complicated, however, that’s entirely down to a combination of turn limits and legacy-style design rather than gameplay actions. There are only 2-5 actions available to each player at any given point. These are Run, Lead, Scout, Herd and Build/Research Action. These are all pretty self-explanatory, although I will add that Lead is because there are human NPCs, and Herd is for directing dinosaurs. Scouting is the process I mentioned earlier, about clearing sectors, while building is a generic ‘action’ to complete an objective or interact with a puzzle.
What this looks like on the map though is a daring dash between dinos (who will attack, and you must use items, luck and dice to avoid) as you build roads, barriers and buildings to get Jurassic Park up and running. On that note, it is incredibly exciting that it takes the island from the humble-seeming Jurassic Park through to Jurassic World, including a point where you use a sticker to replace the markings and suddenly start being able to play as characters from the newer movies; and it’s shocking that suddenly it’s not just you taming an island, but you protecting dinosaurs from bad actors.
Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar is a fascinating, compelling board game with a bumpy intro and some onboarding issues, however, if you’re a fan of the series, or have played a legacy game, you’ll feel right at home here with a little perseverance. It’ll be totally worth it, and it’s beautiful to boot.
Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar is available now from Amazon.