The Perfect Theme DOES Exist! (Space Dinos Preview)

The Kickstarter is live and can be found here!Nailing the perfect theme is important in any game. Having a game that plays wonderfully and is engaging is only half the battle. Slapping a strange theme on it will, 9/10 times, make it seem alien. As example, you wouldn’t have a set collection, deck builder themed on soil types. At the same time, an area control, resource management game themed on NASCAR wouldn’t appeal as nicely either! But on that 1/10 times where it does work, it works stupendously! Enter Space Dinos by Paodleg. A tile laying, pattern game themed on dinosaurs, in space. It’s a beautifully charming game for 2-4 players that runs in about 35 minutes.


In Space Dinos, players compete to accumulate the most points, thereby sending your dinosaurs the furthest into the cosmos. The aim of the game is to place dinosaurs on constellation tiles and then surround them with other constellations.

Setup, Placement Rules and Taking Turns

To begin you’ll need a playing space large enough to hold a 6×6 grid. Then all players take a set of dinosaur tokens, four tiles, and six stardust tokens. The dinos will help you show what you’ve claimed, the tiles build the cosmos, and stardust tokens are used to adjust dice rolls or activate abilities. There are four special ability tiles available for players to activate, and these do different things and each cost four stardust to activate.

On a turn, players have several options. They can play tiles, swap any number of tiles for the same number from the supply, play a dinosaur to a tile based on a die roll or take two stardust tokens. To place a tile, players roll the die to identify which number constellation they can play on their turn. This can be adjusted up or down by spending stardust tokens. They then check for the legality of placement. Constellations cannot be placed next to those of the same colour or value. Scoring takes place immediately after a constellation containing a dinosaur is surrounded orthogonally. Anytime a player has depleted the tiles in their hand, they take four tiles and a bonus stardust token.

Whilst working within the grid, players can also strive to complete rows and columns. Doing so allows a player to move one of their Space Dinos two tiles, enabling them to score again if possible. Also, completing a row/column with unique tiles gives bonus points. Finishing a row of completely unique tiles (all six colours and numbers are present) delivers the most points available in the game, so it’s a worthwhile endeavour. The game ends once all tiles are placed, or when all players can no longer play legal tiles. Whomever has moved the furthest along the score track is then declared the winner!

How It Handles

We’ve played a few pattern building games this year. I mean, when you’re restricted on player count, they’re the most accessible. And after playing so many, they all blur into a sort of beige mush – none being too discernible against the others, with a few mechanics maybe standing out. Don’t get us wrong, we love them, but we’ve been so saturated by them that eventually they felt like a chore… We’re incredibly pleased to say that Space Dinos cannot be a part of that collective.

It’s a game we wanted to play because we enjoyed it, because it was charming and had lovely aesthetics, and not because we fancied a puzzler and it was next on the list! It stood out for the right reasons and felt good to play. It gives more than the normal puzzly game, but still fits neatly into the category!

Control The Spice, Control The Universe!

Space Dinos has you laying tiles and claiming them in separate turns. A tricky to master but clever mechanic that we found worked. Now normally, I’m not a huge fan of a die roll determining my choices, particularly when they’re as limited as they could be here; should I roll a four, and there are no tiles to claim, I’d be stuck. This should lead to frustration and the inevitable huffing and puffing of a frustrated player. But it doesn’t.

Space Dinos uses the resource of stardust to enable players to manipulate those rolls. A simple, but superb addition. By enabling players to have access to this resource they enable control. But by making it so the access is completely free, based on using a turn to collect it, it ensures that this control is player initiated. We found that our plans were centred on this resource and our ability to use it to manipulate the throw of the dice. Anytime it went in our favour, we just spent less. However, when we chose to not utilise the coveted powder of the galaxy, we knew we were edging our bets. Sure, we could use the sledgehammer method and keep spending turns hoping for the result we wanted, but that’s not fun. Nor is it rewarding.

The game ensures you are rewarded incrementally and at appropriate times with space dust, but you can take it yourself of your own accord. Using it to your advantage to adjust outcomes in your favour is half the battle. The puzzle side comes after that!

Space, The Final FUN-Tier

Space Dinos hosts one of our groups favourite mechanics, tile laying. However, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that most tile laying games have the heavy reliance on power pieces, particularly when they’re drawn blindly. It’s always contextual, but something that puts many players off. Another element with randomness being the deciding factor for who wins. Surely you can control this?! Well… sort of.

You’re never bound to the tiles you have in this game, which is relieving. You’ll draw four to kick off, and can then discard any amount to drawn any amount. The tiles will come around sooner or later and be seen again, and no doubt have value at some point, but it means in the short term you have respite and options. But how does the game overcome someone else drawing that one tile you needed? Easy. There’s rarely going to be a situation where you have a one tile option. There are six variants of each element on a tile, and you only need to ensure they don’t match their identical counterparts. Moreover, the tiles don’t only hold value when placed around dinosaurs.

Space Dinos is kept fresh by ensuring you have options. By ensuring that you are rewarded for finishing columns and rows, it can often be a better play. Plus, it means those “dud” tiles can have value elsewhere. The actual amount of options you have is impressive for as simple a concept as a tile laying pattern builder, and it’s probably what made the game so attractive to us! It’s fun; pure and simple.

Come On, It’s Dinosaurs In Space!

Thematically, there’s something special about Space Dinos. It’s clear that it’s not a match made in heaven on paper, but the execution here is second to none! Cute, sweet, gentle, all three words spring to mind when playing this game. There’s nothing about the game that appears hostile or offensive! Little dinosaurs, in little helmets, flying in space.

However! And this is an extra spicy however! The game allows for lots of aggressive play. The situational element of being in the right place at the right time does exist. You build your orthogonal set up for your claimed tiles, and points are based on how well you do this… or how viciously your opposers ruin it! It would take some true spite, and a reckless play style to execute it. The main issue being that wasting their tile ruining your day will slow their own progress. And they’re moving you towards scoring. Contextually, it might work… but only a mad man would do it!

Final Thoughts

Space Dinos hit the right notes for me by being about dinosaurs in space. It’s the theme I always needed executed in an elegant way. What’s more is that under the beautiful aesthetic a wonderful game exists! The tile placement has the right amount of guidance by a die roll, but can be manipulated when done right and with the right amount of planning. This is surely one for those who love a solid thinky game with a great puzzly theme! I would genuinely recommend this to both my casual and hobby gamer friends. It’s a superb filler for those needing more, and a lovely little family game for those who don’t. Check out the Kickstarter when it goes live.