Tyrannosaurus Wrecks Review
Review by David Lent
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks is a board game from 1985 by Fantasy Games Unlimited. It is a game where the players are hunters who go back to Earth in time machines to hunt dinosaurs. They are armed with energy weapons that have a limited number of charges and one or more special items. The dangers they face are numerous including being attacked by a dinosaur, volcanic eruptions, flowing lava, earthquakes, poisonous plants, quicksand, poisonous snakes, giant reptiles, dragon flies, various water animals and being stranded millions of years in the past. In addition to this, the taxidermists on Earth are very picky and the more shots it took to kill a dinosaur the less they will pay. If this wasn’t frightening enough… your energy rifle is not water-proof and any time you get it wet its maximum range decreases.
The components included with this game are the rulebook, game counters, tables/charts, map and record sheets. Two D6 dice are needed for play, but not included.
On the cover of the rulebook is a great picture of a T-Rex attacking a hunter. The rules are written in an unusual fashion. An overview of the rules is written first and then all the specifics are written in sections that are in alphabetical order followed by the scenarios. I have mixed feelings about this. Some of the information was really easy to find because it was in alphabetical order, but some was hard to find. During the game, I forgot how many wounds was the maximum a dinosaur can take before dying. It took 20 minutes to find because it was NOT in the rules. It’s written on the dinosaur record sheet and it’s different for each dinosaur. This should have been written in the rules. The main rule topics were easy to find during the game though.
The artwork on the game counters looked ok for a 1985 era game. However, these are not die-cut game counters. You have to cut them out with a scissors which is very tedious and made me feel like I was four years old again in preschool art class. While these cheap-o counters are adequate, they do not give a pride in ownership. In addition, they are difficult to pick up because they are so thin. I probably should have glued them to thick card stock before cutting them out.
This game has a fair number of tables and charts. They cover hunter encounters, hunter to hit dinosaur, damage to dinosaur, dinosaur vs. dinosaur tables, dinosaur vs. hunter tables and hunter vs. pteranodon tables. The pteranodon flies so that is why it has it’s own special table. All of the tables are super easy to use and are printed on thick glossy paper. There are some other tables that are printed on the map and I’ll go over those next.
The map has hexes that represent 100 yards and the whole map is supposed to be three quarters of a mile square. Artistically, the map is ok for 1985 era. However, the layout of the terrain is very well thought out. A volcano is in the center of the map and there is a river that runs West to East with a small island in it’s center. Scattered around the board are various jungles that can be shot into but not through. Dinosaurs will try to hide in them when wounded. To the right of the maps is a bunch of tables, turn counter box and hunter action order box. The tables are the turn sequence, direction hex table, earthquake occurrence table, earthquake initial hex, volcanic eruption table, time machine entry table, time machine return table and earthquake direction table. This games’ turn counter box doesn’t just keep track of turns, it also show whether there will be lava, a volcanic eruption or an earthquake that turn. I know it sounds like there are a lot of tables in this game and there are. However, don’t let that discourage you. The game is fairly easy to learn and play.
Player use a hunter record sheet and a dinosaur record sheet to record important information in this game. The hunter record sheets records how much ammunition you have, your accessories, number of time machine moves, victory points and the number of retrieval devices you still have. The dinosaur record sheet records who killed each dinosaur and how many hits it took to kill it. Below that section is a dinosaur value table that give you the amount of points you receive for each kill based on the number of hits it took.
The turn sequence for this game is straight-forward. First, you move the turn counter and it tells you whether or not there is lava, an eruption or an earthquake. You then use the appropriate tables to place the natural disaster and destroy any dinosaurs, hunters, equipment or time machines it comes in contact with.
Next, comes the dreaded dinosaur movement phase. You have to roll and use the directional hex table to see where every dinosaur on the map moves to. This is very tedious until a lot of the dinosaurs have been killed. Sometimes, the movement places a T-Rex on the same hex as a player or dinosaur. This will cause either dinosaur on dinosaur combat or dinosaur on hunter combat. In addition, a triceratops entering a hunters hex will charge him.
The dinosaur vs. dinosaur phase is heavily weighted in T-Rex’s favor as you’ve probably guessed. It can result in smaller dinosaurs sometime evading, but usually one of the dinosaurs takes a wound or is outright killed. Ankylosaurus’s can hold their own against a T-Rex due to their armor though. Hunters may not place retrieval devices on dinosaurs killed by another dinosaur, because they are too mutilated to be of any use to the taxidermist.
Following the dinosaur movement phase is the hunter movement phase. Hunters usually only move one hex per turn. If they swim, it takes two turns to cross a water hex and they must leave all gear except for retrieval devices behind. The game only lasts 20 turns, if they are far from their time machine near the end of the game they may use emergency movement to get to their time machine before the game ends. This movement allows them to move 2 hexes per turn, but they must leave all equipment behind.
Next, is the most entertaining phase – the dinosaur vs. hunter phase. Hunters shoot at dinosaurs that are in line of site by rolling a D6 and cross referencing the dinosaur type and range to see if they hit. If they hit they roll on the damage to dinosaur table. The result could be no effect, wounded or killed. The amounts of hits a dinosaur can survive is determined by their type. Some dinosaurs will charge the first time they are wounded such as the T-Rex and triceratops. Shooting at a dinosaur that is charging SOMEONE ELSE results in a -1 to your die roll because the dinosaur is moving. The hunter being charged doesn’t get this -1 though.
After shooting, it’s the hunter encounter phase. Each hunter rolls on the encounter table based on the terrain they are in to see if something bad happens. Low rolls mean no encounter, while high rolls mean bad things. You can get poisoned by a plant or snake, drown in quicksand, get lost, get attacked by flying dinosaurs or giant lizards or eaten by a carnivorous plant. There are certain items you can get before a scenario begins that will prevent you from drowning, getting lost or poisoned though. In the first scenario, you are allowed to bring any one item with. In later scenarios, you can use points to purchase items. The downside is for each item you bring, you get one less charge for your rifle.
The hunter action phase is next. You randomly draw hunter action orders counters to determine the order. During this phase you can place a retrieval device on a dinosaur either by hand or by shooting a rifle retrieval device at it.. You can also remove a retrieval device from a dead hunter’s dinosaur kill, move a time machine to avoid lava flows and other dangers or enter a time machine. Moving a time machine reducing the likelihood that it will make it back to the future though. You roll when you enter a time machine to see if it makes it back to the future. It does on a 1-6, but if you had moved the time machine you get a -1 to your roll.
The turn conclusion phase is where you remove lost counters, stun counters, debris counters and quake counters.
The game ends when either turn 20 ends, all hunters have gone back to the future or all hunters are dead. Players roll for all retrieval devices that were placed on dinosaurs to see if they malfunctioned. If they didn’t, the player uses the appropriate chart to determine how much victory points they achieved. These points can be used to buy equipment for further scenarios. Hunters who were stranded in the past do not receive any victory points for their dinosaurs, but a new time machine will be sent to them with limited equipment for the next scenario at a cost of 25 victory points.
When I decided to try this game, I decided to include both my Dad and friend. When I was 12 years old, I went to a game convention with my Dad and we saw this game being demo’d (Yes, I still remember after 31 years). Anyhow, I knew my Dad would like the game so I wanted to include him. We rolled on the time machine entry table to see where we would start and the game began. I quickly killed 3 small dinosaurs and put retrieval devices on them. My friend killed 2 and my Dad killed a small one, but kept missing every time he shot at a T-Rex. After 8 turns, I should have went into my time machine and returned home with my dinosaurs. I was greedy and decided to stay around longer. On the 9th turn, an earthquake struck and it destroyed two of my dinosaur kills along with my time machine. My hubris stranded my hunter millions of years in the past. My Dad and friend saw what happened to me and decided to get in their time machines and leave before the next earthquake would hit during turn 12. My friend received 30 points for the win and my Dad got 10.
All three of us liked this game and my friend gave it a “B”, my Dad gave it a “B-” and I thought it deserved a “C.” We all thought that the dinosaur random movement phase was very tedious and my Dad recommended a house rule modification. His recommendation is that you roll only once for all the vegetarian dinosaur movement, but all the T-Rex and Tylosaurus roll as normal. I think we will try that out the next time we play.
Buy your own copy here.