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Dino Dunk

Designer: Cody Stevens

Artist: Moriana Moreno

Publisher: Twin City Games

Year Published: 2018

No. of Players: 2-4

Ages: 9+

Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Main Mechanic/Theme: Dexterity mechanic and dinosaur theme

 Dino Dunk does a wonderful job of simulating a game of basketball on the table.

 Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

 Overview:

Growing up, I thought I was an extreme baller. I could execute some crazy dunks, sink three pointers from downtown, and get away with shoving my opponent to the floor without a foul being called. True, I was an all-star at NBA Jam on the Sega Genesis, but when I tried to take my skills to the actual, physical court, I got pwnd like the n00b I was. While I did get better as I grew older, I still wasn’t good enough to make my high school team (which is one reason I started playing rugby).

Fortunately, we have games we can play that help us live out our dreams of being an NBA all-star without actually having to be skilled in anything but pressing buttons. Simulating basketball on the tabletop, however, was something that didn’t really exist. At least, not that I knew of. When I attended Origins Game Fair in 2019, I came across a game called Dino Dunk by Twin City Games. It featured dinosaurs playing basketball, trying to sink the ball in their respective volcanoes. 

I was immediately drawn to it like sailers of old being lured by a siren’s call.

The general concept is dexterity mixed with unique character abilities. Not much more to it than that. And yet, it provides solid gameplay for all ages.

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Gameplay and Mechanics:

The game really does feel like an actual basketball game once you get going. Your dinosaurs may take one of four actions, and not all dinosaurs can take all the actions. Each dinosaur can only be activate once on your turn, so you’ll need to set up your plays accordingly. The actions are what you would expect:

Move

Moving is done by flicking your dino disc. Whether you’re on offense or defense, ball carrier or not, movement is the same. When moving with the ball, simply flick the dinosaur who has it, and then place the ball next to it once it is done moving. After moving is a good time to place the ball so that it is more difficult for the other team to steal, or perhaps to setup a shot on your next turn.

Be careful, though, because if you hit the ball carrier—whether you’re on defense or offense—it is considered a foul, and the fouling dino is removed from play until the end of your next turn. If the ball carrier is within the three-point arc, then the fouled player attempts a free throw. 

To try and steal the ball, you can flick your dinosaur into the ball. Doing so will count as a turnover, and you’re on offense! This can be tricky, however, as the ball is usually placed next to the ball carrier in such a way that it is blocked from easy access. This is where finesse and trick shots come into play. Remember, if you hit the dinosaur with the ball, it’s a foul, so you have to be very careful. It is alway a good feeling when you squeeze through the gap and just barely glance the ball on your way by. Yes, I have done that a few times, but the number of times I’ve fouled in the attempt of stealing is far higher than my actual success rate. 

There are some other rules involving movement, such as moving out of bounds and where you can or can’t land (e.g. your dinosaur disc may not overlap the volcano opening), but I’ll let you see the rule book for those, if you’re interested in the minutia. 

Some dinosaurs, such as the Velociraptor, have movement abilities that make them even more dangerous on the court. Knowing your dinosaurs’ abilities will come in handy on both sides of the court.

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Pass

Passing the ball entails flicking the “ball” (which is actually shown as an egg) disc. If the pass connects with your teammate, the pass is successful. If it hits another dinosaur, well, then it’s a turnover. So make sure your lane is open! If the pass doesn’t connect, then it’s a loose ball. 

Some dinosaurs have abilities to help them pass with greater accuracy, or even use a free pass action when receiving the ball. 

Shoot

Shooting thee ball is what basketball is all about. Score points by flicking the ball and having it overlap the center of the volcano. A free throw is worth one point, a shot close up is worth two, and any shot outside the three-point arc (or, the base of the volcano) is worth three points. You can also add the optional “layup” rules, where instead of flicking the ball, you flick the dinosaur and try and overlap it instead. The layup rules make it easier to shoot and score, and while fun, I do prefer the shooting game.

The small dinosaurs can’t shoot, and neither can the large ones (their arms are far too short). So, if you want to make a shot, it’s gotta be with one of your medium dinos. And, again, some dinosaurs have abilities that help with shooting.

Dunk

You only have one dinosaur on your team that can dunk, and that’s the large T-rex or Spinosaurus. To dunk, place the ball on your large dinosaur (at the front and toward the basket, so to speak), and flick your dinosaur. If the dinosaur disc ends its movement and is overlapping the “basket,” and the ball is still on the disc, then it’s a successful dunk and you score two points. You can try and dunk from anywhere, but the ball has got to stay on the disc, so dunking from half court probably won’t work.

With this combination of actions, you can get a series of plays going that will not only impress your opponent, but will really get you in the feel of the game. The combination of actions makes for some robust plays that can end with some real stand-up-and-cheer moments.

Other Aspects of the Game

While the main part of the game involves flicking discs, there are a few other things that come into play. One of these rules is the shot clock. Yes, even dinosaurs need to shoot the ball! At the end of each offensive player’s turn, their team’s shot clock marker moves up by one. After five, it’s a turnover, so use it or lose it! There are also rules about how to use the water (for re-entry after fouling and for the Mauisaurus), but we won’t discuss those here (again, see the rule book).

The gameplay gives a solid feel of actually playing basketball. The ball movement can flow seamlessly (or I can botch a pass from a few inches away, but we won’t talk about that…), the shots are setup and executed with perfection, and the back-and-forth nature of the game is certainly felt. I must say that I was quite impressed at how well the basketball feeling comes out while playing. 

As for the mechanics, it’s a dexterity game through and through. Flick, flick, flick, flick flick. And more flicking. Personally, I find these games very enjoyable, and for a basketball theme, the mechanics fit the bill. While there may be a rough patch here or there when it comes to integrating basketball to the tabletop, the mechanics work really well.

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Theme and Artwork

Ah, the art. I think it's wonderful. The dinosaurs look like they’re ready to play some ball, and the mat graphics themselves are very nice. I have nothing but good things to say about the art in this game. It fits the theme of dinosaurs and basketball well.

The game mat is nice as well. Double-sided and full artwork. It rolls up nicely, and even comes with a solid cardboard tube to roll it around, which was super thoughtful. It all packs away nicely and everything is just dandy.

In all, the art plays well with the theme, which certainly adds life to the game. My only complaint is that there isn't more of this art to stare at.

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What Worked:

First of all, I love dinosaurs, and the theme was integrated very well with the mechanics. The gameplay is smooth and has a back-and-forth feel, much like a real game of basketball. The art helped me visualize the game as it progressed, and the double-sided mat is a big plus.

Another thing is the ability to play with younger kids. Sure, you can't really use unique character powers (at least, not with my kids, since reading is still an issue), but the rules can be easily adapted to younger audiences.

Final Thoughts:

Dino Dunk is the matchup you’ve always wanted to see. Dinosaurs meet basketball meets dexterity. It’s fast, fun, and, yes, it does require a bit of skill. But don’t let the flicking skills scare you away. Even if you’re as good as my five-year-old (bless his heart), you can still have a lot of fun with it. And, the more you practice (get your head in the game!), the better you’ll get. 

There were a few issues in the rule book, namely some rules were not directly addressed, or if they were, it was somewhat confusing. More dinosaurs would also be awesome, but we'll just have to pester Twin City Games for an expansion.

Similar games include Zoo Ball, in that it's a sport, you block with your discs, and try to score on the other side of the mat. I'd say Dino Dunk does it better than Zoo Ball, but both are different enough that it's like comparing velociraptors and pteradons. 

For fans of basketball, dinosaurs, and/or dexterity, this game has it all. I am very happy with Dino Dunk, and the on-the-fly strategy makes it an engaging game that’s about more than just flicking discs. I have dexterity-themed game nights on occasion, and this will be my new favorite to show off. If you like dexterity games, Dino Dunk does not disappoint.

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Benjamin Kocher

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He’s a certified copyeditor and a freelance writer and editor, covering everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Benjamin_Kocher. You can also read his board game inspired fiction at BoardGameImmersion.com