Design Challenge 3: Dino Detectives #1

Image By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dino Detectives is a dinosaur themed dexterity game for 2-6 players. This is a first draft rules outline, and the game is a work in progress.

This game is influenced by Rukshuk (2006). Since this is a design exercise, I feel like I’m justified in taking inspiration from any source.


1 large opaque bag – for holding tiles until drawn

Score card – space for dinosaur name and point value.

‘Dino Bone’ tiles – 8-10mm thick with rough outer edges. Dinosaur bone artwork on one side, tile name and score on the reverse.


The museum has received a shipment of dinosaur fossils, but the bones have become jumbled in transit. What strange new species can you discover while constructing displays from the jumbled bones? Will your Dino Detective skills earn you the title of Head Curator?

Setup & Gameplay:

Make space on a large, stable surface. The first player (whoever has most recently visited a museum) takes the bag of Dino Bones, shakes it and draws two tiles without looking. They may keep one to be placed in their display. The other bone goes to the center of the table, in a communal pile. The first player places their kept Dino Bone in the table in front of them, beginning to build their first display. The bag passes left.

The next player draws two tiles from the bag. They may keep one and place the other in the center of the table, or they may place both in the center of the table to take one from the communal pool. The current player places their Dino Bone in their display and passes the bag left.

Placing Dino Bones requires dexterity in the vertical balancing of the pieces. Pieces are stacked vertically (except for the maximum of two leg pieces that may touch the ground) and are placed so that the side containing text (the piece name and point value) are facing the owner, with the bone artwork facing the rest of the group.

Falling display pieces (ie pieces that fall from the display, or base pieces that fall on their side) are returned to the communal pool.

Completed displays can be scored when a display contains 3 or more pieces, including a Skull piece. Pieces that have been scored are returned to the box, or laid flat by the player for later reference if desired.

Game End occurs when there are no longer any tiles to be drawn from the bag. Each player has one more turn to try to complete their current display. Unfinished displays score zero points. After this point, scores are compared and the player with the highest score is named as the new Head Curator of the museum.


Completed displays may be scored after the current player has counted “1-2-3” after placing the final piece, if nothing falls. Scoring is done by counting the value of the Dino Bone tiles in the display. Bone Tiles have a point value ranging from 2-6 points. There are also the following bonuses:

6+ Tiles: +5 points

9+ Tiles: + 10 points

Scores are marked on the communal scorecard for this game. If desired, the player may also record the name of their newly discovered Dinosaur species by reading the piece names from left to right on each level of the display from the top down, and appending ‘saurus’ to the end.

For example: “IKY” + “PARA” + “ANKY” + “TORO” + SAURUS

Designer Notes: I like the idea of confused museum curators struggling to make sense of a jumble of dinosaur bones, all while competing against each other for the top job. I have a feeling that this has some basis in history, given the mis-classification of Dinosaurs in the early days of paleontology. I set myself the goal of designing a dexterity game, and drew inspiration from Ruk Shuk, but this makes the job of prototyping incredibly difficult. I don’t know how I could prototype the Dino Bone tiles with rough, uneven edges to make stacking difficult, but I will include some sketches of my vision in the follow up post for this design.

Featured Image Credit: Header Image By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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