Holotype: Mesozoic North America , now just referred to as Holotype is a worker placement, set collection game from Brexwerx games. That feels somewhat familiar but also sprinkles in a little bit of Dinosaur flavour to try and keep you coming back for more. There's been a lot of dinosaur games, most of which are somewhat loosely Jurassic park like, Holotype puts you in the shoes of a palaeontologist and sees you seeking to discover new species of dinosaurs.
At its heart Holotype is a fairly simple worker placement game, you've only two workers at the start of the game. And your actions are place a work or recall workers, but the hierarchy of workers in Holotype means blocked spaces aren't necessarily off limits. Workers can bump workers of the same type or lower, meaning there's almost a reaction type decision making thats no longer where do I want to go. Its more where do I want go to with my field assistant or Palaeontologist. And that bump mechanic means you may not be recalling workers as often as you think!
The crux of the Holotype is in its cards, that is where you'll find dinosaurs and their requirements, with each requiring a number of fossils (cubes) and number of research (cubes), and once collected you'll be able to publish a new specimen,
so really its just a cube collection game? I feel that something was missed here to turn the cubes into shapes of fossils or similar.
There's only 5 locations here and each one feels just as important of the other. At first, I kinda dismissed the musuem, but it'strade mechanism is almost that get of jail card for field cards that fail to provide you with fossils you need. And the ever progressing game tracker, keeps this refreshed and stocked.
Whilst the lab dispenses specimen cards, the university provides you with research cubes and field expeditions provide you with a combination of cards and/or cubes. And when you're ready to publish you'll visit the publisher to tell the globe about your newly discovered specimen.
And here's probably my favourite mechanism, as species are published, the Holotype track advances. At certain points, everyone will get an upgrade not just the person who published a specimen, who might be ahead. It keeps everyone moving and also gives everyone the opportunity to try that new shiny upgrade. I love this, rather than rewarding the player that could be ahead, everyone is getting a little something.
The game ends when either collectively you've published the required number of Holotype specimens or filled in the relevant number of global objectives. At two player, we found the global objectives to be pretty much non-competitive, there were so many to choose from unless we happened to pick the same one to compete for, we were guranteed to probably grab it. Although there is a mechanism here, that I'm not sure I'm a big fan of. You're able to effectively snipe an objective from under another players nose, using specimens in other players collections for a mere 5 research cubes!
And there's a bit about hand management here that we hadn't realised the importance of, at the end of the game you'll deduct points for the research cube cost of cards still in your hand. And in a game that suddenly ends and with no hand limit, that can be all sorts of brutal! Especially as you want to dig for dinosaurs!
Holotype doesn't really do anything massively new, the hierarchy of workers is a neat little addition. But this is effectively a put a worker out, get stuff, pull a worker back, rinse and repeat. And as I said previously, it could be a cube collection game? But with dinosaurs!
Importantly, I feel that dispite the standout white box, there's something graphically here I'm struggling with. The game suggests laying cards of top of one another to just see the symbols, but I want to see the cool dinosaurs, and then there's a question of do you arrange one big long line or do you arrange them by type? But there's so many "types" it all ends up a bit messy. There's also the fact that some of colours of the player pieces don't match the player boards/upgrade tiles, grey/brown is the worst for this.
As you know I rate games on a:
- Buy or play
- Wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ
For me this almost creeps into the buy recommendation, but this is one of those games that I think could offer a light-medium weight alternative to say Wingspan or Stoneage or even Everdell and those games aren't for everyone. It's so straight forward in its concept that, it's a breeze to teach and set up and play. But it shines at higher player counts, like I've found with alot of worker placement games that interaction, struggle and competition for spaces just isn't there at two. Holotype goes along way compared to other games that just throw in blockers or randomised automata, with a specific two player board, but it's never going to set the world alight at two.
A solid worker placement that for me is a play if you like games like Stoneage or Everdell, and if you're in the market for a game of somewhat of the similar ilk then it's probably a buy. For me who is increasingly mindful of game purchases and my growing collection, this is a game I'd happily play again, but doesn't feel like it warrants a space in my ever limited collection.
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Holotype for review. I wasn't paid for this content.