Raptors are animals, that live in packs. Until recently, we thought they were creatures of the past, but now everything is different. No, it is not science, who overcame a gap of tens of millions of ages, but nature itself. On one isolated island, which has not been properly mapped, aerial image found some strange hunched figure. After a lengthy investigation of the video, even the biggest skeptics agreed, that we are dealing with a velociraptor.
And, as in reality, even in the board game called Raptor, scientists could not resist their foolish temptation. Expedition is led by game authors, Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti. Island was explored and published in a box in 2015 under the auspices of Matagot and presented at fair Spiel 2015, all this with illustrations created by Vincent Dutrait.
Smaller box with portrait orientation suggests, that we are dealing with a game of smaller caliber, than Kemet or Korrigans. Its more of a Room 25 game type. Box wears green, that allows it to mask well from toothy monsters. One such roars on the lid and scientists are fleeing in fear. But in their arms, they carry away the thing they want the most – one of the babies for their research.
And it will be task of all, who open this box. From it, players dig out (in addition to the rules) mostly a pile of cardboard components – six large boards with up to nine circular movement spaces. They are supplied by four more L-shaped pieces and one piece with exit space for dinosaur babies. All this together creates a map of the island, where pieces will move – ten scientists in white uniform and a single mom raptor with its five cubs are all done as miniatures.
But there are also fire and sleep tokens and cardboard stones assembled each from two connected pieces. We also have to mention action cards – nine for player in the role of dinosaurs and nine for the scientist. All have printed some numeric value and an icon depicting some distinct activity.
The last sentence gives you a little clue: Raptor is a game purely and only for two players, who will stand up against each other. One will take on the role of prehistoric monsters and the second will try to explore the island and capture them. Frankly, its a robbery in progress. Once the players split these roles, they both take their pieces – miniatures, deck of action cards and one help card. Scientist player has to take all tokens (fire and sleep).
Together, these two opponents have to agree on an environment, the game will take place in. Tiles are reversible and allow choice for jungle or savannah. Boards then creates an oblong plan with a width of six fields and length of the eleven raptor steps. Players deploy completed cardboard rocks on it and then places their miniatures. First dinosaur player (on one of the central board spaces) and then human intruder (four scientists from his group on sideline). Both shuffle their decks and everyone picks up three cards as starting offer.
Each turn, both players choose one of their three cards and places it simultaneously face down in front of him. After both are finished with their choice, they reveal it. Card owners compare played values and whoever played a lower number can immediately proceed with executing effect of his cards (icons). Values of both card are then used only by second player. His activity does not follow icons, but can be arbitrarily divided among five different activities. Number of points for chosen action is limited to difference between pair of played numbers.
In addition to card effects, players have choice of a number of actions, from which the main ones are obviously movements. Whether for a predator or a scientist. Raptor player can also eat a scientist (cool!), waking his sleeping babies or extinguish the fire. Scientists can besides movement put tiny raptors on an adjacent field to sleep and event catch it. But they might also shoot their mother.
The main strength of surprise is for both opponents in card effects, if they succeeded in playing a lower value. These cards offer setting fires, moving more quickly, getting reinforcements, but also to intimidate scientists or appear anywhere on the board in the next turn.
At the end of each round, players draws one card, bringing them back to three options in hand. Once played cards get back into action as soon as player gets through the whole drawing deck and has nothing to draw. At that moment, he shuffles played pile and continues with his drawing.
Both players then take turns in moving their heroes and each has his own two ways to reach for the win. Dinosaur toddlers must escape the board or their mom must eat all scientists. On the contrary, scientists succeed, if they manage to put a large raptor to sleep (five tokens) or to capture three cubs.
Raptor is great asymmetrical game for two players. Those are from beginning to end neck to neck, battling with each other and have no reason to avoid. Game is very confrontational and without attacking the other side, victory is virtually unachievable. And yet the game has no dice, that would decide fights. If an adult raptor finds a scientist on adjacent box, he opens his mouth and game has one scientist less! No chance here!
Still, one side is the aggressor, while the other (animals) is only defending. At the same time, raptors can benefit from their natural environment. This works great in effects of each card, which offers a range of atmospheric activities. On the other hand, scientists can make use of fire for restricting movement of animals or even put them to sleep with their dart shooting gun.
Main element of gameplay is the choice of actions. Players can use card for two completely different activities, but do not have the option to decide it by themselves. Only choosing the right cards from your hand and round to play it can raise your chances. But still, you can only hope for coveted options (effect or action points). But it also means, that many times, final decision depends on luck. Estimating intent of an opponent (being a drawback for some players) is an integral part of the game.
Strength of cards vary according to their values. The higher the number, the better effect can be found on it. This is because it is not easy to achieve succeeding in event with higher numbers. Another player must play even more valuable card and doing an eight is really just a matter of luck.
Individual games are quite similar, but there is some variability at least in deployed obstacles and of course in luck alone. This ensures, that the individual battles will be different every time and gamers will not be able to maintain the same tactics. They must adapt to actions of the other player.
Game is very enjoyable also for its game time, which may not even reach half-hour time mark. Much of it depends on players and their ability to make decisions quickly. Cards usually do most of the decisions for them, so everything is just a choice out of three cards and then being able to put final action to reality. And due to this, one half-hour match rarely is the only one you play that evening.
Raptor works really well as entertainment for two. It’s a thoughtful and rule-simple game, that rewards both opponents with great, themed entertainment. In addition to the luck in comparing cards, there is nothing to hold against it. This is an outstanding achievement, that will entertain you in the space of half an hour, and yet offers plenty of experience, while doing it. Raptor is a game, that we really like playing again and again.
Raptor is easily ranked in second place of our top list for two games, beaten only by epic and invincible Claustrophobia. But even in this small game, you can look forward to a good atmosphere and theme, that will delight every animal protector - people are those, who are going to die here, not the raptors! But it is a battle from beginning to end, larded with suspense and giving pure asymmetrical feel. Each side has a completely different means and objectives. Given all this, Raptor is great fun and we must simply recommend it to every lover of games for two.