I recently had the chance to review Sauria, a pretty freaking cool dinosaur survival board game. An expansion for the game called Claw of Sauria has already been funded on Kickstarter and met quite a few stretch goals.
You can find a video version of this preview on my YouTube Channel!
The publisher was kind enough to send me a prototype of the expansion to check out. Since this is a prototype and the components are not final, this is more of a preview than a review. It is not a sponsored piece, however, so you can expect me to give my opinions on it anyway.
Claw of Sauria expands the base game with new dinosaurs, playable characters, and a reconstructed co-op mode.
Expanding the Game
If you were already a fan of the base game or it sounded interesting to you, Claw of Sauria does expand on everything that made it great by simply adding more to it.
New characters expand your play options, and each one brings a unique playstyle to the game. There are four new characters, but the Captain is only usable in co-op play, so I’ll tackle it later. We have the Wrangler that has her very own pet Raptor that can help her fight. Additionally, wild raptors ignore her, which is a massive benefit in itself.
As long as her pet raptor Ash is alive, she gains an extra yellow die when attacking. Ash can also attack, but it’s risky since Ash has low HP. It’s great for finishing off wounded dinosaurs though.
Such strong benefits come at a cost, her objectives can be pretty tough. Including a really interesting one where you have to capture and carry other raptors to safety.
The Paleo Vet, more than any other character is one that you want to be friends with. She is obviously a boon in co-op, but you may find yourself wanting to ally with her in standard play as well. She is an incredible healer. Wounded dinosaurs also tend to ignore her, so she has an easier time than most getting around the island.
The Mercenary is a game changer though, and not just for the player who picks him, but the whole table. The Mercenary can attack other players, and they can defend themselves when he does. Some of his objectives even require him to kill another player.
He is a great addition because he adds a more antagonistic role to the gameplay and is a clear enemy when someone chooses him. It definitely lends Sauria a vibe that’s closer to Nemesis, but without the secrecy.
You know going in that the Merc isn’t friendly, and it’s a lot of fun to play around him. You might feel bad leaving other characters to be devoured by a T-Rex, but when it comes to the Merc, you might do it on purpose, and it’s a nice new dynamic to play with.
New Dinosaurs enter the fray as well. The new Kaprasuchus is difficult to escape from with three yellow dice. This makes me think the designer is a fan of the Ark video game, if you know, you know. The Sauropelta is a little herbivore that’s peaceful, but dangerous if provoked. The stubby-armed Carno is included, as well as the aggressive tickle turkey Therizonsaurus. The deadliest new additions come in the form of the Carcharontosaurus and slithery Titanboa.
The new dinosaurs follow the same formula as the base game dinosaurs but do add more variety, which is always nice. You won’t see every type of dinosaur in every game and that makes it less predictable and more exciting.
A few new items are added including a beastly rocket launcher. That’s good because you’re going to need that extra firepower when tackling Claw of Sauria’s new Co-op mode.
New Co-op Mode
In Claw of Sauria, the revamped co-op mode introduces a deadly new hybrid dinosaur, the Saurionyx. Players are given a brand new team-based objective card and win by either completing 18 victory points worth of objectives or by killing the Saurionyx. You are not the only one doing the hunting, however, the Saurionyx is hunting you.
The co-op mode is a very large focus of the expansion. All of the new encounter cards are reserved for it, as well as a DCU companion system. Complete with a special character that can only be used in this mode.
Each player gets DCU companions based on the player count. These members of the Dinosaur Containment Unit add extra firepower to your attacks, and can uh…be used as fodder when you are being attacked by those angry carnivores.
The Saurionyx has its own noise cubes, and when a player draws one it appears on their location. If it was already on the board it moves there anyway. This means the powerful hybrid can strike anyone at any time, is hard to track, and remains unpredictable. The creature is obviously inspired by the Indominious Rex, right down to allying with Raptors. It does an amazing job of capturing its fearsome power and serves as a wonderful adversary for the players.
Furthermore, the Saurionyx has two random traits that get flipped as it is reduced to 0 HP, you essentially have to defeat it three times, and new traits modify the creature. It can gain extra movement, attacks, and other abilities. Traits help make each co-op game slightly different.
The whole setup works wonderfully well within Sauria’s framework. You have to work together to defeat the Saurionyx, or simply survive it as you complete the objectives.
The hybrid still follows the same logic as other large Carnviores, and that means you can use the island’s other dinosaurs to your advantage. None of them will be a match for the hybrid, but every bit of damage it takes from them is a step closer to its defeat. Believe me, you will never be happier to see a T-Rex than when the Sauryonyx is chasing you down.
It’s a brilliant execution that once again cements how well Sauria mimics the Jurassic movies.
I criticized the base games’ co-op mode. It felt tacked on and led to quarterbacking due to the low margin of error and tight path to victory. Claw of Sauria cleans those pitfalls up very well. The co-op-specific objective cards are more focused, and you don’t have to complete everything as long as you gain 18 points from any and all sources.
You also have a secondary win condition of simply defeating the hybrid. Finally, you no longer fail if a survivor dies, instead, half of your team has to survive.
All of those changes make for a co-op experience with more decision space and a larger margin of error while still maintaining a tough challenge thanks to the ominous hybrid. You also can’t justify quarter-backing someone’s turn because of how often the Hyrbid changes targets, it can appear at any time against any player.
I personally would have liked to have seen more objective cards. There’s only a couple per player count, and a player count of five only has one. I’d also like to see more than one Hybrid, however, the backside of the hybrid sheet is a placeholder for a community-made hybrid if a certain stretch goal is reached, that stretch goal has already been unlocked, so I’ll get my wish.
I also noticed that the Captain character feels too strong at lower player counts. The fewer players, the better your DCU companions are, the Captain starts with an extra one AND a free weapon card. I was able to completely melt any dinosaur I came across, including the hybrid, once or twice. The captain is less impactful at higher player counts though.
Claw of Sauria is a simple extension of everything that made Sauria great. It expands the base experience with new characters and dinosaurs that add further variability and replay value to a game that already had a dino-sized portion of it.
That said, if you have no interest at all in a co-op mode, over half of the box will be useless to you. You can technically use the hybrid in standard play, but it definitely wasn’t made for that and will lead to very random and unfair deaths. This is clearly a co-op-focused expansion with some extras added in.
The co-op mode is great, however. The new system really captures the feel of characters working together while being hunted by a science gone too-far experiment. The fact that the Saurionyx interacts with the other dinosaurs is brilliant, and the fact that the finished version will have a second hybrid is the icing on the cake.
Claw of Sauria definitely earns my recommendation, and given that the original game was already a Kickstarter success, you can have confidence in Millian Games to deliver a second time.
Check out my review of the Sauria base game and the Claw of Sauria Kickstarter.
The cardholders I use in my reviews are courtesy of InfinitionsTabletop on Etsy