Dinosaur themed games seem to be an easy way to bring kids to the game table. It’s made even better when the game has actual educational value. Fossil Canyon is a solid set collecting game that was created in collaboration with the Field Museum in Chicago. So let’s get digging and see what Fossil Canyon brings to the table.
Can You Dig It?
The goal of Fossil Canyon is to attract the most visitors to your museum as you collect a variety of dinosaur fossils. Completing larger dinosaurs will bring more visitors but it can be quicker to complete a smaller dinosaurs skeleton. Each of these oversized cards include an illustration of the dinosaur, how many fossil pieces it needs to be completed and lots of information about the creature.
Up to 6 players start with randomly drawn fossil cards based on the player count. Each player can hide up to 3 cards facedown while the other cards have to remain face up being visible your opponents. This partially secret information about your collection is one of the things I really enjoy about Fossil Canyon.
Each turn starts with a player “digging” into the pile of dinosaur cards. If there are more cards in the dig pile, you can pull a second card on your turn. If you pull an action card, follow the instructions on the card. 90% of the time you’ll pull a dinosaur card to add to your collection.
After collecting from the dig site, you can make a trade with another player which is optional. You can trade 1 for 1 for a face up card or take a chance on a facedown card. You can make another trade in the same turn but it will cost you 2 cards for 1. Sometimes it’s totally worth it.
If you or the person you traded with completes a dinosaur you can now install this skeleton into your museum. Ultimately this is how you score points and win the game. You’ll get a bonus dig action if you add a completed skeleton to your museum.
Fossil Canyon ends when all cards have been claimed and the end game round takes place. The player with the highest visitor count to their museum wins the game.
The Bone Collector
Polymath Play did an excellent job laying out these oversized dino cards. Each dinosaur is color coded and easy to distinguish from one another. The pie chart in the top left of each card clearly shows how many parts of the dinosaur need to be collected. I love the skeleton sections and how the particular segment is lit up. Anyone with interest in dinosaurs will love the stats included at the bottom of each card.
Fossil Canyon goes even further with including the science behind fossils, information about the different ages and fossils that can be found in North America in particular. Polymath did an excellent job incorporating education without diluting the mechanics or gameplay of Fossil Canyon. It’s refreshing when the integration of real world science flows with the gameplay.
Let’s Go To the Museum
One of my favorite parts of Fossil Canyon has to be how score is kept in the game. Each player is given a museum puzzle piece in their player color. As players install skeletons into their museum, they add a puzzle piece to their row of the museum scoring track. The size of the puzzle piece that’s added correlates with the number of visitors that the particular skeleton brings in.
This puzzle scoring track is such a great way to handle player scores. It’s so easy to look over and see where their museum is compared to their opponents. This makes the scoring feel more exciting and creative than moving a wooden token along a cardboard track. It also allows for the nuance of one dinosaur bringing in slightly more visitors than another dinosaur.
Fossil Canyon also includes a couple rule variations along with two simple family games you can play with the cards in the game.
We’ve really enjoyed our time with Fossil Canyon. If you’re looking for a game that can reinforce science lessons in your home, Fossil Canyon is worth digging into.
You can help fund Fossil Canyon during their Kickstarter campaign that begins on June 2, 2021.
A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family.