Smash Up Faction Review - Dinosaurs
Updated: Sep 17, 2021
The Dinosaurs faction is one of the original eight factions released in first set (Core Set) on October 8th, 2012.
The Core Set rulebook describes the Dinosaurs as:
If there's one thing dinosaurs know how to do... actually, with a brain the size of a walnut, they don't really know how to do anything. But they are big. And—holy cats!—someone gave them lasers!
That being said, we describe the Dinosaurs as a faction that has high power drops, a little disruption due to minion destruction, and is a straight forward faction to play. Opponents beware as playing King Rex and Augmentation is an easy 11 power drop.
Dinosaurs have the typical 10 minions, 10 actions, and 2 bases breakdown. For additional data around the Dinosaurs breakdown, please visit our faction analysis page.
1x King Rex - power 7 - (no ability)
2x Laseratops - power 4 - Destroy a minion of power 2 or less on this base.
3x Armor Stego - power 3 - Ongoing: Has +2 power during other players’ turns.
4x War Raptor - power 2 - Ongoing: Gains +1 power for each War Raptor on this base (including this one).
2x Augmentation - One minion gains +4 power until the end of your turn.
2x Howl - Each of your minions gains +1 power until the end of your turn.
1x Natural Selection - Choose one of your minions on a base. Destroy a minion there with less power than yours.
1x Rampage - Reduce the breakpoint of a base by the power of one of your minions on that base until the end of the turn.
1x Survival of the Fittest - Destroy the lowest-power minion (you choose in case of a tie) on each base with a higher-power minion.
1x Tooth and Claw... and Guns - Play on a minion. Ongoing: If an another player's ability would affect this minion, destroy this card and the ability does not affect this minion for the rest of the turn. (errata'd by The Bigger Geekier Box)
1x Upgrade - Play on a minion. Ongoing: This minion has +2 power.
1x Wildlife Preserve - Play on a base. Ongoing: Your minions here are not affected by other players’ actions.
Jungle Oasis - breakpoint 12 - VPs: 2 0 0 - (no ability)
Tar Pits - breakpoint 16 - VPs: 4 3 2 - After each time a minion is destroyed here, place it at the bottom of its owner’s deck.
Check out what these cards look like at the bottom of this post!
We classify the Dinosaurs faction with a predominantly aggro playstyle. The Dinosaurs really excel at dropping high minion power on bases to quickly break bases in their turn. Additionally, they have some pretty strong destruction cards that target individual minions. Something to note when playing with or against the Dinosaurs is that they are one of the few factions to have a minion that is more than 5 power, and thus can drop a lot of power quickly if they have it at their disposal. The Dinosaurs' playstyle rating has an average of 2, which is below the typical playstyle average for a faction (~2.5). The aggro playstyle of Dinosaurs comes from most of their cards being high minion power, additional power increases from many of their actions (total power increase of +12 from actions), as well as the two destruction cards. We determined that all the power drops and destruction deserve a 5/5 for aggro.
The Dinosaurs' narrow playstyle and simple card abilities make them an excellent choice for beginners... and a devious choice for veterans. Dinosaurs are easy to learn but difficult to master. The best way to wield the Dinosaurs would be to wield them as you would an enormous double-edged sword from the fantasy series of your choice. Enter combat with your mighty weapon raised, your eyes glowering, and your feet shoulder-width apart. Your goal is to amplify the threat of King Rex while using your partner faction’s minions and your War Raptors to convert that threat into sudden victory.
Play big numbers. Dinosaurs bring the BOOM with cards that trade versatility for explosive power.
Dinosaurs are slow. Unless your partner faction generates extra plays, you will be playing the standard one minion and one action per turn.
Prioritize your turn as opposed to other players turns. Dinosaurs are all about terminal plays (one-shot plays that score bases and only last until end turn).
Opponents can and will target King Rex first every time - whether he's in your deck, hand, or in play.
Be cautious of factions that can move your cards around as you want to be the one controlling the board with your power drops.
Don't destroy something just because you can. Use destruction to swing power right before scoring or to remove opponent's ongoing or triggered abilities.
Laseratops' destruction is not optional; make sure you aren't forced to destroy your own minion.
Treat Armor Stego as a 3-power minion with an ability that reads, "This base is now easier to score for your opponents." Opponents will utilize its 5-power for themselves.
Dinosaurs have four crazy self-contained power drop card combos:
King Wrecks. King Rex (7 power) + Augmentation (4 power) = 11 total power drop.
King Rage. King Rex (7 power) + Rampage (-7 breakpoint) = 14-point power swing.
Raptor Pack. One War Raptor = 3 power, two War Raptors = 8 power, three War Raptors = 15 power, and all four War Raptors = 24 power.
The Owen Grady. Spread your War Raptors across multiple bases and use your paired faction to move them all to a single base to cause a massive power swing. If you pull off The Owen Grady, you deserve to brag about this play.
We recommend holding onto King Rex to encourage hesitancy from your opponents, making their turns sub-optimal, and allowing for you to build up strength with your War Raptors and/or your partner faction.
Give this a try - the next time you pilot Dinosaurs, force yourself to keep King Rex and one Augmentation in your hand for the entire game. The only time you are allowed to play them is if it wins you the game OR stops an opponent from winning the game. You might have to pass the turn. You might have to settle for second place when you could have taken first. What you need to be doing the entire game is selling the idea that you have King Rex – even if you don’t. Depending on your comfort-level, you might casually say something like, “Nice!” or “That’s lucky...” after you draw your opening hand. As your deck gets thinner and thinner, opponents should start getting restless on their turn. They might even start fishing for information, “You’ve got King Rex, don’t ya?” But don’t take the bait.
Dinosaurs have the tools to strike decisively, and your opponents will seek to mitigate the damage you will inevitably inflict. Your opponents’ uncertainty causes them to second-guess themselves, hold back powerful cards, or hesitate to commit power on base. While they are playing sub-optimally (trying to anticipate your big swings), you should be steadily accumulating burst power potential with your War Raptors and punishing their timidity with your destruction cards.
War Raptors are conspicuously central to the Dinosaurs' game plan. Howl is an underwhelming double-feature that generates more value with more minions on the board, which seems odd for a faction that struggles to do that. War Raptors will likely be the greatest benefactor and are worth the effort to maintain. Try and build them up on the highest breakpoint base available and use Tooth and Claw...and Guns (TCG) or Wildlife Preserve to protect them. If you ever hope to achieve a Raptor Pack or The Owen Grady (see above), then it is good to invest in them early and use your destruction actions to keep opponents off the War Raptor's base. Don’t forget that with Wildlife Preserve can remove opponents' actions from your minions. Similarly, Natural Selection gives you the ability to destroy your opponents' king minions, provided you have a minion with enough power at the same base.
Partner faction Effects can drastically modify the above baseline tactics. For example, a partner faction with Play effects is especially beneficial (e.g. Kree, Musketeers, Wizards). You can do things like play King Rex (7 power), Augmentation (4 power), and Rampage (-11 power), allowing for a 22-point power swing in a single turn. If you have two extra actions, you can do the same thing but with an additional Augmentation (4 power), allowing for a 30-point power swing, and that breaks just about any base in the game. For another, if you have access to Recover effects (e.g. Clerics, Time Travelers, Zombies), then it isn't as necessary to hold back King Rex or Augmentation.
Your opponents' experience level matters here too, because inexperienced players aren't paying as much attention to bluffs and are less likely to play around combos like King Wrecks.
If Jungle Oasis is in play -
Know that a lot of players do not play on this base unless they can break it, because they know that the Dinosaurs can easily break this and win the 2 VP.
Try not to place your Armor Stego on this base as it makes it very easy for your opponents to put down seven power and swoop in to score the base and take first place away from you.
This base can be scored by using three War Raptors (totaling 15 power).
Use the King Wrecks or the King Rage techniques mentioned above to break this base for the win in a single turn (if you're sitting at 13 VP).
If Tar Pits is in play -
Laseratops has a home on this base. Use it to send opponents' weenies to the bottom of their decks, then on your next turn use the King Rage combo to break this base with only two minions. Thanks for the 4 VP.
This base is a good option when playing against troublesome 2-drops like First Mate, Jumper, Mild Mannered Citizen, and Tenacious Z. More broadly, this base is meant to counter Recovery factions, because those factions rely on value from their discard pile.
Dinosaurs suffer from their non-existent card draw and non-existent extra plays. Their abilities can easily work against themselves which causes sub-optimal plays - think Armor Stego on your opponent's turn, or Laseratops when your 2-power minions are the only ones on a base. Dinosaurs are mighty, but they NEED a partner faction's help to win games. They also often need the opponent's help to win bases, because all of their play happens on their turn. If you aren't disciplined about your big power plays, Dinosaurs can quickly run out of ammo and fail to close out games.
When to use Dinosaurs:
Okay but when do I use them? Well, Dinosaurs are a great choice when matching up with factions that have a lot of weak minions. Dinosaurs can destroy weaklings well-enough to disrupt Swarm factions like Itty Critters and Robots, and Swarm factions struggle against the Dinosaurs' heavy burst potential. Ironically, they're also great against destruction factions (e.g. Pirates, Sharks, and Vampires) due to their high average minion power and the splash of Secure effects they get from Wildlife Preserve and TCG.
Using our SUD Effects system, we are able to classify all Smash Up cards into different Effect categories. These categories help us determine the Effects that each faction excels in, as well as Effects that they lack in. More details regarding this system can be found on our Effects Definitions page and in our SUD System series of blog posts.
Check out the Dinosaurs' effects breakdown below:
So, what do these effects tell us about Dinosaurs? It tells us that the Dinosaurs have a primary focus of empowering minions and a little bit of destruction. The Dinosaurs have 5 distinct effects throughout all of their cards, which can be broken down into 20 effects for their deck. This gives the Dinosaurs an average of 1 effect per card - earning them the title of least complicated faction. Breaking this down further gives us the following:
Actions: The actions have 10 effects across their 10 actions, giving an average 1:1 effects per card.
Minions: The minions have 10 effects across their 10 minions, giving an average of 1:1 effects per card.
Bases: The bases have 3 effects across their 2 bases, giving an average of 1.5:1 effects per card.
The higher the ratio and count of the effects per card can usually determine the complexity and/or versatility of a faction. Dinosaurs have a extremely low ratio across all of their cards, telling us they are as straightforward as you can get, especially since they have a spread of 5 distinct effects out of the 20 total Effects available for any card to have.
Here is how we broke down the defined SUD Effects for Dinosaurs:
Sooo what works well with Dinosaurs...?
Factions that compensate for the Dinosaurs' lack of card draw, extra plays, and recovery effects, provide much needed tempo and consistency. Below we list some Wombo Combos and additional sample pairings for Dinosaurs, please check out the faction breakdown page to see more insights into this faction.
The term "Wombo Combo" is typically used in the video games world, but we've used it in Smash Up as a descriptor word for extremely potent faction pairings and card combinations.
Pairing with Disco Dancers (giving your opponents the DDD): This pairing allows for even more power drops due to the Disco Dancers' minions' ongoing abilities. Utilizing Disco Dancers will also give Dinosaurs the support they need with additional action plays, card draw, recovery, and extra minion plays. See a few card combo breakdowns below:
Dancing King: This minion allows for insane power drops with Augmentation as he copies the +4 power and applies it to another minion.
Disco Lou: This minion allows a bit of support depending on what you need. Need a huge power swing, use it to play Augmentation + Rampage. Need to reuse an action in the discard pile, then by all means do that instead!
Diva: You guessed it, this minion allows for more power drops, similar to Dancing King, but directly affecting this minion.
Roller: This minion... also allows for more power as it places a +1 counter on itself if it's affected by a standard action.
Celebration: This action can let you play two Augmentations, an Augmentation + Rampage, or whatever other power drop combos you can think of with Dinosaurs. Make sure to have some of the Disco Dancers' minions in play when using this as the power swings are insane.
Disco Inferno: This action helps Dinosaurs with card draw, while also adding a +1 power counter (or multiple +1 power counters depending on which minions are in play).
Get Down Tonight: This action allows more power increases and additional card draw.
I'm So Excited: This action can be played with a War Raptor to move it to a base with another War Raptor to boost their effectiveness. It also allows for the much needed card draw.
I Will Survive: What's better than one King Rex? Two King Rex. This action provides a recovery option for King Rex when he goes to the discard pile. That will make your opponents sweat!
It's Raining Men: This action provides the support of playing an extra minion, which Dinosaurs definitely need.
Last Dance: This action allows for the destruction of a minion you control for a VP, see what's on the board before using this action - will destroying your minion put you in second or worse on a base that's about to score?
Stayin' Alive: This action allows for recovery of a minion in the discard pile if it has the same name as a minion in play. War Raptor is an excellent target for a surprise attack from your discard pile if you have one or more already on the board. Be sure to see what is in play and what you need before choosing a minion as it may be more beneficial to get a Disco Dancer minion for their ability to maximize an Augmentation play.
Turn the Beat Around: This action also allows for power swings, though mostly beneficial for their own minions. Dinosaurs have no phase 3 cards, so this is a welcome addition to their card pool and gives them some flexibility to go over the top of an aggressive opponent.
We Are Family: This action is a great setup action to put on a Dinosaurs' minion to double your power drops in future turns.
Boogie Wonderland: This base helps the Dinosaurs with card draw, one of their biggest weaknesses.
Funky Town: This base is true to the theme of this pairing - more power!
Additional example pairings:
Cyborg Apes - This pairing helps with by securing minions in play (King Rex), minor card draw, and by additional power possibilities. Useful cards include: Cyberevolution, Flying Monkey, Juiced Up, Missing Uplink, Monkey See Monkey Do, and Shielding.
Killer Plants - This pairing helps with additional card draw and getting the War Raptors out early as they are able to search their deck for minions. Useful cards include: Venus Man Trap, Water Lily, Sprout, Blossom, Deep Roots, Overgrowth, Insta-Grow, and both bases.
Mythic Greeks - This pairing helps with card draw, extra minion plays, power gains, extra card play, and recover effects. Useful cards include: Odysseus, Jason, Spartan, Favor of Aphrodite, Favor of Apollo, Favor of Hades, Favor of Hermes, Favor of Poseidon, and Favor of Zeus.
Mythic Horses - This pairing helps with card draw, movement (for your War Raptors), and extra minion play. Useful cards include: Rainbow, Seastar, Adventure Power, Encouragement Power, Friendship Power, Sharing Power, Togetherness Power, and both bases.
Shapeshifters - Similar to the Killer Plants, Shapeshifters help with getting Dinosaurs out early and with deck searching. They also add insane power if King Rex is in play. Useful cards include: Doppelgänger, G.E.L.F., Mimic, Cellular Bonding, Mitosis, Shell Game, Transmogrify, and the Faceless City.
Wizards - This pairing helps with extra action play, card draw, and extra minion play. Useful cards include: Archmage, Chronomage, Enchantress, Neophyte, Mystic Studies, Portal, Scry, Summon, Time Loop, and Winds of Change.