Later this month, we're going to be releasing Dinosaur Table Battles. I can't even begin to count how many emails I've gotten from people these last couple years asking when the game will be released. I've even gotten a number of physical letters demanding its immediate release in the mail via our PO Box. Oddly, the return address on the envelopes matched our home address, and the letters themselves seemed to be in Mary's handwriting, but they were all signed "This definitely isn't Mary, but I think you should give her a foot rub right away", so it will just have to remain a mystery for the ages.
The thing about Dinosaur Table Battles is that it has dinosaurs in it. It should not surprise you given its ubiquity in pop culture that one of those dinosaurs is the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex. I mean, there was no way that big galoot wasn't going to make the cut. It also serves as a good lens through which to view the game and explain some of its nuances.
In the parlance of the game, it's what's called a Large Dino, which essentially means that it has three action cards instead of two: two of the three accept dice and each have one attack and one reaction, while the third card has a "passive ability" that tweaks the rules.
Moving from tip to tail, the first card has the rex's most powerful attack: "1 hit plus 1 hit per die. 1 self." For those that haven't played the original Table Battles, this means the rex will do a hit for every die on the card (plus an extra hit), while suffering one itself. Two dice? Three hits, one self. Most attacks in both iterations of Table Battles are "1 hit per die. 1 self", so this is a pretty strong attack! But it's a slow build. Notice the brackets around its die numbers (5 and 6) - this means it can only accept one die each turn. To really make that count, you're gonna need time to build it up.
The reaction on this card is an Absorb: when another friendly Dino is the target of an attack, the rex takes the hits instead, only it reduces it to a single hit ("Suffers 1 hit only"). Of course if you use the Absorb, it expends all those dice you're trying to build up. And the standard TB rule applies: if you can react to an Attack, you must react, and you sacrifice your own Attack Phase when doing so. Of course if you have multiple Reactions available, you choose which to utilize. So if my opponent has the rex and is building up a pile of dice on that card, I definitely want to force them to Absorb to prevent the rex from using that devastating Attack.
I have much less incentive to try and trigger the reaction on the second card. That card accepts multiple dice (threes or fours) per turn. It's a standard "1 hit per die, 1 self" attack, but the Counter is a nasty piece of work, doing 1 hit per die. If the rex has three dice on this card, it's gonna do three hits when it attacks. If the Counter is triggered instead it's also gonna do three hits. That's on top of any "self" hits my dino suffers - so probably I'm looking at suffering four hits.
So, you might assume I only want to actually attack the rex when it doesn't have dice on that second card to counter with. But that brings us to the third card, and the rex's passive ability. Dinos that attack the rex suffer one extra hit if there is no reaction. That might not be as bad as the Counter, but it's not great. Suffering two hits instead of one whenever I attack the rex means I'm going to go through my pool of Hit Tokens twice as quick.
And there's a chance my opponent won't lose any Hit Tokens at all. That big "3" on all the rex's cards is its Breaking Point. The short version is, if a defending Dino suffers at least that many Hits, its owner has a choice. They can resolve them normally by removing Hit Tokens from their common pool, or they can flip one of that Dino's cards instead, removing the card from play. Flip the passive ability card, and the passive ability is gone. Flip one of the cards with the Attacks and Reactions, then it loses its ability to use those. And that's nothing to sneeze at, but at the same time, if I'm hemorrhaging my Hit Tokens to make it happen, I'm getting the worse end of the deal.
On top of all this, the player that drafts the rex gets two additional Hit Tokens at the start of the game just because they've got the most iconic dinosaur of all time on their team. All-in-all, this makes the tyrannosaurus a powerhouse. Well, maybe. Because that great counter, that great passive ability? They only work for you if I attack the rex. If I just keep attacking the other dinos on that side, I don't have to tangle with that. Chances are pretty good I'm gonna keep forcing that Absorb to disrupt that big slow build attack.
More important than what any single dino has going on is how that dino works with the others on that side. If I want to push my opponent into my t-rex's jaws, I might want to draft the Spinosaurus, who can only be attacked when there are no other dinos on that side. Pairing Rex with Spinny makes the former a lot more fearsome - forces my opponent to take it on directly, and suffer for it. Unless my opponent has the Therizinosaurus, who ignores target-restricting passive abilities. So if my opponent drafts that one, my Spinosaurus is suddenly vulnerable, and my rex a lot less fierce - the synergy I need isn't there. Unfortunately all three of these are large dinos - each with three cards - and with an eight card maximum I can't just take all three.
Of course, maybe when it's time to draft our combatants the Spinosaurus and Therizinosaurus never come up. So I need to find other ways to get my opponent to take the bait and attack my rex. In that case, I definitely don't want to draft Deinocheirus. Deinocheirus is essentially the Dan Hibiki of Dinosaur Table Battles: a hilariously inept punching bag. They have no attacks, only reactions. Their passive ability? While that ability card is in play, they must be the target of all attacks, and they always suffer one extra hit! So, Deinocheirus is a terrible partner for the Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Really, a terrible partner for most teams, but like Dan, if you can figure out how to use them, they can be subtly effective, and will give you bragging rights.)
But it's not as simple as that. It's not just mixing and matching these passive abilities. Different Dinos accept different die results, and the worst thing you can do is draft three or four Dinos who all accept only fives and sixes, or only threes and fours, or only doubles. Different Dinos have different reactions, and you want a diversity there as well. All Absorbs? You're never really hitting back. All Counters? Counters only work if the reacting Dino is the target, so I'm gonna go after one that doesn't have the reaction ready.
With fifteen dinosaurs drafted into teams of two to four, there are 900,000+ different matches possible in Dinosaur Table Battles. Not all of these matches are going to necessarily be "balanced"; that's up to the players, how well they draft, and how well they play. A good player will need to identify and draft Dinos that work well together and support each other. They'll also need to play to the strengths of their team, while compensating for weaknesses. And of course be wary of the other side's strengths, and exploit their weaknesses. So, without the right support, and without providing the right support itself, our friend the Tyrannosaurus Rex isn't going to have nearly as much staying power.