Jonathan Gilmour is a Board Game Designer from NW Ohio. His credits include: Co-designer of Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, Dinosaur Island, and Wasteland Express Delivery Service. His greatest weaknesses are writing Bios, and the color green. He loves long walks on the beach and play testing games. Sometimes at the same time. His favorite color is Orange, so please let him have that as a player color. His favorite games are Cosmic Encounter, Nations, and Hanabi. His least favorite game is “The What Game Should We Play” game. He and his wife have four children, with the goal of having a built in game group any time they want it.
The following interview is about Dinosaur Island, a board game he co-designed with Brian Lewis.
Jason (GameGobble): In Dinosaur Island you’re managing a dinosaur-themed park, trying to attract visitors through the dinosaurs you clone and the attractions you develop. Many people have drawn comparisons to the Jurassic Park story. Take us through the genesis of Dinosaur Island’s theme.
Jonathan: Quite honestly it all started on a phone call between Brian and myself. We had been discussing how we wanted to work on something together, and were going over our various projects that we had. None of them were super resonating with the other, and Brian said “I saw a sign in a shop window today that said ‘Dinosaur Island’,” and I said “That’s a game I want to play.” So from there, we started down the path of figuring out what we wanted the game to be, and where we wanted to wander away from the restrictions of being an actual JP game.
Jason: Dinosaur Island has quite a bit of variability built in. The chosen objective cards affects the length of the game, while plot twist cards impacts the rules and/or setup. What are some of your favorite design decisions that make the game so replayable?
Jonathan: I love variability in my games, and I really only try to design games I would want to play 100 times. So from the start, we wanted to think of ways to increase the replayability of the game. I think my favorite part of Dinosaur Island is the Plot Twists, which went through a lot of revisions. I really like the way they change the game, and can give it a completely different feeling each time.
Jason: Some people describe your game as a light to mid-weight Euro. Do you think that description is accurate? What kind of gamer would you say Dinosaur Island is ideal for?
Jonathan: I do think it’s accurate, because it’s what we were aiming for! They are some of my favorite types of games to play as well! Dinosaur Island is great for groups who want a game that is easily approachable and learnable, but with a decent amount of depth. Also, people who love dinosaurs and puns.
Jason: You co-designed Dinosaur Island with Brian Lewis. Share a story of how you combined your individual ideas to make the game better.
Jonathan: Brian was awesome to work with, and we have a bunch more game ideas in the works! One of the things we do is if one of us has an idea, and the other person isn’t 100% on board, we say “I don’t love it” which is kind of our code for “Let’s table the idea and come back to it later.” It’s good because it’s become a bit of a joke, but also it makes it really easy for us to say no to something and come back to it later. It has also caused us to come up with more creative solutions when we both didn’t love multiple solutions in a row.
Jason: What is one thing you want gamers to know about Dinosaur Island?
Jonathan: I really want people to try the game out before they judge it. We spent a lot of time trying to make the best game we possibly could, and I am very proud of what we came up with. We spent a lot of time eliminating unnecessary complications while adding depth and strategy to the game, and we both hope that it shows.