Dino Dig

Collect dinosaur fossils in a race around the world.



Robert DelBusto (rdelbsto@sdcoe.k12.ca.us)

Jerry Niehaus (jniehaus@mail.sandi.net)


| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |








Instructional Objective

Dino Dig is a game designed to teach and reinforce the memorization of seven basic facts about the most common dinosaurs. The game level can be easily adjusted to reinforce some or all of these facts. The seven facts are:

  1. The dinosaur's appearance
  2. The dinosaur's name
  3. The meaning of the name
  4. The Period during which the dinosaur lived
  5. The continent on which the fossil have been found
  6. The dinosaur's length
  7. The dinosaur's diet


In addition to the seven facts about dinosaurs, the game encourages numerous other instructional aspects. Additional Instructional aspects of the game are:

  1. Continent names and positions
  2. Relative distribution of dinosaurs. Players will quickly learn that some dinosaur fossils are easier to find by the relative availability of bones in the game.
  3. Important fossils that were not dinosaurs. Not all of the giant lizards were classified as dinosaurs. Several dinosaur-like animals are included in the game. Non dinosaur fossils are marked appropriately.


Learners & Context of Use

The game is designed for learners, ages 8 and up, who are interested in learning more about dinosaurs. No prior knowledge about dinosaur taxonomy is required since players can acquire the necessary knowledge to answer questions as the game is played. The game can also be used as a review and reinforcement tool in the classroom.



Object of the Game

Race around the world answering dinosaur facts to win bone cards. Then puzzle together full skeletons of dinosaurs for points and to win the game.



Game Materials

  1. One game board
  2. Two Dice
  3. A stack of dinosaur Fact Cards
  4. Six stacks of color coded Bone Cards
  5. Four to Six Dinosaur shaped game tokens




Time Required

The game is for 2 to 6 players and will play for approximately thirty minutes to an hour. Players can determine the length of the game by deciding the winning total point value prior to the game start.




The Rules

1) Game Setup

  1. Place the game board on a flat surface.
  2. Each player chooses one dinosaur token and may place it at any dig sit ( game space with pick ax and shovel) on the board.
  3. Separate the Bone Cards (cards with dinosaur bones) by color, and place each deck face down near the continent of matching color.
  4. Place the Fact Cards in a deck face down in the board square containing a question mark.


2) Start Play

  1. Each player rolls the dice. The player with the highest roll will play first by moving their dinosaur along the colored track the number of spaces from their dice roll. The game pieces may only move clockwise around the board.
  2. If a player lands on any space with a message, they will read the message out loud and complete the instructions. (See special spaces below)
  3. After a player has completed their turn, the player to their left rolls the dice and moves their token the number of spaces indicated.
  4. Play continues in a clockwise direction around the board.


3) Dig Sites, Fact Cards, Bone Cards and Special Spaces


Dig Sites - Each continent has a dinosaur dig site marked with a pick and shovel. A dig site can be entered any time a player passes the space with an enter arrow on it. An exact roll of the dice is not needed to enter a site, nor is a player required to enter a site.

At a dig site the person to a players immediate left pulls a fact card and reads each of the six questions on the card (see fact cards below).

Fact Cards - Each fact cards contain a picture of a dinosaur and six questions with answers related to that dinosaur. Fact cards are read out loud for all players to hear. The reader immediately confirms correct answers or immediately gives the correct answer to incorrect responses for each question. If a player answer a question correctly they may choose a bone card only from the top of the deck containing dinosaur fossils from the continent that they are currently on. See the Game Levels and Ending section of the rules for modifications to winning bone cards. The six questions are asked using the following method:

  1. Dinosaur name - The reader showing only the picture of the dinosaur and asks the player to identify it.
  2. Name Meaning - The reader gives the name of the dinosaur and asks for the meaning.
  3. Period - The reader gives the name of the dinosaur and asks for the period during which the dinosaur lived.
  4. Habitat - The reader gives the name of the dinosaur and asks for the continent on which fossils were found.
  5. Length - The reader gives the name of the dinosaur and asks for the length. An answer anywhere in the range of the correct value is acceptable.
  6. Diet - The reader gives the name of the dinosaur and asks for their diet.


Bone Cards - Bone cards depict part of the fossil remains of a dinosaur. A dinosaur's bones can only be found on a continent or continents where it actually lived. In a few cases, bone cards depict an animal that was not actually a dinosaur, but lived during the same age as the dinosaurs. These cards are clearly marked. (Note: By definition, all dinosaurs were diapsid reptiles with an upright stance which lived during the Paleozoic, Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous period). A player's bone cards must be kept clearly visible to all other players throughout the game.

Some dinosaur bones have been found on numerous continents. It is not necessary that all bone cards be collected from the same continent in order to complete a full dinosaur skeleton.


Special Spaces - If a player lands on any space with a message, they will read the message out loud and complete the instructions. Possible instructions are:
  1. Roll again - The player gets another turn to roll the dice and move along the board.
  2. Move back or forward some number of spaces - The player moves their token back or forward the number of spaces indicated. If there are any instructions on the new space, the player must complete those instruction before game play is passed to the next player.
  3. Steal a bone card from any player - The player may steal a bone card from any other player excepting completed fossil skeletons which cannot be stolen.
  4. Trade a bone card - The player may choose to trade a bone card with any player.
  5. Ask a player a question from a Fact Card - The player pulls a fact card from the top of the deck and reads a question directed toward another player. (See reading a fact card above) If the other player answers the question correctly, they win a bone card.
  6. Answer a question from a Fact Card - A player may choose any other player to read a question to the player. (See reading a fact card above)
  7. Go to a dig site - The player must immediately go to a dig site and answer a fact card. The player remains at the site after play.



4) Game Levels and Game End

Players earn points for each fully complete dinosaur skeleton. The game ends when a player earns a total point sum greater than a level set before starting the game. Suggested levels and point values are given below. Some dinosaurs have been found on many continents and their bones are more easily collected than others. These dinosaurs have less point value than dinosaur skeletons that are more difficult to build. The point breakdown for complete skeletons is:


1 point


2 points


2 points

Tyrannosaurus Rex

3 points


3 points


5 points

All others

4 points

Beginners Level -
  • A player is only expected to answer the first two questions of a fact card.
  • The game is played to a total point value of 5 points.
  • A bone card is won for each correct answer on the fact card.
  • Their are no penalties for incorrect answers.
  • Once play begins, it is estimated that play will last from half an hour to one full hour.


Intermediate Level -

  • A player is expected to answer any question from the fact card.
  • The game is played to a total point value of 5 points.
  • A bone card is won for each correct answer on the fact card.
  • There are no penalties for incorrect answers.
  • Once play begins, it is estimated that play will last from half an hour to one full hour.


Advanced level -

  • A player is expected to answer any question from the fact card.
  • The game is played to a total point value of 10 points or more.
  • A bone card is won for two correct answer on the fact card.
  • Incorrectly answered questions allow other players to challenge the answer and attempt a correct answer for the bone card. A player who challenges an answer and gives the correct response may either choose a bone card from the deck of the continent they are on, or they may steal a bone card from the player giving the incorrect response. The reader is exempt from challenging an answer. An answer may be challenged only twice before the reader declares the question closed and reads the correct answer.
  • Once play begins, it is estimated that play will last from an hour to one and a half hours.


Design Process


1) The Game Board

The game board was made by selecting a world map from the clip art library of the Appleworks program. Similar clip art maps can be found at numerous web sites. The map was resized to fit the game board without attention to real proportions. The map had to be cut into six equal pieces for editing in a paint program. Each continent was colored to a primary color and the bone cards of dinosaurs from that continent are color matched.

Colored squares outside the map are supplied for stacking each of the six decks of bone cards for each continent. This outside area required four more paint files that had to be worked independently. A square with question marks was placed on the game board for stacking fact cards.

A dig site symbol, consisting of a circle with pick and shovel, was added to each continent. The game trail was added, using primary colors again, and messages where added to selected squares. A site entrance arrow was added to the trail at each continent.

The game was beta tested three times, playing at each of the three levels, before a final game board was made. Beta testing of the game indicated that some game messages (see special spaces in the game rules) needed more frequency to keep game play exciting and realistic. For example, since there is a disportionately large number of dinosaur fossils found in North America, it was advantageous to add multiple "Go To N. America" game spaces to the board. It was also found that the two sides of the board which had no continent entrances could become dull. It was best to add more "go to" spaces and "ask question" spaces to these sides.

Initially, each dig sites could be accessed only through three specific game spaces. Beta testing found this to be troublesome since players got too frustrated when they passed a site. this problem was multiplied by the fact that the game initially had only one die. It would take a player a long time to pass around the board before they could revisit a dig site that they needed. In order to fix these problems, two dice were added to the game and the numerous dig site entrances were simplified to one with the players given the choice to enter any site or pass.

Initially, the game was set to end after a player completed a specific number of dinosaur skeletons. This was found to be troublesome since some dinosaurs are easier to build then others. A player which chose the wrong dinosaur would be penalized. The rules were adjusted to add a point value to completed skeletons. Dinosaurs which were easier to build are given less point value. The game ending was then defined as a player collecting a specified number of points.



1) The Fact Cards

We chose to focus on thirteen different dinosaurs or animals that lived during the age of dinosaurs. The choice of animals was based upon general popularity of an animal, availability of the skeleton or scanning (see references below), and importance of the animal to the fossil records. Several animals that were not dinosaurs where included to help people become aware that not all of the giant lizards living during the ages are considered part of the dinosaur kingdom. The fact cards of dinosaur-like animals such as Pterodactyl, and Ichthyosaurus are marked appropriately.

The thirteen dinosaurs that we chose to represent are:

Tyrannosaurus Rex













The cards where made by scanning dinosaur pictures into Photoshop and then adding appropriate background colors and the questions and answers. The background color matches the continent color that a dinosaur comes from but it is reminded that may dinosaurs came from numerous continents. Each of the thirteen dinosaur was represented four times making for a total of 4 * 13 = 52 fact cards. The dimensions of the fact card are different from those of the bone cards for easy sorting. We designed the fact cards to be 3.5 X 2.5 inches. We also designed the fact cards with a different backing then the bone cards.

The fact cards were printed out on card stock using a color printer. To save time, we had them cut professionally at Kinko's Copy Center for a small charge. Kinko's can also laminate the cards if desired.

Beta testing found a few problems with the fact cards that we were unable to change due to cost and time. Several players complained that the dinosaur picture was too small. Give more time and resources, we would print the picture larger on the top side of the card, and put the facts only on the back. We feel that seeing the picture of the next dinosaur to be pulled from the stack would not detract from the game. Some players where bothered by the word habitat to indicate which continent the dinosaur lived on. We could change the question to simply say "Continent?" It was also suggested that a new question could be added to the card asking whether an animal was an actual dinosaur or not.



1) The Bone Cards

The bone cards were the most labor extensive to make after the board itself. The pictures of dinosaur skeletons were scanned into the computer and cleaned up using Photoshop. The skeleton was then split into three parts (four parts for the apatosaurus) with its name, and each part printed on a separate card (2 X 3.5 inches).

The back of these cards are color coordinated to the continents at which they are found. Three copies of each bone card where made for each continent that the animal lived on. Dinosaurs found on multiple continents have separate representations at each continent.

For example, the T-Rex lived in both North America and Asia. There are three complete T-Rex skeletons with a yellow backside for North America, and three T-Rex skeletons with a red backside for Asia, making a total of six Tyrannosaurus skeletons in the game. Dinosaurs found on many continents are easier to find and build just as they would be in real life.

The two diagrams shown here depict the front and back of one bone card. The front side shows the head of the ankylosaurus. The back side of the bone cards depicts our logo on a purple background. The purple backgraound indicates that this dinosaur came from South America. the symbol is surrounded by bones indicating this as a bone card. Fact cards had a similar backside but where different in size and the logo was surrounded by question marks.





Johnson, Jinny. Dinosaur Skeletons . New York. McClana Publishing, 1995

Weiss, Ellen. Facts America: Dinosaurs . New York, 1992



ZoomDinosaur.com at http://www.ZoomDinosaurs.com/subjects/dinosaurs/toc.shtml

The Dinosauria: Truth is Stranger than Fiction at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/dinosaur.html


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Last updated October 23, 2000