W. Eric Martin
This review first appeared on FunandBoardgames.com.
One element of games that draws people into playing them almost against their will is the toy factor. Mouse Trap is the classic example of a creation that's more toy than game, and its Rube Goldbergian construction doesn't appeal to adults because the game is little more than roll and move, roll and move, roll and move—oh, I just won.
But not all games with a hefty toy factor are as shallow as Mouse Trap. Sure, Walk The Dogs comes packed with 63 plastic dogs in 7 different breeds that your children will likely never tire of playing with, but the game inside the box is just as appealing as the dogs themselves.
In Walk The Dogs, you try to collect as many dogs as possible, but more important than mere quantity, you want to line up your claimed canines so that dogs of the same breed stand together. At game's end, you score 1 point for a single dog, 4 points for two adjacent dogs of the same breed, 9 points for a matching triple, and 16 points for four-of-a-kind. Line up five dogs of the same breed, and you win instantly, earning the right to pelt everyone else with the pups.
To play the game, you first place all 63 dogs in a nose-to-tail line and deal each player two cards. Most of the cards show the front or back half of 1, 2, or 3 dogs; playing one of these cards lets you claim 1, 2, or 3 dogs from the front or back of the line, depending on the card. A few cards depict the front half of one dog and the back half of another; as you might guess from the icons, playing this card gives you the dog at the front of the line and the one at the end. Leash cards let you snag a dog from another player.
When you claim your first dog or three, you line them up in front of you in any order you choose. On later turns, you can add new dogs that you've claimed to either the front or back of your line in any order. Grouping similar breeds scores you more points at game's end, but if someone draws a dog catcher card, you lose the largest group at the front or back of your line. So do you shoot for a big score and instant win, or play it safe and mix up your breeds to foil the dog catcher?
For a slightly more thought-provoking game, you can play with the designers' original rules: Each player starts the game with three cards. On a turn, you either play a card or draw a card, not both. If you have no cards in your hand, you must draw; if you have four cards, then you must play. This simple change to the rules creates a more interesting game because you now have an additional choice to make each turn: Draw a card for the future and risk having a desirable dog snagged by another player, or play a card and reduce your options for the next turn.
Whichever rules you use, Walk The Dogs plays quickly and provides a fun challenge for gamers both young and old—if you can stop playing with the dogs long enough to finish the game, that is.