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Subject: A Dog's Life, in our hoard. rss

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(The cover of the game)

A Dog’s Life
is a family friendly game for 2-6 players and for ages 6 and up, on Kickstarter currently (August 2017). The game begins by rolling a die to see who goes first, or for added flavor, we decided whoever has petted a dog most recently. Each player’s main goal consists of burying 3 bones in your designated den. The game starts by randomly choosing a den card to call your own (consider this your dog’s starting position). On a player’s turn, you can move as many spaces or do actions as your dog has action points, which is indicated on your dog card. The turn begins by moving your food down by 1 at the beginning of each turn; get to the bottom, and your pup is too hungry and passes out from exhaustion, and is moved to the entrance of the dog catcher’s facility (here your dog will be fully fed). Sadly, in this event, you drop everything you were carrying in your mouth at the time in the original square your dog fainted. In addition, the player may not move the dog catcher at the end of this turn.

(Watch out! The Dog Catcher is on Patrol!)

Each dog has a specific deck that will reveal the outcome of their interactions within spaces on the board. For example, near the middle of the board there is a space where you can get a newspaper with a number (secret to other players) and deliver that paper to a specific numbered location. When you deliver successfully to a space, you flip a card from the top of your deck and locate the delivery space on the card to see what your reward is for doing so. This also applies to searching garbage cans and begging at restaurants. There are 3 other places on the card that will reveal outcomes in specific scenarios. For example, if you are close enough to fight with another dog (adjacent space, not including inside buildings), you must reveal more paw prints than the other player to win the fight. The dog that loses the fight drops all bones and newspapers in their current space and moves one space away from the fight area. If the player who initiated the fight loses, their turn ends immediately and the next player takes their turn. In the event of a tie, nothing happens and nothing is dropped, but if the player has remaining action points he or she may attempt to attack again. The final 2 spaces on the card refer to the dog catcher. At the end of each turn, the player will roll a die in order to see how many spaces the dog catcher can move around the board, but is only able to move in a forward motion. As the current player, ideally, you would want to move the vehicle away from yourself or towards another player. In the event that the dog catcher stops in a space currently occupied by a dog, it’s too late, the dog is sent to the facility. If the truck stops in a space adjacent to the dog, the dog sees the dog catcher before it sees the dog, and attempts to hide. This is where the space on the card labeled “dog catcher” comes into play. If the image shows the dog running away it is safe and hid successfully, otherwise with an image of the dog catcher’s truck, it is sent to the facility dropping all contents from its mouth in the current square. The final space on the card refers to the facility and whether you escape or not. At the start of your turn and while in the facility and until you leave, you are fully fed and have only 1 piddle token (silver lining). You do not get to take any actions during your turn, but you attempt to escape and refer to the final space on your card labeled “exit shelter.” If the card shows a dog behind bars, you are stuck and skip your turn. The way the shelter is constructed, you are kept in the top of the building upon arrival, when you attempt to escape, you draw one card, with a fail you move down a floor, and on the next turn you get to draw 2 cards to attempt to escape. If your puppy is that unlucky and you fail again, you move to the ground floor and get to leave freely on the following turn. These are the main actions of the game. Of course, you can find bones and food in the garbage or get them as rewards, or from begging at restaurants. You can also piddle on light posts, and this action will cause another dog to end their turn because they ended up sniffing the area when passing through, and were distracted. In turn, a player can piddle to mark their territory on that same space on their next turn if they wish. You play until you have buried 3 bones successfully in your den. You do this by returning to your den with a bone or two in your mouth, and use an action point to bury a single bone. After 3 bones are buried you have won, or lost the game. But, in the end, you will have won just by playing the game. We recommend that if you wish to go longer you could attempt to bury more bones. The game manual also includes variants of the game, including a two player variant where you control a pack of dogs instead of just one.

(Max and his player board)

Our hoard consists of games that are heavier or strategic, not owning any games with a theme of dogs. We were not sure what to expect from this game or if it would pander to our love of strategy and quality components. Upon receiving the game, the size and shape of the game box was a good indicator that we were on the right track. The game comes in a standard square box akin to Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Ticket to Ride, Roll for the Galaxy or the other plethora of great games in that shape and size of box. The foil writing on the box is very attractive as well as the art being beautiful in quality which depicts a bright golden retriever against a black and white background of a city street. Upon finally opening the game, we were greeted with beautiful hand painted miniatures of several dogs; Max the German Shepherd, Bella the Poodle, Charlie the Fox Terrier, Buddy the Labrador, Daisy the Whippet, and Romeo the Boxer. The Kickstarter copy includes Bailey the Golden Retriever, as well as an option to get a total of 25 different dogs in the collector’s edition. We were greeted by a punchboard of tokens when we opened the box also, and the quality of the various tokens are thick and of great quality. Each dog has specific tokens and a deck as well as a player/dog card (made out of thick board similar to the tokens), and we would suggest making bags to hold each character’s contents to make setup a breeze for future plays of the game. The art on the board is also very beautiful and bright. Our expectations for this game were far exceeded. We did not expect such high quality in a game with this theme, and are elated to have been given the opportunity to discover it and play it.

(Game set up)

As moderately heavier gamers, we felt like a few tweaks could make the game more interesting, like having each dog have a special ability, but do note, that each dog’s deck of cards differ slightly. The rules are simple enough to teach young kids and simple enough you won’t have to re-educate yourself every time you play to verify you are playing correctly. The game allows you to use strategy in planning on what actions you are going to attempt, and how many spaces you will move on a given turn. While there is some aspect of luck indicated by your cards, there is a fair amount of simple strategy involved that makes it feel much more than a typical big box store family game, and more like a light strategy game found on the shelves of various game stores or in people’s own collections. The theme alone might not lure people in because of what they may assume, but we feel like any general gamer would find great surprise when they actually feel and see the components and get into the thick of the gameplay. The component for moving the dog catcher’s truck can make for some intense gameplay especially when playing with higher numbers of players. If you are playing strictly 2 players, we would suggest playing with higher goals in burying bones, or using the included variant. The game really shines with the inclusion of the deck of cards which varies and dictates the outcomes of your actions. We find this to be one of the most unique mechanics of the game, and makes the game stand alone as a beautiful game. The game is already beautiful with art alone, but cohesively makes for an experience that can be enjoyed young to old. To some extent, you can have control over how long you want the game to play, which some people can appreciate. We are extremely happy to have this game in the hoard and it has hit the table more times now than some of our previously declared favorite games. The game might not be up the alley of people who play strictly euros, but we think this game will be accessible and enjoyable to just about any gamer otherwise. We also enjoyed some facts that were included in the back of the rulebook, and other designers can take note of extra tidbits like this. While it is inconsequential to the game, the inclusion of small things like that offers value to the game, and makes us appreciate it that much more. It has massive quality and immense beauty in components and art, and this game being a reboot, we very much enjoy this game and recommend it. Especially if you intend to get younger people into board gaming, this is a good starting point, and will make a good gateway, as well as a staple, for new gamers. This one is in our hoard for good. Make sure to check out the kickstarter and get into the game and see what A Dog’s Life is all about!

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