Dogs Review

Dogs is a game by Marcos Macri, published by Gray Mass Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of managers of their own Animal Rescue Center or ARC. They will be trying to rescue a variety of different breeds of dogs while managing their resources to best utilize them. In the end, the player that can run the best ARC, gaining the most points, will be declared the winner.

To begin, the main board is placed in the middle of the play area. The Action Spaces/Dog Fair board is placed to one side of the main board. The Bonus cards are shuffled together. Two cards are then dealt face up above each of the spaces on the Action Board. The remaining deck of cards are then placed face down near these rows. The Dog Fair cards are shuffled together next. The deck is placed face down next to the Dog Fair board. The top card is then flipped face up beside the deck. All of the different resource tokens are separated into piles and placed within reach of all players. The dog tokens are separated into two piles, 1 for the City dogs and 1 for the Country dogs. Tokens are randomly drawn and placed on the board, 1 per empty space with the City dog tokens on the blue paw prints and Country dog tokens on the green ones. Each player will then pick a color and will receive a player board, truck tile, wooden truck, 3 wooden dog houses and 2 meeples in their chosen color. They will also receive 3 coins, 2 food tokens, 2 medicine tokens and 6 gas tokens. The player will place their player board in front of them. This is also known as their Animal Rescue Center or ARC. The player will then place their 3 coin, 3 doghouses and 2 meeples in the office. The 2 food tokens are placed in the store room. The 2 medicine tokens are placed in the veterinarian. The 6 gas tokens are placed in the garage. The player places their truck tile near their ARC. Their wooden truck is placed on the center space of the board. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over 3 phases. In the first phase, the players will move their wooden trucks from the central staring location, beginning with the first player. Each player will move their truck a number of spaces. These spaces may contain dogs or not. Once the player decides to stop moving, they must then pay 1 gas token for each space they moved through, including the one they stopped on. Moving through the central starting space does not cost any gas tokens. The player will then collect the dog from the space that they stopped on. If the dog is healthy or sick, it is placed on the player’s truck tile. If it’s a reward dog, the player will place the dog on the highest available space at the Dog Fair. They are then awarded the number of coins indicated on the main board beside the spot that the dog was taken from. Once this has been completed, play passes to the next player in turn order, who repeats the same steps. This continues until all players have decided to return to their ARCs. To do this, the player declares that they have finished collecting dogs and must now pay 1 gas token to return their wooden truck back to the central starting location. The first and last player to return to their ARC collects 1 resource of their choice. It should be noted that if a player used all of their gas tokens prior to returning to their ARC, then all of the dogs on their truck tile are returned to the corresponding bag. Their wooden truck is then placed back on the central starting location. It should be noted that a player may also choose not to move on their turn, passing their turn instead. If all players chose not to move, this will trigger the Game End. Once all wooden trucks have returned to the central starting location, each player will then take the dogs from their truck tile and organize them into their kennel stalls. Sick dogs are placed into the Infirmary. Healthy dogs are placed into one of the prebuilt kennels, but only dogs of the same breed may be placed side by side. In the Infirmary, this isn’t necessary. It should be noted that if a player collected more dogs than they have room for, they must be donate any overflow dogs to the player to their left. The player may choose which dogs to donate, either from their truck tile or their ARC. The player that receives the new dogs may then rearrange their own kennels to place them. If they wind up not having room for all the new dogs, just like before a number of dogs are passed to the player to their left. This continues until the last dog has been placed or the last player has passed. If a dog is not placed into a kennel, it is placed on the highest available number on the Dog Fair. One more thing of note, if a player fills a kennel with 4 dogs of the same breed, they immediately receive 1 coin. Players may only receive this bonus one time per breed in their kennel. Once all player have completed the placing of dogs into their ARCs, play moves into the next phase.

In the second phase, players will assign their workers to various building action spaces on the board, starting with the first player. To do this, the player will place one of their meeples onto one of the building spaces. However, only 2 meeples may be on each place on the board. If a player has a Free Entry card though, then they may place their meeple on a space that has already been filled. Once the meeple has been placed, the player will then take one of the available cards from above the action space that they chose. When using the Free Entry card, the player is not allowed to take one of these cards. If the card is a resource, the player immediately gains the resource and the card is placed into the discard pile. Special cards may be played as appropriate or saved for a later time. The player then performs the action of the space that they placed their meeple on. Doing this action is optional however, the player may pass on taking the action if they choose. There are 5 spaces that players may send their workers to; Town Hall, the Warehouse, the Pet Shop, the Veterinary and the Dog Fair. The Town Hall lets the player build an additional stall in their ARC for 2 coins. The Warehouse lets the player exchange up to 2 resources from their ARC for any other 2 resources from the pool. The Pet Shop lets a player buy food and medicine for their ARC. For every coin they spend, they gain 2 tokens in any combination. The Veterinary lets the player spend medicine tokens to cure up to 6 dogs in their infirmary. Each dog cured costs 1 medicine token. At the Dog Fair, the player can either buy, sell or trade a dog. To buy a dog, the player must pay 10 coins minus the number of dogs in the Dog Fair. To sell a dog, the dog must be one of the breeds on the current Dog Fair card. The player places it on the highest available number and then collects 2 coins. To trade a dog, the player may simply swap one of their dogs from their kennel for one of the dogs from the Dog Fair. Once finished, play passes to the next player. This continues until all players have placed all of their workers and completed all of their actions. Once this is completed, play moves into the final phase.

The third phase is the cleanup phase which may be played simultaneously by all players. In this phase players must now pay 1 food for every stall that has at least 1 dog in it. Dogs in the Infirmary do not require the player to pay any food. If a player doesn’t have enough food to feed all of their dogs, then 1 dog from each stall that they are unable to feed becomes sick and must be placed into the Infirmary. If the Infirmary is full, then the dog goes to the Dog Fair. Players must then pay their Assistant 1 coin. If they don’t have any coins to pay them with, then the Assistant goes away. The player must then place one of their meeples to the side of their ARC and cannot use them in the next round. They may rehire them in Phase 3 of the next round for 1 coin. Once players have taken care of these payments, the board is cleaned up. First any remaining cards above the Action spaces are placed in the discard pile. Two new cards are then drawn from the Bonus deck and placed above each space. A new Dog Fair card is then revealed and the old one is discarded. New dog tokens are drawn from their respective bags to replaced any empty spaces created from the last round. If there aren’t enough dog tokens to refill the board with, either from the city or country dogs bag, then the game ends immediately. Once the board has been dealt with, players will now complete their clean up. For this, each player will now collect 1 coin from the bank for their income. They may also buy gas tokens by paying 1 coin for 3 tokens. A player may only have 9 gas tokens at one time. Once this has all been dealt with, the first player token is passed to the next player in turn order and a new round begins.

The game continues until one of 2 things happens. If all of the players choose not to move from the central starting location during Phase 1, then the game ends. The players will finish the remainder of the round, completing Phases 2 and the feeding of dogs and payment of their assistant in Phase 3. The other way the game can end is if there aren’t enough dogs to fill all of the empty spaces on the board during Phase 3. If this happens, players proceed immediately to scoring. Scoring occurs in several ways. Players will score points for the dogs in their stalls, for each additional stall that they build, for each breed of dog in their kennel, for having paid their assistant in the last round and for their collection of resource tokens. They will lose points for each dog in their infirmary. Players add up all of their points and the one with the most points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has some really great looking pieces that will appeal to the dog lover in everyone. First off there is the main game board. This has some really great looking artwork on it. There are images for each of the different breeds of dogs along with some scoring reminders along the bottom of the board. I really like the design, even though the city is a bit too rectangular and perfect for my taste. Still this is a game and not supposed to mimic reality completely. Next there is the Action Spaces/Dog Fair board. This one is really cool looking. I love the artwork on this. The iconography is fairly easy to remember too. On the back side of the board is a great looking logo of the game which I found to be a nice little extra touch. Next there are the 4 different colored player boards or ARCS. Each of these is exactly the same, apart from the difference in color and the name of each one. I have to say that I like the added little personal touch for each ARC having a different name. These boards are quite thick, much like the Action Spaces/Dog Fair board. The same thickness is also found with the truck tiles. These are done in colors that match the different player boards. The game also comes with lots of thick cardboard tokens for coins, food, medicine and gas, as well as roadwork tokens and dog tokens in two varieties; country dog and city dog. Of all of these, I really like the dog tokens the best. There are 7 tokens for each of the 12 different breeds of dogs. Each of these depicts a dog that is easily recognizable. I like the artwork on these a lot. Also included with the game are a whole bunch of wooden pieces. There are meeples, trucks and dog houses in 4 different player colors. There are 2 meeples for each color and 3 dog houses for each color. These are really nicely shaped and easily recognizable for what they are. There’s also a starting player token shaped like a dog that is made of wood as well. This too is a really nice touch. The game includes 2 quality draw bags for placing the country and city dog tokens into. Each of these is made from quality materials, almost like a satin piece of material. I like these a lot. Finally there are all the many types of cards. There are bonus cards and Dog Fair cards. Each of these has some really great looking artwork that is easy to understand. The cards have a good thickness and finish to them and simply look great. Pretty much everything that comes with this game is high quality and looks amazing. I’m really overwhelmed with how cool it all looks. Needless to say, you get a lot of stuff inside this box. Overall I’m thrilled with the game as a whole.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very well designed. There are lots and lots of full color pictures and examples of gameplay throughout the book. The first couple of pages show off all of the great components included with the game and explain each of the different Bonus cards and how they each work. The next pages explain how to setup the game and each player’s ARC. From there the book focuses on explaining each of the phases of gameplay, including some tips and examples along the way. Near the end of the book, there are some advanced rules included as well as some rule changes for 2 player games. The book ends with several thorough examples and a list of all of the dog names as proposed by Kickstarter backers of the game. The back page of the book has a handy scoring reference which is very helpful. I really like how nice this book looks and am very thankful for all of the handy references and examples. I especially like how that each bonus card is highlighted in the section associated with it. For instance, in phase 3 where you are supposed to pay your assistant 1 coin for their hard work, the Assistant card is noted in this section that it can be used instead of paying the coin. Overall I found the rulebook to be very thorough and well designed. I really like the extra page of dog names and finding out where each one was sent in from. Needless to say, whoever the backer from Branchton, Ontario Canada was that named one of the saint bernard Nelson, you are my favorite person right now.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Imagine what it would be like to run your own kennel. You’d have to keep up with feeding and caring for each dog. You’d need to pay your assistant for helping out with all the menial tasks. You might even have to go and pick up some dogs from around the city. Now imagine how those types of things might translate into a board game and that’s Dogs in a nutshell. This is a great game that I really enjoy. You start off by moving around the board and collecting certain types of dogs to fill your kennel up with. Of course you want to make sure that if you snag any sick ones, that you have the meds to take care of them. Once your truck is full of furry goodness, it’s time to get ’em all snug in their own little pen. Once the doggies are all down for the night, it’s up to you and your perky assistant to scamper about town for all the necessities needed to keep your pups happy and healthy. Of course you can always take a little time to upgrade the old kennel as well. Finally it’s time to feed your doggos, pay your assistant and clean everything up for another day of canine craziness. As you can see, the theme of the game really comes through. You really get the feel that you’re running your own kennel. On top of that, the game is as cute as it can be. Each piece ties in quite well with the overall game and looks good too. In a lot of ways this game makes me thing of another dog themed game, A Dog’s Life. With A Dog’s Life, you discover what it’s like to be a dog running around the city. Well with this one, the shoe is on the other foot and you’re trying to catch the dogs and run the kennel. For me, if you took A Dog’s Life and combined it with a worker placement game, this game might be what you end up with. I quite enjoy having the freedom to move around wherever I want to pick up whichever types of dogs I want. I like the worker placement aspect of the game and how not only do you get to take an action, but you also get to choose a card that can help you out later in the game as well. About the only thing that I wasn’t just completely thrilled with, is the scoring. I do like that there are a lot of different ways to score points, but the stall scoring made me think of Zooloretto. While Zooloretto is a game that I really love, I’m more interested in the big picture of what animals, or in this game’s case which dogs, am I putting into my spaces. I’m not crazy about worrying about trying to corner the market on a certain type of dog, when I’d much prefer just placing as many different types of dogs and possible into my kennels. Seems a bit elitist if you’re just grabbing all of a certain type of dog. Well excuse me if Fifi doesn’t like anything but French Poodles, maybe she should lighten up and try a Border Collie instead. In any case, that’s only a minor complaint of mine and doesn’t really affect the overall fun of the game. Needless to say, fans of games like A Dog’s Life or Zooloretto should really enjoy this one too. Players that love worker placement games with a bit of heart too them, should also like this one. Overall this is a game that my daughter and I really enjoy. It’s a great game to mix up for game night along side A Dog’s Life. This is one that I would recommend.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Dogs is a family friendly game about owning and operating a dog shelter. It takes an average amount of time to play. Most game sessions last around an hour to an hour and a half. The components are all really great quality. The artwork looks great and is quite fun. All the cardboard is really thick and the wooden pieces are super sturdy. Thematically everything ties in really well together. The rulebook is well designed and is very easy to find everything that you’re looking for. I like the nice little added touch of all the Kickstarter backers that got to name a dog included in the back of the book. The game itself is a lot of fun. There are plenty of decisions to make and lots of ways to score points. The game is family friendly and easy to pick up and play. The iconography doesn’t take too much to understand and remember. This is one that’s easy to teach and fun to learn. Even younger players shouldn’t have a lot of problems with this one. This one makes me think of A Dog’s Life and Zooloretto. In fact, fans of those games should really enjoy this one. This is a game that I would recommend. My daughter and I both enjoy this one and love to add it to game night along with A Dog’s Life. This is one game that doesn’t need a Pedigree to be a prize winning show dog. It’s bow wow wonderful.
9 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Gray Mass Games at their site.

http://graymassgames.com/

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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