Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de

Dog Lover


David Short

Alderac Entertainment Group

No. of Players:



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

I always wanted to have a dog. When I was a kid, there was a dog in our family. I thought it was really good. You could pet it and play with it, and my parents also took it for walks in the rain. Pretty good distribution of tasks, actually. I always thought that I would have a dog when I grew up and had a family myself. Very nice idea! At least until I found out that the division of tasks would change to my disadvantage! There's a lot to consider when owning a dog, and I never thought about that when I was a kid. Fortunately, David Short has developed the game Dog Lover, published by ALDERAC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP for this purpose. In this game, you can do all the great things with dogs, and you don't have to worry about the dumb things like lugging around the poop bag on your walk until you find a trash to dispose it. Alright, walking and feeding is not really a cool task for us boardgame players, but at least it rarely rains at the game table.

[Dog Lover]

Click on image to enlarge!

What's really inside the card game? The Dog Lover game is about taking care of dogs by feeding them, taking them out for walks, giving them favourite things and teaching them tricks. Besides, you can assign different characteristics to the dogs that will make them even more lovable, funny or interesting. For well taken care of, interesting dogs and a great collection of favourite things, there are of course victory points at the end of the game. The game consists of a large stack of cards, a small wooden dog and a few wooden cubes. In this stack of cards there are large, medium and small dogs, dog toys, different types of food, walking cards, trait cards, etc. After the cards are thoroughly shuffled, they are laid out in a three-by-three card grid. At the beginning, each player is given a first dog to take care of and a standard trick that the dog can do. In addition, three cards are laid out from a deck of tricks, as well as three dogs that reside in a Rescue Shelter. Both types of cards can be acquired during the course of the game. The gameplay is fairly simple. The player whose turn it is, based on one of his Dog Tricks, may take three cards from the grid that matches the pattern of the trick and immediately use them or put them in his hand. Once he has performed all possible actions, the grid is refilled, the guard dog is placed on the grid in the position indicated on the Dog Trick, and it is the next player's turn.

In the standard trick, only the three cards in a row or column can be taken. The tricks that can be obtained during the game have completely different patterns. This is advantageous, because the guard dog watches the last row taken, and these cards may not be taken by the next player. Unless a player has a Dog Trick with a matching pattern, he can still get to one of the blocked cards. After all, the guard dog can only watch two of the three cards in the row or column where it is placed. Sounds to be complicated, but within one turn it will be understood by every player.

[Dog Lover]

Click on image to enlarge!

What's more difficult is to think about what to do with all the cards that are lying on the table. First of all, it is important that the dogs are always filled up. Only when a dog is fully fed with the food indicated on its card, the player will be rewarded with victory points in the final scoring. Scraps, Dry Bits and Canned that come in form of cards during the walks can be immediately exchanged for the corresponding wooden cubes and will be distributed among the dogs. But a walk is also valuable, as it can be assigned to a dog and earns two victory points at the end of the game. Not bad! It's the same with a training session, which still earns one victory point. In addition, these cards can also be used to acquire new dog tricks, which cost different amounts of training points depending on the trick, and will give the player more flexibility in choosing the cards.

Furthermore, a lot of nice things can be collected that will result in more victory points at the end of the game. Not forgetting is a decent collection of bones, which earns points per dog card owned at the end of the game. With a single dog you don't get very far in terms of points in Dog Lover. So you also need new dogs if you want to increase your options for victory points. Of course, there are a few dogs in the deck. However, it is also worth taking a look at the rescue shelter. For two adoption cards, you can adopt a dog from the shelter. For some of the rescued dogs, feeding them is enough to earn victory points, while others can generate extra points if you assign them a doghouse or a Frisbee. The possibilities are endless and the ideas fit the dog theme pferfectly!

[Dog Lover]

Click on image to enlarge!

The last thing I want to talk about is another type of cards that you can assign to the dogs depending on their size. These cards add a feature to the respective dog that changes the way you can assign cards to the dog and the amount of victory points you receive for that. For example, you can assign the Food Thief trait to a medium-sized dog. As a result, you can tuck unused food cards to the dog, which are then worth three victory points each. This is a great advantage, as unused food is otherwise not worth a single point. A large dog can thus be made a Tour Guide to have an unlimited number of Walks tucked to it, each of which is worth three victory points. In this way, you can generate much more points with the Walk cards than with a normal dog, which after all can only take one Walk card. I particularly like the Dirt Monster trait, that makes it possible to tuck an unlimited number of bones to a dog that it seems to dig up and look accordingly. The game end is triggered when The Game Ending card is drawn, which is previously shuffled among the last cards. All players can still finish the current round, but then all points are added up. The result can sometimes come up as a surprise, because it's hard to guess who is leading during the game.

In my opinion, Dog Lover is a pleasant way to deal with dogs: In the dry, without unpleasant smells and all the dirt. I really liked it! Of course, it doesn't replace a real dog, but I enjoyed the fancy implementation of the theme. It's a game that is quickly explained with simple, clear rules. During the game, you gradually realize the complex relationships and options that are offered to the player by the combination of the game elements. You often have to think hard how to combine the cards! Nevertheless, Dog Lover remains a fast game that can also be played with children. Dog Lover is adapted from Cat Lady by Josh Wood, which was released back in 2017. At first, I thought the game had simply been converted one-to-one from a cat theme to a dog theme. But that's not the case at all. While the basic mechanics remain the same, Dog Lover offers some new elements that are not part of Cat Lady. I think I'll go for a walk now, I'm already shuffling the cards!

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