English language edition; AKA: A Dog's Life
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It's A DOG'S LIFE, and you're a junkyard dog! The object? To be the first pooch on the block to bury 4 bones in your back-yard. In order to find the bones, you must scavenge from trash cans, beg at restaurants, and generally behave like a "dog about town". But remember, it's every dog for itself and the competition is tough. Dogs must "mark their territories" in order to slow other dogs down, and fight bravely against bullies trying to steal their bones. And don't forget the merciless Dogcatcher! Each dog is very different, with varying skills and breed characteristics. Whether you're a wily poodle or a hearty husky, the task is not an easy one, and fortunes change at the flick of a tail. After all, it's A DOG'S LIFE!
Each dog, depending on their own characteristics, has a number of points which they may spend each turn in order to perform various actions. A unique system of cards determines the results of these actions and keeps the outcome from being completely driven by luck. Players have a wide variety of choices, whether they want to work toward their own goals, or harass their opponents. The rules are very simple and logical, and allow players the sorts of actions and choices that a junkyard dog would make.
Players quickly become attached to their dogs, especially as each dog has a unique personality and skills. The rules can be learned while playing, and are not hard to remember. The situations in the game, and the choices for players are nearly infinite. The entire family can easily pick up the game and immediately enjoy playing it. And, the winner is not necessarily the most skillful, or the luckiest, but just the best at being a dog!
What can I say? The concept and theme of this game are great! The basic mechanics are very good also. It is the rules which cause the game to be maybe only 2-3 stars at face value. The rules seem to be designed (unintentionally, I'm sure) to keep players resigned to the 'dog pound' for very significant parts of the game. This is because the same rules apply for two players as they do for six. However, because of the way the mechanics are designed, this causes a tremendous lack of balance.
Ex: In a two player game, the dogcatcher truck can move a maximum of 6 spaces before it is your turn again. In a six player game, the dogcatcher truck has the potential to move a maximum of 30 spaces before your turn comes up. Good luck avoiding the dogcatcher!
Simply put, this happens because the game rules don't adapt to changes in the number of participants.
Hence, the following rules changes designed to even out gameplay and make this game a far more enjoyable experience:
(You must know the official rules to understand some of the verbage below... these rules changes are designed to work in concert with each other..)
1. When fighting, double your paws and add your current 'hunger track' number to get a 'total fight strength' comparison.
1. A dog can only be caught if the dogcatcher truck lands directly on the player's space. Furthermore, even when the dogcatcher lands directly on a dog, the player then flips a card to see if the dog is actually caught or manages to escape.
2. The dogcatcher can move through your space on a turn and 'bypass' you. However, your dog cannot move through the dogcatcher and you must move your dog around the dogcatcher to avoid any potential consequences.
3. Die rolls for 2 players- Players get to roll the dice twice and add up the total shown on each separate roll to move the dogcatcher's truck. Once the two die rolls are completed, the player is then allowed to move the dogcatcher's truck the total amount of spaces indicated.
4. Die rolls for 3 players- Normal rules apply, as far as concerning dice rolls.
5. Die rolls for 4 players- The dogcatcher truck can only be moved to a maximum of four spaces on a player's individual turn. Rolling a five or a six is the equivalent to rolling a '4'.
6.Die rolls for 5-6 players- The dogcatcher truck can only be moved to a maximum of three spaces on an individual player's turn.
Roll a one or two = 1 space.
Roll a three or a four = 2 spaces.
Roll a five or a six = 3 spaces.
Sniffing the Lamppost Rule:
1. It now costs 4 action points to move through a space with someone else's piddle (formerly the entire rest of the turn) The 4 action points account for taking the time to stop and sniff the lamppost before moving on.
2. You must have at least 4 action points available to move through someone else's piddle, otherwise you can move into the space and end your turn. Or you can simply go around the piddle, of course.
3. It costs the rest of your turn if you land on the space with the intent to stay and 'mark the territory' yourself on your next turn.
1. Individual piddle markers can only be used on the gameboard once during the course of a game; for a total of 8 times. Use them wisely!
2. If you 'mark your territory' over someone else's dog piddle on a turn, the other player does not get the marker back and it goes into the discard pile.
3. It costs two action points to 'mark your territory' over someone else's piddle. However, it only costs one action point to piddle on a 'bare' lamppost.
Leaving the Pound:
1. You leave the pound with your marker at '4' on the hunger track (formerly '2' in the official rules) ... but you leave with your bladder 'empty'.
2. Note: Any previously held piddle markers in your bladder that had not yet been played on the gameboard when you were sent to the pound are returned back to your pile. They are not put in the discarded pile and they are still eligible for play.
1. For 2-3 players: Bury 4 bones
2. For 4 players: Bury 3 or 4 bones (as the players involved decide).
3. For 5-6 players: Bury 3 bones
This is a nice little game with a solid mix of strategy and luck. I've only played it twice so far (just got it) but there seem to be a number of approaches in terms of how to best maneuver around the board and accomplish your doggie goals. The materials are first-rate as well, with a colorful and well-designed board, little dogs to move around, etc. And I'm a sucker for a game that includes rummaging in garbage cans and peeing on lampposts, both of which are involved here.
It's a little 'light' to get 5 stars in my book, but I like it very much and give it a strong recommendation.
I agree with a previous reviewer who says the game is a little 'light', that is, it doesn't have deep and subtle strategy like [page scan/se=0040/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]El Grande or Traders of Genoa. That comparison may be a little extreme, but A Dog's Life is nevertheless enjoyable.
Like the rules and box say, it kinda helps to think like a dog, at least in some little way... 'Should I pee on this lamp post and mark my territory to hinder other dogs from getting close, or should I dig in this garbage can, looking for that tasty bone to bury in the yard?' There are choices in this game, and you can play nice or like a mean dog, trying to prevent your opponents from accomplishing the same goal you are, to bury 4 bones in your 'starting home space'. I've only played 2 three-player games with it, but there seems to be a nice mix of luck and strategy, even though the game mechanics DO play off of luck a little more heavily for my liking. :)
There is nice board design and art (though a bit cluttered in spots, I think), and the player markers are decently crafted plastic dog minatures, each based on a particular breed.
Overall, it's not a bad game, but not one to keep our group fasinated like Traders of Genoa and El Grande do, but that's us. :)
I've gotta admit that the theme is certainly amusing: Vagabond dogs scrounging and begging their way around town in search of bones. Dogs get to be dogs: digging in trash, begging for food, fighting rival hounds, running from the dog catcher, drinking from fountains and even piddling on lamp posts. Yep, just about everything you'd expect from stray hounds. Sadly, in spite of a very tight theme, the game simply isn't as interesting as the theme might suggest.
A Dog's Life is one of the new crop from Eurogames. I have to hand it to those folks as they are releasing some very interesting games with a variety of intriguing themes. The quality of the games is also very good, with sturdy boards, good artwork and nice components. The player tokens in A Dog's Life are actually small doggie miniatures, each realistically painted and unique. There's a boxer, poodle, German shepherd, husky, fox terrier and labrador. Sadly, there's no dachshund. The only real issue I have with the game components is the board design, which is garishly colorful and a bit too busy. It's often difficult to spot the small numbers and symbols on the various buildings and locations due to this busyness and the avalanche of colors.
The object of the game is for a dog to locate four bones and carry them safely back to his home. Well, it's not exactly a home, as these are vagabond dogs who take up residence in empty fields, gypsy camps, playgrounds, etc.! Bones tend to be found in trash cans and are sometimes given as rewards for successfully delivering newspapers to various establishments. Seems like even these runaways still know how to serve man and bring him his daily paper.
Each dog is adept at certain tasks, while found wanting in other tasks. For instance, the boxer (Grouchy) is quite good at fighting, but obviously invokes little sympathy in the restaurant owners when he begs for food. Plus, since he's so grouchy, he is kept under careful guard at the pound and has little chance of escaping.
The delicate poodle, on the other hand, is so cute that those mushy restaurant owners just can't resist giving her food or bones. However, she had better keep on the run as if she is forced to tangle with a rival hound, she will usually get clipped.
On a turn, a dog (player) has a number of actions ranging from 6-8, depending upon the type of dog. With these actions, players can do any or all of the following at a cost of one action point each:
In spite of this long checklist of possible actions, in reality the game has a 'vanilla' feel to it. The actions were all very simple and there was little angst over which ones to execute. Your best course of action was always fairly clear and the game seems to plod along without much excitement.
The toughest challenge was to keep your belly full. Each dog can only 'hold' four food items. Each turn, the food marker is moved down one space. If a player begins a turn with this marker at zero, the dog passes out from hunger and is immediately captured and sent to the dog pound. So, it is usually wise to use a few actions every turn or two to scrounge or beg for food.
The problem is that finding food is left to the luck of the cards. Really, everything is left to the luck of the cards. Whenever an attempt is made to beg for food, rummage through trash cans, fight another dog, escape from dog catcher or pound, etc, a card must be revealed revealing your success or failure. The luck of the draw plays a huge role in the game. Sure, players should study their cards in advance and ascertain their strengths, but the ultimate success or failure of most actions is still left to the random turn of a card. This mechanism is just too overpowering and drastically reduces the overall enjoyment of the game.
After a player executes his actions, a die is rolled and the dog catcher truck (which, sadly, is just a token as opposed to a miniature truck) is moved. The truck must move the number of spaces shown on the die and cannot move backwards or cover the same ground on a single turn. However, it is free to turn at intersections. If the truck lands on the same space as an opponent's dog, the dog is immediately sent to the dog pound without a chance to escape. If the truck ends its movement adjacent to a dog, however, the dog has a chance to escape. Yep, a card is revealed to determine the outcome. If the escape attempt fails, it's off to the pound for the hapless hound.
The pound is similar to 'Jail' in Monopoly. When in jail, you cannot take any actions or move the dog catcher truck. Instead, you reveal a card and see if you escape. If not, you move to the next space in the pound and reveal one more card on each subsequent turn in your escape attempts. Eventually, you will escape, or be set free after four rounds of captivity in a general amnesty.
In my games, nearly everyone found themselves in the pound multiple times during each game. For some dogs, escaping is a difficult task (trust me!), so it is common to spend several turns in succession stuck in the pound with nothing to do. Not a good feature, to be sure. Fortunately, turns move fairly quickly, so the time spent is about as short as many 20-year sentences doled out by our justice system.
The pound is a constant source of irritation as it is way too easy to be sent to it. Hunger is a constant problem and it is far too easy to maneuver the dog catcher truck so that it lands adjacent to or on an opponent's dog. It is far too common to be caught by the dog catcher and be forced to spend one or more turns confined in the pound. Worse, you drop all items you have been carrying when you are caught, forcing you to repeat the same cycle over and over again in efforts to find bones and keep your belly full. The game begins to develop a very repetitive feel after the first few turns.
After some discussion, a variant was suggested wherein a dog can only be caught if the dog catcher truck landed directly on his space. It would no longer be sufficient to land adjacent to a dog, which is far too easy of a task to accomplish. Further, even when the dog catcher lands directly on a dog, the player still would reveal a card to see if he was actually caught or managed to escape. If I ever have the inclination to play the game again, I'll certainly recommend using this proposed variant.
I have played the game with both five and six players. The games have all played to completion in approximately 1-1/2 - 1-3/4 hours. However, we did reduce the victory conditions from four bones successfully buried to three bones. Adding another bone would have simply extended the game for 30 or more minutes without adding any excitement or fun.
I do think the game might actually play better with just four or perhaps even three players. With five or six players, there are simply too many opportunities to move the dog catcher truck, enabling it to zip around town and threaten just about every dog before that player's turn comes around again. Further, it is too easy to be caught by opponent's dogs and have your possessions stolen. One of my games was a complete exercise in futility as every time I located a bone, it was immediately stolen before my next turn arrived. Not much fun in that.
After several games, I still cannot escape the feeling that the game is simply "OK". The game just doesn't generate much excitement. Some have suggested that the game might be better received in a different environment, particularly a family setting. Perhaps. However -- and maybe I'm just getting a bit more reserved and prudish as age takes its toll -- I'm not sure I'd feel particularly comfortable sitting around the table with children and parents playing a game that involved urinating on lamp posts. No doubt, pre-pubescent boys would get lots of laughs out of this, but there are some things I don't find particularly humorous any longer.
One of my fellow Westbank Gamers, Lenny Leo, is one of the more open-minded folks in our group. He'll play just about anything. He delivered the following brief, yet accurate summation of the game: "It bored me.". To be fair, a few others in our group gave the game a thumbs-up, but the majority concurred with Lenny's assessment. A shame.