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Games For Pet Lovers


If, like me, you love playing board games and are also a pet owner, you’ve probably found they are not particularly compatible. I have two cats, both of whom enjoy strutting over the table mid-game, scattering meeples, cards, and tokens in their wake. My friend’s dog once chewed all the pawns from Onitama. Please be assured the dog was absolutely fine, the Onitama pieces less so… And it’s not just when you’re playing a game, how does pet hair manage to find its way inside the brand-new box that has only just come out of shrink wrap?!

There is a combination which is great though, games about pets!

Dog Park

As soon as I heard about this game, I knew I would love it based on theme alone, but putting that aside, I really enjoy the game itself. Each player is a professional dog walker looking to gain the best reputation. You do this by bidding for new dogs, managing resources, set collection, and meeting objectives.

It’s a great mid-weight option when you don’t have loads of time but want to play something that’s a little bit more than a ‘filler’ game. I have heard it described as Wingspan ‘but with dogs’ and I think that’s going a bit far, but I do see some similarities. Like Wingspan there’s loads of unique dog cards, you’re not going to see them all during the course of a game which in itself offers a lot of replayabilty. Also, like Wingspan, I think it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a gateway plus sort of game.

That being said, I struggle to play this game well, because I’m much more influenced by my emotions than strategy. I have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and all-round angel dog called Mull. If the Staffordshire Bull Terrier card comes out, I will have that card at any cost. It’s not good gameplay, but I don’t care.

I play most games at two people and whilst I don’t often feel the need to increase the player count, I would really like to play this at three or four as I suspect it will really transform the bidding phase of the game. I still love it at two though, sometimes a game just feels special no matter what, especially when there’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.


Although there is no Staffordshire Bull Terrier, there are sweet dogs with spots. In Spots you need to complete six dogs with their spots by rolling and matching dice. Each turn you select a

trick to roll and place dice, or you can score a completed dog. If you’re unable to place dice they get buried in the back yard, but if you bury too many you’ll go bust. If you’re feeling especially lucky you can try and fill the last spot on a dog to complete dogs in the same turn, it’s risky though!

If you don’t have a lot of time and a light ‘filler’ game is exactly what you’re after, then this is a perfect choice. I play this often on weeknights where I have to squeeze in time for games.

Whilst it’s certainly at the lighter end of the scale, it’s got some surprisingly interesting decisions. It works well with newer and younger players. The rules are simple enough for them to learn and the game is fun enough for them to enjoy playing.

Nevertheless, the variable set up means that there’s enough variety from game to game, as well as the ability to increase the complexity a little.

Although it was the theme that drew me in, it’s a fairly abstract game at its core, but it’s so quick and light that really doesn’t matter. Besides, the artwork is so ridiculously charming and the dogs so adorable that I kind of forget. I also think the custom dice are such a lovely touch and makes it a pleasure to play.

Dog Lover

This is a light card game that plays quickly, making it another go to in my house for mid-week gaming. It scales for different player counts easily, as you just use fewer cards.

Throughout the game you draft cards from a tableau overseen by a guard dog. There are different types of food, as well as toys, and new tricks for training. There are also dogs for you to add to your pack, but for them to score you must be able to feed them at the end of the game, dog ownership is a responsible business.

As a proud member of #TeamAdoptDon’tShop, it fills my heart with joy that Dog Lover has a specific section for rescue doglets. Like in Dog Park I struggle not to let this dominate my entire strategy for the game. I want to rehome them all!

Whilst the components are fine although not particularly special, the artwork is lovely. It’s whimsical and fun, the dogs are very cute and some of the names are pretty inspired, Droolius Caesar, Muttley Crue, and 50 Scent are particular highlights.

If you’re more of a cat person this game is ‘inspired’ by Cat Lady, although it’s more or less the same game, Dog Lover just has a couple of additional elements. Some people might prefer Cat Lady for the simplicity, but I really like what Dog Lover adds and ultimately, I am a dog lover.

Isle of Cats

This is a deceptively simple drafting and tile-laying game where players must rescue as many cats as possible before Vesh Darkhand, who I assume is not a cat person, reaches the Island. It’s not altogether straightforward, if you’ve ever tried to take a cat to the vet then you’ll know why. Just like in real life, these kitties are pretty fussy, so need tempting with food and want to be placed with their cat families on the ship.

I often forget just how fantastic this game is. Perhaps I don’t think of playing it as often as I should because there’s no Staffordshire Bull Terrier in it. Every time I do play, I want to play it again. It’s not especially thematic, but it’s certainly not dry either. The way the cats create different shapes is clever and the art style is fun.

Although it appears complex initially, the Tetris element of the game feels immediately familiar and it’s easy to learn and play without being boring. There are lots of good to choices to make as well as different strategies to focus on for scoring, including personal and public objectives or ‘lessons’.

The base game comes with a two-sided boards and lessons with different levels of difficulty to make it more accessible for younger players. It plays great at two people, but the combination of closed and open drafting means that there’s not much dead time in the game and adding more players wouldn’t make it horribly long. Whatever player count, I will definitely make sure to get Isle of Cats to the table more often.

The Fox Experiment

I know that foxes aren’t a (common) pet, but I thought I could sneak this into the list because, it is about domesticating animals, the foxes are very cute and it’s just a really great game. It is worth noting, although Elizabeth Hargraves co-designed this, if you’re expecting Wingspan, this is very different.

What it does share with Wingspan is beautiful artwork and gorgeous components. The theme is incredibly interesting, based on a real-life breeding programme, and it’s so well integrated with the game. Selecting and determining the traits of your different foxes through drafting and rolling dice fits so well. Plus, matching the dice is extremely satisfying. You also get to name your fox pups! I have as much fun choosing names as I do playing.

When you first come to play The Fox Experiment, it looks it’s going to be quite a heavy game and although it’s a step-up from Dog Park, it’s not significantly more complex, it’s very easy to teach and learn.

A lot of the gameplay is simultaneous making it quite a streamlined game. Nevertheless, it provides enough player interaction to avoid just being multiplayer solitaire. I absolutely love that you get to draft the fox pups that other players have bred, it feels like a really unique point of player interaction, and I’d love to see it in more games. I have heard that Apiary does something similar, I’m already buzzing (geddit) to try Apiary, but this makes me want to play it even more. The two player AI is a bit fiddly at first, but it’s straightforward and works well once you’re used to it. This isn’t a problem for me, but I suspect that some people will prefer this at three or four players.

I know lots of people don’t, but I think that The Fox Experiment is a roll and write. However, if like me you’re feeling a bit saturated by the explosion of new roll and write games, it shouldn’t put you off. It’s done something really innovative and incorporates theme brilliantly, which is why people don’t think of it as a roll and write game.

I absolutely love this game; however, I do have one complaint. I really hate the designation of pink and blue to indicate the sex of the foxes. This might seem picky, but it feels so outdated and reinforces gender binaries and stereotypes, so it’s disappointing to find it here. It’s still a great game, I just find incredibly irksome, and I can’t play without moaning about it.

Dungeon Petz

Again, I know they’re not real pets, but it does have pets (admittedly with a zed) in the title. Also like the Fox Experiment, it’s just a brilliant game, one of my favourites that I do not get to play enough.

Without doubt, the heaviest game on this list, it won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy puzzly, crunchy decision making and can set aside some time, then this very well might be for you.

In Dungeon Petz you are a budding entrepreneur managing an impish workforce to help you breed and sell magical pets. To ensure that your business is profitable (and socially responsible) you need to ensure these pets are well cared for. They need to play, vent their rage, and use their magical powers safely. You will also need to meet more standard pet needs like feeding them and clearing up their poop. Maybe it’s a bit like having a Tamagotchi. I don’t know, I was never allowed one, even though all my friends had one, but I’m completely over it now.

The theme is silly and fun, although I still struggle with head over heart decision making as I don’t want any of the baby monsters I’m raising to suffer. Fortunately, that’s also bad for your game so it’s less of a problem for me here. The art and components are brilliant, which is possibly why I get so attached to my pets.

I love the different mechanisms in Dungeon Petz. It has worker placement, which is probably my favourite, but it’s combined with bidding to determine turn order (which works well at two players). You also need to think about hand management and there’s simultaneous play which I’m always a fan of, as it streamlines play and keeps you involved.

Although this is an older game, if I’ve got time to play something bigger, it’s still at the top of my list with much newer games like Ark Nova and Dune Imperium, which is pretty impressive.

These are superb games whether you have pets or not, but like most games they’ll be easier to play if you don’t. I can only imagine how nice it would be to play without a cat whipping the game components all over the floor with their tail. If this isn’t familiar to you either, then please pet your cat for me and tell your dog that they’re a very good dog. Yes they are!