Spots is a 2 to 4 player game from CMYK and is designed by Alex Hague, Jon Perry and Justin Vickers with illustrations by John Bond.
Going Dotty For Doggies
To begin, each player takes a kennel play mat, one treat and one dog card (colour side down). You then create a general supply of treats, dice and the remaining dog cards that are easily accessible to all players. Then comes the meat of the game. You will need to set up what tricks will be available for this particular playthrough. The beauty of this game is the vast variety of tricks which can seem overwhelming at first, but for your introductory game there is a recommended set which takes all the pressure of making decisions so early in your Spots experience.
For this first game, and in fact any game thereafter you will need to find “Howl” and “Roll Over”, both with a red rosette. These two will be a staple action in every game you play and you will get to know them well! In every game you will also need to choose a trick from each of the blue, yellow, purple and green decks. For this first game, you are advised to use “Walk”, from the yellow, “Run” from purple, “Beg” from green and “Fetch” from blue. What they do will be explained a little later, for now, just make them all easily accessible to the players, colour side up, and you are set up and ready for walkies!
Who’s A Good Boy…
In Spots, you will be rolling dice in order to place them on matching areas on your cards as once cards are complete you will be able to score that card. Your objective is simply to get six complete dogs and the first to do so, wins.
On your turn you will be able to take one available action or trick from the available six. First you will perform that trick. Each card has instructions on them. For example, if you were to choose “Walk”, you can roll two dice. Any dice that are rolled must be placed either onto a dog card in your playing area or buried on your kennel board. It then says you “may” roll one more. Once again, this dice must be played in either of the two legal places. If the trick states you must roll then the stated dice must be rolled and placed, anything that is a “may roll” is purely optional.
There is a wide variety of complexity in the tricks but all are clearly described on the card, but if you are ever in doubt you can swap in any colour for another of the same. Each colour of tricks tend to follow a theme. For example, all of the green tricks relate to getting more treats. Tasty tasty treats! But what are treats used for? If at any point you want to re-roll your dice, you can spend a treat to do so. A powerful thing. But be warned, if you decide to re-roll then you must roll all of your dice, no picking and choosing here.
Once a trick has been chosen in Spots, that card is then flipped to the grey side, signifying that the next player cannot choose it. Once there are only two tricks left, whatever one is not picked that turn gets a treat token on it and all cards flip back over to their coloured side. From now on, any player who chooses a trick with a treat on it, also gets to take the treat for themselves.
Dice must always be placed on the matching number on your dog cards or burried. When a dog is completely filled in you can score them. There are two ways to do this. One, skip your action turn and simply remove any dice of completed dogs and flip those cards to colour side up. You can then draw as many cards as you scored that round, upto a maximum of six. This is the safest and easiest route to victory but missing a turn to do so can really slow down your game. You can also push your luck a little bit further. If you ever complete all of your current cards by the end of your turn they will automatically score. But this only happens after your turn is completely over, including burying any remaining dice.
Which brings us onto the challenging element of the game. Spots is a ‘push your luck’ game, which means there is a point in which your luck runs out. The biggest rule to remember is that if at any point, the dice buried beneath your kennel totals eight or more, you bust! If you ever bust you must put all of your active dice, whether on cards or buried, back into the supply.
Once you play that first game you are free to mix and match the trick tiles as much as you like. The only condition is that both reds must be in play every game and only one of each other colour is allowed, totalling six tricks.
Off The Leash
There is a lot of replayability in Spots, but if you want to play a slightly more chaotic version you can. Instead of choosing one of each type you instead stack all tiles of a type together. This doesn’t include the two red tiles which will both be needed in every game. Flip the top tiles as usual, once they have been used but this time, when the tricks are reset, put the top one to the bottom of the stack and reveal a new one beneath it.
And there it is. All you need to know to start playing with your spotty best friends. Grab you lead, your treats and don’t forget your poop bags, someone is bound to make a mess at some point!