I love my dog. Whether she is sitting by my side or chewing up my favourite shoes, I love her. I even love her when she is jumping in the pond or chasing after our hens. Helps that she’s cute, but it wouldn’t matter if she wasn’t. She’s like a big, furry, baby bear cub who wants to cuddle and play 24/7. So when Dog Lover arrived, both Star and I were wagging our tails and pulling at the parcel tape! A card game all about the bond between human and hound? Yes please!
Dog Lover is a cute set collection card game from AEG. In it, you’re trying to feed, amuse, walk, and generally spoil your pups. You can also adopt doggies from the rescue shelter and nurture your fur babies’ special traits for pawsome points. But watch out! There’s a guard dog about who will not let you take whatever you want on your turn!
Did we learn some new tricks and get the best cards? Did we stockpile enough crunchy munchy food to satisfy all those hungry woofie tums by end game? Let’s find out!
Here Boy, Here Girl
To play Dog Lover, you are basically selecting cards from a 3 x 3 tableau of cards each turn. There’s also a column of rescue pups waiting to be adopted as well as a column of Trick cards. The Trick here is that on your turn you can only take cards from the grid that match the shape shown on one of your Trick cards. Plus there’s also a Guard Dog standing next to one of the rows or columns whose job it is to stop you picking more than one of the cards in the line they are protecting!
The cards in the tableau include a wide variety of things (and for a more detailed explanation of each type please click here for our How to Play Dog Lover Blog Post). There are doggies in a range of sizes, food types (which you need to feed your hungry point awarding pups), trait cards (which give your pups ongoing powers and point scoring pawsibilities), bones, training, walks, adoption papers, and favourite things. Each card type does something specific, and each turn it is down to you to decide what to collect, keep, swap and/or tuck! At the end of the game, whoever has earned the most pupperific points is the winner!
Pretty, Puntastic Pups
The cartoony artwork in Dog Lover is cool in a very cute, comic strip type way. And the names of the rescue pups do make me giggle – check out the street wise pug “50 Scent” who, besides looking gangsta, also rewards extra points if you have Escape Artist and/or Food Thief Trait cards in your collection!
Dog Lover is a light, fun, set collecting filler game with a cutie pie-puppy theme. Once set up, the game play is fast, and the Guard Dog dynamic gives it some bite!
The Tricks you use to select cards restrict choice in a clever way. And combined with the prohibition on taking cards in the Guard Dog’s protected row/column, decisions become less straightforward. Similarly, knowing the Trick you use to get your cards also determines where the Guard Dog runs off to protect next can also make you second guess your Trick choice. Having said that, Tricks that enable you to take 4 or 5 cards on your turn are almost always worth using when you can.
With some tableau cards promising end game points or instant actions (depending on whether you keep or discard them), you’ll be spending a lot of your time weighing up short v long term benefits. But with the Guard Dog bouncing about and the grid and Trick/Rescue rows changing all the time, trying to plan too far ahead is almost impupable!
There’s also a bit of meta level gaming action going down in Dog Lover. You are collecting pups of course. But within the game space you can also collect sets of bones and/or favourite things for accumulating end game points, not to mention all-important food resources to feed your collected canines! Similarly, you can collect adoption papers to gain rescue pups (who have their own puppy plans!), or training cards for those uber useful Tricks. And don’t forget there’s a chance for those puppies in your patch to be worth more if you can collect the perfect puppy Traits to pair with them.
I think if I could change one thing, I would like the chance to discard and pair new Traits to pups as the game progresses, or add more Traits to a dog in my care. As it stands, you can’t teach an old pup new Traits, but I really like games that give a feeling of position development over time. Having said that, because Traits act like personal scoring objectives, gunning for any pawfect pairs is definitely a fun challenge. If you love dogs and you like set collection games with a bit of a spatial twist, then this could be a fun, fast playing addition to your collection.