Find Food and Avoid the Dog Catcher in A Dog’s Life

A Dog's Life

Play as a dog on the streets in this board game about scrounging, begging, and running — currently on Kickstarter.

Gameplay

Each player takes a dog card, a matching dog miniature, and matching dog action cards. They each then draw a den card. A den is where your dog will start and where it will return to bury its bones.

At the start of your turn, your dog’s hunger on its card moves one space closer to zero. You will find food in restaurants and trash cans to feed you. If you ever hit zero, your dog automatically goes to the dog shelter. If you did not get sent to the shelter, you move on to your action phase. During your action phase, you spend as many of your dog’s action points as you want. Each action costs one action point.

You may move one or more spaces on the game board, with each space costing an additional point, including moving into buildings. If you are in a restaurant you can beg for food. If you are on a space with a trashcan you can search it. If you are on a space with a light post, your dog can piddle on it if it has a piddle token (if a dog enters a space with an opponent’s piddle token on it, it automatically ends its action phase). If you are on a space with a fountain, your dog can drink from it and earn a piddle token. Your dog can bury a bone if it is in its den. It can fight another dog. It can pick up items that were dropped on the ground. And it can go to the newspaper stand to draw a newspaper token to be delivered. Each newspaper token has a secret number on the back that shows the dog where on the board it has to be delivered.

Once a trash can has been searched, you place a token on it and it cannot be searched again. Once the last token is placed, you clean up all the piddle and search tokens, and continue with a clean board.

Your action deck determines whether you are successful in such actions as searching the trash can and begging at restaurants. You draw the top card of your deck and it will show, for example, how much food you find in a trashcan or if you earn a bone for a delivery.

After your action phase, it is the dog catcher phase. You roll the die and must move the dog catcher car that many spaces along the board. If it ends on a square a dog is on, that dog is immediately sent to the shelter. If it ends adjacent to a dog, that dog must draw the top card of its action card deck to determine whether it escapes or not.

If your dog is in the shelter at the start of its turn, it draws a card to see if it escapes. If not, next turn it will draw two cards, and if it fails again, it will automatically escape next time.

The first dog to bury three bones in its den, wins the game.

A Dog's Life components

Review

The first thing that grabs you about A Dog’s Life is opening the box and seeing the beautiful dog miniatures inside. They’re well-made and so much fun to play with, as is the dog catcher’s car. Everything about the game looks great, though we did have trouble punching out some of the tokens, and a few came out a little messily.

Gameplay is also engaging. It’s simple to teach and straightforward to play, but there are some fun strategic choices along the way. Interestingly, not all the dogs are the same and their action cards are not all identical. Some will have a higher chance of success begging at restaurants, some are more likely to win a fight which will force the losing dog to drop any items it’s carrying (bones or papers) and allow the winner to swoop in and pick them up.

The game really embraces its theme as you duck into buildings to avoid the dog catcher and opponents, or scrounge for food. But while it makes complete sense with the game’s theme, some players may find the idea of the piddle tokens a little distasteful.

A Dog’s Life is a game that really does work across multiple age groups. It’s easy enough for kids to learn, with a theme they are definitely going to enjoy, but offers enough strategy that adults are going to have fun with it as well. It looks great, plays great, and you should definitely check it out on Kickstarter.

Pros: Beautiful dog miniatures, interesting action card mechanics, nice balance between simple gameplay and strategic choices

Cons: Tokens did not punch out neatly, some players may find the idea of the piddle tokens a little gross

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.