A Dog’s Life Review Published 2017
A DOG’S LIFE. A Review by Mawihtec
2-6 Players, 45-60 minutes, Age 6+
A brief history
A Dog’s Life was originally released in 2001 by the French game designer, Christophe Boelinger. He is also the creator of games like Archipelago and Draco Mundis. Despite proving popular it fell out of print, until now. Beton Games have stepped up and taken what was beginning to look a little dated in the overall look and feel. They have updated the board art to make it brighter and much more contemporary, streamlined the gameplay to balance it out more evenly and make the gameplay into a 60 minute game from a 90 minute game. This makes it much more suitable for the target audience of the family with younger children. This is perfectly suited for the 6+ age range.
What is A Dog’s Life
The main concept behind A Dog’s Life is you play the part of Dogs looking for valuable bones to bury in your Dens. The first Dog to bury 3 bones wins the game. Along the way you will search bins for food, drink from fountains, deliver newspapers, fight, beg in restaurants, try to evade the dog catcher, escape from the dog pound and piddle on Lampposts (stop sniggering this is an important tactic honest)
What’s in the box?
1 Hand-painted Game Board
6 Pre-Painted Dog Miniatures
1 Pre-Painted Dog Catcher Van
6 Dog Cards
72 Action Cards (12 per Dog)
6 Hunger Tokens (1 per Dog)
6 Den Cards
15 Trash Tokens
24 Bone Tokens
12 Newspaper Tokens
48 Piddle Tokens (8 per Dog)
A Dog’s Life?
At the start of the game each player is given a Dog Card this contains valuable information about the dog. Will you become A French Poodle, Whippet, Boxer, Labrador, Fox Terrier, German Shepherd or a Golden Retriever? Each Dog has a set number of Action Points (actions available). For example the Whippet has 9 Action Points because she is fast and agile whereas the Fox Terrier has only 7. you will then take your beautifully realised miniature dog all of whom have a very distinct look that suits their perceived personality traits. You will also take your Piddle Tokens, Hunger Token and Action Cards these are integral to your success or failure at the available actions each turn. Each dog is also randomly assigned a Den Card which are spread fairly evenly across the board. The Dog Catcher is placed in the centre of the board and you are ready to begin.
Is it hard being a dog?
A Dog’s Life is a relatively simple game to learn and this is helped by a very colourful and well thought our Rulebook with lots of pictorial examples. Everything is explained clearly and there are some interesting “Dog Facts” at the back of the book. To be honest after reading the Rulebook for the first time I only referred to it once during our first game and that was it.
Okay that sounds easy enough.
Honestly it is that simple. It will seem more complex when I write up a summary (sorry). On your turn you will have the following options available to you.
-Move your Dog. You can move forwards and backwards.
-Drink From the Fountains.
You can do this multiple times on your turn each time you gain
a Piddle Token (you can only hold 2 at a time).
-Piddle on a Lamppost.
You place a Piddle Token onto the relevant section on the Board
This Forces other dogs to lose the rest of their turn if they
reach it (if you do not have any tokens on your Dog Card you
-Search a Bin for food or bones.
-Enter a Restaurant to beg for food.
-Pick up a Newspaper
-Deliver a Newspaper
-Fight another Dog. Useful if they are carrying Bones.
-Enter/Leave your den.
-Try to escape from the Dog Pound
if you have been unlucky enough to get caught.
You can do as many or as few of these as you like all dependant to how many Action Points you have left. Everything you do takes up an Action Point.
This was my main issue with A Dog’s Life, keeping track of used action points and we used a pen and piece of paper with the “five bar gate method” to keep track.
Once you have finished moving your Dog you will move the Dog Catcher by rolling the Die. There are some rules about this movement. You must continue in the direction he is facing and you must always use the full Die roll. Once the Dog Catcher has moved, if there are any Dogs on the same space they are caught and sent straight to the pound. If they are on an adjacent space they have a chance to escape.
Just like every thing you do requires an Action Point. The Success or Failure of almost every action is reliant on the Action Cards. Every time you want to resolve an action. You will turn over a card, the clear easy to understand cards, will tell you your outcome, good or bad.
As this is a game squarely aimed at the family and appealing mainly to the younger members of said family. I feel it is time to turn over this review to my boardgames playing partner in crime. By day he is my 9 year old son George. But by Die he is Baba-g Boardgames whizz-kid (Author’s Note 2021 also now known as GooseProGaming, Minecraft YouTuber). After we had played A Dog’s Life several times I “interviewed” him about the game and what he did or did not like about it. So what follows is the transcript of that (please feel free to skip to the end scores if you want).
M- What did you think of A Dog’s Life?
G- I thought it was really good and I really enjoyed it.
M- What was it you liked most about A Dog’s Life?
G- I really liked having the Dog Catcher and the fact that if you are the other side of the board to your Den. You have to try to avoid the Dog Catcher to drop off your bones. It was good the way you roll the die to move the Dog Catcher but have to move it all the numbers in the same direction. Then you might catch Dog’s and send them to the pound. Even yourself sometimes.
M- What about the need to feed the dogs and the making them Piddle?
G- That was quite good. Making them Piddle was funny.
M- Was there anything about A Dog’s Life you did not like so much?
G- There was nothing I would really change. But if I had to change one thing about the game it would be. Once you have buried your three Bones you need to get to the Catchers Black Paw in the centre of the board to win.
M- Okay so it becomes a race to the centre?
G- Yes it mean the other Dog’s could try to stop you and win themselves.
M- What did you think of the Dog figures and the Dog Catcher van?
G- I actually really liked them I loved the detail on the dogs like the Hat and bones in the mouth. The van looked a little like an ambulance but it was OK.
M- What did you think of the Dog’s Action Cards?
G- They were good. Really easy to understand, even from the very start I knew what each thing meant. The pictures were very clear.
M- How about the Newspaper, Trash bin and Bone tokens.
G- They were OK a little small but still easy to understand. I would have liked it more if they were little plastic pieces instead of cardboard.
M- What about moving on the board was that easy to do?
G- I found it quite easy but there were a few bits that were challenging at the same time.
M- In what way were they challenging?
G- The restaurant entrance confused me near the Fire station I kept thinking I was going into the Fire station which was a Newspaper place.
M- What did you think of the Board itself and the artwork?
G- I thought it was all very very clever. My favourite was the Pandas on Chopsticks for the Chinese Restaurant. I also liked the matchstick sticking up outside the Fire station.
M- So overall is it a game you would like to play more or less often?
G- I think, I would like to play it more. I really liked being a Dog and piddling on the Lamppost and barking for food.
M- How did you find playing it with 2/3 players and how did you find playing it with more?
G- I definitely prefer it with more players. With 2 players I would give it a 5/10 Fun rating. With 6 players I would give it a 9/10 Fun rating, because with more people the Dog Catcher moves much more often making nowhere safe on the board.
My Final Thoughts.
A very clever and unique themed game especially if your a dog lover. Probably wont be the right style of game for many adult gaming groups. More suited to the families with 2+ Children especially if they are in the 7-12 age range. Some minor balance and runaway leader issues at low player counts but lots of fun at the higher. WOOF WOOF!
Dog Miniatures look fantastic.
Piddle on a Lamppost.
Play up to 6 Players.
Less than 4 players feels a bit solitaire-esque.
Lower player count can be less engaging.
Some balancing issues with a couple of the Dogs.
Dogs Strength and weakness on Dog cards would have been nice
Engagement +4 player 4/5
Engagement -3 player 2/5
Component Quality 4/5
Player Interaction +4 player 4/5
Player Interaction -3 player 2/5
Total Score +4 player 80%
Total Score -3 player 67%
Authors 2021 Edit: No ratings have been updated As I feel it is better to let the review sit as it was written in 2017. I no longer rate games (out of any number or percentage) preferring now to recommend or not to different groups of players.