16 December 2022
Lead the way
As a form of escapism, board games allow us to take on different roles and transport us to worlds of our imagination and beyond. Sometimes, we want to be a dashing hero fighting evil monsters or a cunning merchant of jewels or spices growing our fortune, or even an enigmatic detective set on solving the dark mysteries. However, sometimes we want to escape to a simpler setting, one where you can take a relaxing walk in a park with a four-legged friend, and Dog Park is here to oblige.
Dog Park has 163 different dogs (with more available in the separate expansions), with breeds ranging from proud little Chihuahua to the majestic Bernese Mountain Dog, and everything in between. The beauty of every dog is captured by artists Kate Avery, Holly Exley and Dann May in watercolour-like style illustrations that find a good balance between cartoonish and realistic. Every single dog is, of course, the best dog which makes the first phase of the game-deciding which two dogs to select for your kennels – the hardest. Players bid on the dogs available for this round using their own victory points as collateral. In the first round, when every player starts with 5 victory points, everyone has equal opportunities. However, as the game progresses, victory points become more of a precious resource: could you afford to spend five victory points to get a Husky, or will it result in you falling too far behind other players?
When the dogs have been assigned to their respective kennels, players must decide which ones to take on the walk. The goal is to walk every dog in the kennels, or at least as many as you can. Dogs who had a good run in the park earn players victory points, while those who had to stay behind indoors will cost victory points. Each dog requires a certain combination of resources – squeaky toys, bones, tennis balls or sticks – which players must have in their supply to spend. During their walk along the park track, players will pick up more resources, which they can use in the subsequent rounds of the game. Just like with the dog selection phase of the game, this walking phase has push-your-luck elements. Using point-to-point movement players set the pace for their walk. A quick walk may not earn their dog walker many resources but ensures they gain the most victory points by arriving back at the kennels first. Or you could risk it with a more leisurely stroll, stopping at as many resource-giving points as you can. This can prove more lucrative but can also be cut short by other players rushing ahead to the track’s finish line, leaving you to arrive last and paying a victory point penalty.
When you combine resource management with special dog powers that can activate at different phases of the game, objective cards and bonus scoring for having most dogs of a certain type, Dog Park becomes quite a brain crunchy game. However, this is not at all a complicated game. Its neat breakdown into self-contained phases makes it very easy to learn, even for new players, and with plenty of player interaction in each phase, it is easy to keep the game sociable. Dog Park strikes a good balance of being strategic enough to keep gameplay competitive, but at the same time not overly complicated so that the whole gaming table falls into silence while contemplating their actions. Dog Park can easily make it to the list of the best gateway board game and for dog lovers, it is an absolute must-play.
PLAY IT? YES
Dog Park is just the game you need to immerse yourself in after a stressful day. It has a light competitive edge, while perfectly recapturing the feeling of a relaxing nice walk with your favourite pup.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED TOKAIDO...
If travelling by Tokaido road, eating delicious meals on the way and discovering magnificent panoramas of Japan, is the most relaxing and fulfilling experience, then going to a dog park filled with the goodest boys and girls is a close second.
Designer: Lottie Hazell, Jack Hazell
Publisher: Birdwood Games
Time: 40-80 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 163 Unique dog cards
- 4 Lead boards
- Game board
- 4 Screen printed wooden walker meeples
- 4 Screen printed wooden dog reputation markers
- 100 Wooden resource tokens
- First walker token
- Wooden bird round tracker
- 50 Walked tokens
- 5 Location tokens
- 4 Offer dials
- Custom wooden dice
- 4 Solo objective cards
- 16 Location bonus cards
- 10 Objective cards
- 11 Forecast cards
- 7 Breed expert cards
- 100-page scorepad
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