What’s it like to walk in the paws for a day? A Dog’s Life claims to be the boardgame to play to find out! Roam the streets, beg for food, pee on things, and try to find delicious bones, all while avoiding the dog catcher! A Dog’s Life was originally released in 2016 and is now up on Kickstarter for another print run.
In A Dog’s Life each player is dealt a dog and a den. Each dog plays a bit differently, having differing amounts of actions points and a different distribution of resolutions on their actions cards. The game comes with a Boxer, Lab, Golden Retriever, Whippet, Fox Terrier, Poodle, and German Shepard. There’s also a Bulldog that’s available as an unlockable stretch goal.
Dogs can hold 2 items in their mouth, have a bladder that can hold 2 piddle tokens, and have a food track that ranges from 0 – 4. Dogs start the game in their den with a full belly and one piddle token. Each turn a dog lowers their food level by 1, takes a number of actions allowed by their breed, then moves the Dog Catcher. The game is played until one player has found 3 bones and buried them in their den.
Actions a dog can take are as follows (1 Action Point each):
- Move a space
- Beg for food in a restaurant
- Rummage through trash
- Drink from a fountain
- Piddle on lamp posts
- Get / Deliver Newspapers
- Fight other dogs
Moving is self-explanatory. Each space a dog moves costs 1 Action Point. Buildings, such as restaurants, count as a space and can only be entered from their entrance (marked with a paw.) When in a restaurant a dog can take an action to beg for food. This is done by flipping over one of their action cards and checking the “Restaurant” result.
Rummaging through trash is similar, though this happens on spaces with a trash can. Once a trash is rummaged a token is placed on the board to show the trash has been picked through. Once all trash cans have been picked through a “Clean Up” phase happens where all trash cans are reset, and piddle markers cleaned up off the board.
Speaking of piddle, dogs can drink from fountains to fill their bladder. If a dog has piddle tokens they can be placed on lamp post spaces for an action. Any other dog passing by this space must immediately stop and end their action phase.
Newspapers can be picked up from a central news stand on the board and must be delivered to whatever number building that’s on the back of the newspaper token picked up. Once delivered an Action Card is flipped to check the result of the delivery.
Last, dogs can fight adjacent dogs to try and force them to drop bones or newspapers. Each dog flips an Action Cards and compares the number of paws in the “Fight” box. The higher number wins, with the defeated dog dropping any items in their mouth and retreating a space. Ties mean that nothing happens.
Once a dog takes all its actions their player rolls a die and moves the dog catcher through the streets. If the dog catcher ends its movement on a dog, that dog is placed in the shelter. If it ends its movement next to a dog, that dog must flip an Action Card to see if it successfully hides, or gets caught.
When in the shelter, either by being caught by the dog catchers or passing out from starvation, a dog can flip an Action Card to see if it escapes. If it’s successfully it reenters the board with a full belly to take its turn. If not, it moves further down the shelter track where it can then draw two cards to try and escape the next turn, or escape for free the turn after that.
Be a dog. Bury 3 bones. Win the game!
At first glance, A Dog’s Life looks like it might be all veneer with no substance. A quick read through the rules unveils a wonderfully thought out game that’s easy to learn, plays with very little text needed, and is a family friendly game for a lazy afternoon or game night. The game plays a bit long with a full compliment of players coming in at almost an hour and a half. The time does reduce a bit once everyone is familiar with how the game plays and realizes that resetting trash cans makes the game move along much quicker!
A Dog’s Life is a great addition to any family’s game library. While it may not be as heavy for the gamer crowd, it certainly has a lot more going for it than any mass market game currently found at local big-box stores. The $50 price tag may seem a bit heavy at first for the style of game it is, but the components are totally worth the bit extra you’re going to pay for the game.
A copy of A Dog’s Life was provided free for review by BETON GAMES
Media personality Rob “Devar-TTY” Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of Devar-TTY’s Pawns Perspective, Dev now focuses mostly on video games and TTRPGs. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.