Dungeon Petz (2011) review
Games that reflect real life, real circumstances and real consequences are kind of rare. Although, Dungeon Petz is far removed from reality in regards to its theme, it does have these three elements. It’s a work a placement game that puts you in the role of a shop manager. And if you’ve never been responsible for a shop then maybe you can relate to being responsible for your home and your kids. And maybe your partner.
Theme is bursting out from this box of delight. As the owner of a pet shop that sells demon spawn and all kinds of nasty little critters, you’re going to be seeking out and trying to attract the attention of the Dungeon Lords. These Lords require suitable little monsters that they can fill up their Hero ridden dungeons. Get them to buy your pets over that of your competition and boost your reputation higher than everyone else to win. With the help of your Imp workers, you’ll be directing them into various parts of the local market to pick up supplies, items and also newly hatched pets.
This is one game that stands out from every other work of placement that I have played, as it has an ingenious system for who goes first and the number of actions you can take. In every round you’re going to be sending your Imps out either individually or as groups. The larger the group, the larger the possibility you have of choosing which action you wish to take. Action Spaces are limited but also very unique.. In your home base, and behind a shield, players will be creating groups with their Imps. So you could send each Imp out individually and therefore take as many actions as you have Imps. Or place them in groups, which will almost guarantee the action you want. The larger the group, the more chance you have of going first. This idea adds a wonderful element of deduction and bluffing, in regards to what actions players will possibly take. You may desperately need a new cage to place a new pet into your store. But if you know the other players all need a new cage as well, you may be the player that misses out, unless you send three or maybe 4 Imps out this turn. Even just this small part of the game is a mesmerizing puzzle. Should you jump the queues in the marketplace or wait your turn.
Another nice thing is, when it comes to your turn to place out your Imp or Imps, and all the actions that you wish to do are taken, you can leave your some of your team at home. These little helpers won’t go to waste, as they can clean up the poop left by the pets that you have or maybe get themselves a paper around and earn a little bit of money. On top of that, it’s advantageous to have some imps at home just in case one of your pets get a little too aggressive and tries to escape.
As well as the typical tropes of the game like this (buy them, feed them, clean them, play with them), you also have some other thematic elements. Elements like, if you wish to buy a new cage you will need to send out at least to imps to carry the heavy thing back home. Or if you wish to buy a new pet, the Imp that you send needs to have some money. As I said this ties in with the reality and consequences of real life. Not planing correctly can screw you up. And even if you miss out on the actions that you wish to take in one round, it won’t affect your overall strategy because there are other options that you can take. I have never felt stuck in regards to being short of things to do. Although that may change if I played against a very aggressive player, as they would snatch spaces away from me just just stop me taking them.
Now I’ve yammered on and on about this worker placement thing and how different it is to other worker placements, but that is only one corner of the game. You’ll be nurturing these pets that you bought, conditioning them to win competitions and to hopefully sell them on to a loving and caring evil demon Lord. When all actions have been taken you will have to care of your pets on the next phase. You will collect a number of different coloured cards, depending on what is depicted on the age of your pets. These cards have a variety of conditions for the pets, whether they be hungry, angry, magical, or need to go to the toilet. You will then assign a number of cards, again depending on their age to each pet that you own. Then act out the consequences of those cards. For example, if you were sign food to one of your pets then they need to eat. And depending on their diet you will need to feed them that commodity. Otherwise they get a little sad. Same if you assign a play card to a pet, meaning they wish to be played with. Again if you have no imps at home to play with these pets, they get a little sad. Sadness is a killer, as if they become too sad, they will slip off their mortal coil, from depression. The pets can also get very angry and break out of their cages if you were assigned to many angry cards to them. They can also get sick from sickness cards if they’re in a cage with lots of poop. So balancing out all these cards becomes a nice little puzzle, especially when you have multiple pets at the same time. Which pet get which card.
And assigning these cards are very important in regards to the competitions and selling them pets to willing owners, that are then next phases. Competitions like the angry pet show or a talent show will require players to have a signed certain cards to a pet. Each card will give them points from the judges but they will also lose points if, for example, the judges are looking for poop or sickness or even mutations for magic. Doing well in the competition will boost your stores reputation. Selling a pet to a willing owner works the same as the competition, which means the card you’ve assigned will apply to the customer that enters the shop that round. Forward planning is essential in these instances and luckily due to a timeline on the round track, you can prepare for those customers that will arrive and those competitions too.
Now there is a little bit of downtime as you refresh the board from round to round, adding new pets and placing out food on market stores. And if you’re playing with less than four players, you’ll be moving drone imps that block certain action spaces from round to round. But again a lot of this is thematic. When you replace pets from the main board, any older than three years old will be taken to the abattoir and their reminding flash will be put into the meat market. So it’s not just a case of “it’s the end of this round we need to remove these cubes and move out there”, everything has a thematic reason for why it is moved, taken off the board, added to the board and you will even find yourself commentating and maybe even talking to your pets and your Imps as you play.
The whole game is rounded off with some stunning artwork and some neats little components. For example, the eggs when placed face down and shuffled will become the pets. Turning these over will reveal random pets with a little disc in the interior. This moving disc will show the age of your pet and the older your pet gets, the more its value increases as well as the number of cards that you will draw. Having more cards for a creator we'll make them more troublesome. This can lead to some funny storytelling as creatures may have very strong magical powers which new take them and teleport them to another dimension. Or they just become pooping machines that your poor Imps have to clean up behind. And the of variety of special powers and different needs as well as the possibility of multiplying your score are all available in different facets in the market. And there is no end to the amount of fun that can be had even just naming your pets.
Now you may have noticed that in all my writing here I have not mentioned that players do this or players move that etc. This is because the rules of the game are in the theme and vice a versa. And you'll find yourself forgetting things like the market phase and replacing it with your own catchphrase like “let's go shopping.” But the game is not on rainbows and butterflies, as we are dealing with pets which will grow in a dungeon. You may find yourself getting lost in your first few games. Everything you see in the game is of images and icons which will guide you through. Meaning that you will have to pull up the rulebook from time to time to double check things, as the iconography takes a while to digest. And while there are a majority of very large chunks of Rules that are easy to retain, there are also some tiny rules of slightly insignificant things that you will need to keep checking. But eventually you will pick it up and play will start streaming fluidly maybe on your third or fourth playthrough.
This game is the ultimate worker placement game of all time. It's funny as well as fun with its humorous and well-written rulebook. Plus the really cute and slightly sadistic artwork which accompanies the dungeon Lords and the pets. The components comprise of different materials from a wooden score me pool two plastic imps and standard tokens and cards, but everything looks stunning on the table. We love this game so much that we slightly upgraded it with some special tokens that resemble poop instead of brown cubes. And I have already invested in the expansion, Dark Alleys but have never gotten around to playing with it. Although we have added the adorable pets in the expansion into our base game. Maybe one day …
Technical score 9.5 out of 10
Stunning visuals, fantastic theme, excellent strategy and bags of laughter, all in this one box. I can only fault some of the components that are used to attach the disc to the egg, as they were missing. The upgraded components, if included in the game would make this a 10 out of 10.
BGG Score 9 out of 10
(excellent - very much enjoy playing)
This may be unfair as I have only ever played this game 14 times and only with two players, but every game has been a challenge and a barrel full of laughs. Even young children will pick this up with some storytelling, due in part to the thematic ideas attached to the mechanisms. And every game was a memorable experience with my daughter.
Combined score 9.25 out of 10
Now it's over to you...
"Dungeon Petz is a super original game, both in its theme but also in its mechanics. After the excellent Dungeon Lord, Vlaada delivers us once again a true nugget. Be careful not to be fooled by the cute illustrations and his Tamagotchi theme. Dungeon Petz is a challenging game. You will need to play several times before you start to master the beast.
Chance holds an important place but goes well with the quirky and offbeat theme.
You’ll feel affection for the small critters and almost regret selling them to the highest bidder ... or make them unhappy for lack of good care.
Passing the discovery of omnipresent humor (whether in the game or in the rules), it remains a game of management, rather sturdy but with an unpredictable dose of luck. Luck that can be more or less controlled when you start to know the game. Dungeon Petz is an excellent game that has suffered from the comparison with his big brother Dungeon Lord at its release. But the two are quite different. The theme is extremely well done. Making animals happy while respecting buyers' demands is not easy.
A very good game, a Vlaada title from his great era, a challenging game but very pleasant."
bunny kingdom (2017) review
Do you know Richard Garfield? No ? Shame On You ! You need to go and find information on him! If there is an author who has stamped their mark on the world of the board games, it is him. This man is none other than the father of the revolutionary card game : Magic The Gathering (yes just that!) and the excellent Netrunner. He also tackled different styles of board games (not just card games) including the very fun Roborally, the very original Filthy Rich or the very addictive King Of Tokyo. And more recently, we owe him for the very excellent Keyforge. Yes, there may be a little too much superlative, but with him it is never enough. As you can see, he is not just anyone. Everything he touches (or almost) turns into a true playful pleasure. Suddenly, when a game is named after him, the anticipation grows. This is the case with Bunny Kingdom.
In 2017, with Iello publishing and Paul Mafayon (Earth reborn, Loony Quest) illustrating, Bunny Kingdom was released. The game for 2-4 players, proposes to revisit the card drafting system by combining it with a zone control. The games are announced between 40 and 60 minutes.
Each play embodies a Rabbit Lord and his army. They must fight to take possession of virgin territory in the name of King Lapinot. The best Lord will have the title of “Great Ears.” Well... ok! Saying it like that, the theme is not a dream. But you play badass rabbits anyway! They are warriors and they fight for carrots, but not only and ... Ok. It's better that I stop here? So yes, the theme is not the most exciting thing at first. We can even say that it is something that we did not expect necessarily from the imagination of Richard Garfield. But let's admit why not.
To help us get in the mood, the game has great illustrations. There are many cards with unique designs. There are also a lot of reference here and there. It's colorfully beautiful. One could even say that it is sometimes a little childish in it’s style. This is also a misleading aspect of the game because behind it’s childish looks, it is quite a deep game. Apart from the cards, which represent the central mechanism, you’ll find a plateau and dozens of figurines. Your rabbit army is represented by small bunny miniatures of your color. There are also castle figurines, with a number of towers corresponding to the evolution of the city (one tower for level one, two towers for level two, three towers for level three).
These miniatures are small but the rendering is good and on the board they fit perfectly. I had the chance to play with both editions. Indeed, the first edition of the game suffered from a problem of poor graphical choices. The board was too small which made reading the game, especially the counting victory points very calamitous. Iello reacted very quickly and in the second edition corrected a lot of problems. The publisher has made a larger tray for better readability, boxes for the score that can accommodate several rabbits, reworked some colors, inserted a plastic insert. A good job of catching on and improving. With the fairly important material, once set up, we must admit that it looks very nice on the board.
The main game system is the card draft. Depending on the number of players, each will receive an identical amount of cards: 10 to 4 players, 12 to three. The game for two is slightly different. Each player chooses two cards and passes the rest to their neighbor. You play these two cards, you’ll then choose again two new and continue until the deck is depleted. With two players, there are four piles of cards as in a game for four players. Whenever you have to choose cards, you draw one from a neutral pile. You will always choose two but you keep one, another discarded. You continue like this until we have no more cards.
There are several types of cards.
You will find the terrain cards have a corresponding letter and a number. When you play one, you take control of that terrain by putting one of your bunny on it. Each terrain is unique. If you have for example, the A1 no one else can have it.
Then you have the building cards. These cards will allow you to add castles, mine resources on one of your fields at the end of a round. In the meantime, you take the figurine or the corresponding token and leave it on the card.
You will also find a cards power to apply immediately. Just read what it says.
Finally you will have the scrolls. These cards will remain in front of you face down. They will earn bonus points at the end of the game based on what you have achieved.
Once the draft is finished, you move to the construction phase. This is where you can put your tokens or castle figurines on the board in a field that you own or want to own (example with the camp). It is also possible to link two cities between them with the air relay or to produce new resources.
When everyone has decided to finish the construction phase, you’ll go to counting points. Nothing to complicate. You count for each possessed fief, the number of tower on them, multiplied by the number of different resources. You advance your token on the score track. A fief is one or more adjacent rabbit set of your colour, with at least one castle and one resource. You’ll do this four times and then look to see who wins.
And that's all. The game is not complicated at all in its rules. As often in this type of game, the more you play, the more you will know the cards and the more fluid the game will be. The turns are played quickly. The game flow nicely. There is no waiting around. On the other hand, luck is an integral part of the game system even more than in a classic draft. With two players, it is a little more strategic because you have more control. By cons, at three or four players, you’ll be fighting not only against the other players but also against the luck of the draw. There is also a decrease in large fiefdoms depending on the number of players. That can be felt in the final scores. The theme is quickly forgotten. Rabbits or something else would have worked just as well. As for the interaction, it is more indirect and light. In the first play, player will clearly play in their corner. Then gradually, will try to block the others by taking the cards they wants. Even though it's easier in the two-player setup, it can be done more with more players. But the cost will be more important because by doing that, you sacrifice your strategy. The interaction will therefore be more on an issue of land use and situational opportunism.
We can not keep from compare the game to the master stallion of the genre that is 7 Wonders. In terms of learning difficulty, Bunny Kingdom is slightly less complicated. The rendering during the game is more concrete because you see the tray fill up as and when. By cons in terms of games, it will be longer. It will also be more risky in the strategy. We are much more dependent on the drawing of the cards and where the other players will be placed. Finally, even if the main engine is the same, the two games are downright different. Whether in the sensations of games, but also in the fun.
Behind a childish aspect, Bunny Kingdom is a game that has a certain depth. Simple in these rules, it can quickly become strategic while taking into account the important aspect of luck. The counting of points is perhaps one of the black spots of the game finally. It can be seen as unnecessarily complicated. Fortunately, Iello has redone a larger board which makes it possible to identify each icon much better. With the first edition, it was pretty bad. Once we got used to it, it is not as binding as before, even if it always takes a little time.
Seeing the evolution of the board and its personal evolution is a pretty important thing. Bunny Kingdom is about having long-term vision. Even if it is important not to go empty headed, the closer you are to the end, the more points you’ll make. So, for seasoned players it may be easier to anticipate. Try to define the objectives of your opponents, prepare a trap and isolate, leave a camp at the right time ... Where finally, the family player will only play their cards to do something good. Again, this type of opportunity proves the intelligence of the game. It can be played between different types of players and with just as much fun. The game offers several playful readings and several methods to win.
The game has an extension, available at Iello, which has just been released. Bunny Kingdom: In the sky authorizes to play five and offers a new board with new resources and cards. (I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to try it yet).
Playable in all configurations and appreciable in each with different degrees of strategy, Bunny Kingdom is a surprisingly, very good. Another victory for Garfield. We have the impression of a concrete evolution marked by the change of the board as the game progresses. Whether played with friends or with the family, this works really well. Beautiful, nice, simple, full of humor, accessible but nevertheless strategic, this game has it all. Not to mention the fact that it has most importantly replayability, due in large part to chance. From one game to the other, everything can change which prevents THE syndrome “one-way from winning”. Would you like a little carrots with that?
Technical Score 8.5 / 10
The cards are beautiful (can be a little thin). The game is full of humor and winks. The miniatures of rabbits and castles (a little brittle) are well made. The whole thing may still be a little small (we’re get old) but the improvement of the material compared to the v1 are a real plus. We recognize the serious work of the publisher.
My BGG Score 8.5 / 10
(Very good, fun to play and I recommend it)
A success. Rules are simple but the game is very smart. More you play, the more fun you will have. Big replayability on the menu. A game without headaches but offers a good challenge. Little regret at the level of an almost nonexistent interaction.
Combined Score 8.5 / 10
And now, it's your turn...
The sun is shining.
The heat is comfortable.
The wind blows genitally. Then a little more forceful, making cards fly off tables and frantic gamers scramble after them. Only to return to the table with a giggle on their lips and the game continues.
Yes, we are outdoors at a weekend festival called Paris est Ludique. Not "Gay Paris" but "Playful Paris." Where publishers from all over France come to demo their new game, classic big sellers and games for the future. First time and famous designers show up to to get reactions from their prototypes and maybe their signature on a contract. Also Belgium publishers get in on the act and somewhere, hidden away there is even an English one too.
But that is not what you see as you walk around the Pelouse De Reuilly. It's all the smiling faces from the thousand guests that are walking around. From the demonstrates, content to retell the story of why their detective is addicted to cigarettes or why it's important to save the animals in the zoo. Even from the security personnel, who are amazed to see some many gentle people having fun together. And these smiles reflect in the environment all around.
This is not the first time that I have been here and felt this ambiance. PeL (Paris est Ludique) is my local big event, where I get to catch up with friends and contacts that I have made over the years. It is the second best event that I attend every year, after Essen (nothing will beat that). And I enjoy every minute of the wondering and babbling that takes place there. It's family friendly exterior entices thousands of parent to sit down and have fun with their kids.
With it's outdoor events, gaming tournaments, there were also the awards for the editor and authors of games. So much going on but all well organised. A lager event that is getting larger and large. In fact, this years ticket sales were 7,000 more than the year precede. A total of 20,000...(your gonna need a bigger boat!)
So I played as much as I could, so I could show you what is new and coming to our hobby. And maybe a be of that smiling has been captured on video and rubs off onto you. Roll on PeL 2019... =)
Overviews and interviews from Pel