How to Play:
Walk the Dogs is a 2005 SimplyFun family set collecting and press your luck game from legendary board game designers Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum. The goal of the game is to collect as many dogs as you can and try to set up sets of the same breed of dog in your line (the more consecutive dogs of one breed you have, the more points you score).
To set up Walk the Dogs, randomly pull dogs out of the included “doggie bag” and place them in a single line, one-by-one, with each dog facing the same way (you will probably have to snake the line around multiple times unless you have a large table to play on, just make sure they all face the same way throughout). Continue to do this until all dogs have been removed from the doggie bag and are in the line. Then, shuffle the deck of cards and deal out two cards to each player. If a player is dealt a bone card or a dog catcher card (card types which I will get into later), they should put it back into the deck and draw another card. Place the remaining cards in the middle of the table to serve as a draw pile.
The player whose first name begins closest to the letter “D” begins the game. On each turn, players take the following actions. First, they take the top card from the draw pile and add it to their hand. If the card is a special action card (a bone or dog catcher card), they show it to everyone at the table and perform the action on the card (I’ll describe them later). They then draw a new card to replace it.
The second action a player takes is to play a card. The green cards (with the front half of a dog on them) allow a player to take dogs from the front of line (they take as many dogs as there are on the card, from one to three). The red cards (which show the back half of a dog) allow the player to take dogs from the back of the line (again as many as there are on the card). Yellow cards let a player take one dog from the front of the line and another from the back. Finally, leash cards allow a player to steal one dog from the front or back of an opponent’s line of dogs and add it to the front or back of their own line.
To end each turn, players take the dogs they get based on the card they played and add them to their own line. Players can place their new dogs in the front of their line, the back, or even mix-and-match them (put one dog in the front and another in the back) in any combination they wish. However, they can not add dogs to the middle of their line. Also, once placed into the line dogs cannot be moved to a new spot in the line. Once the dogs have been placed, the next player takes their turn and play continues in the same way until all dogs have been taken.
There are two types of special action cards included. When either a bone or dog catcher card are drawn, they are immediately played (and the player who got it draws a new card to replace it). Bone cards are given to the player who currently has the least amount of dogs in their line. These cards are worth three points at the end of the game (they basically work as a way to help players who don’t draw well). If there is a tie for the least amount of dogs, if one of the players is the player who drew it they get to keep it. Otherwise, the closest tied player (clockwise) to the person who drew it gets it.
When a dog catcher is drawn, every player in the game loses their longest exposed group of dogs of the same breed in either the front or back of their line. For example, let’s say a player’s line starts with three beagles, then one poodle, a pug, four schnauzers, and finally two poodles. In this case the four schnauzers are safe because they aren’t at the front or back of the line (other dogs are blocking them from being exposed). The dog catcher would take the three beagles since they are exposed (and three is more than the two poodles at the end of the line). All players discard their dogs lost to the dog catcher into the doggie bag (they are completely out of the game).
If at any time a player manages to get a group of five matching dogs in a row in their line, they immediately win the game. Otherwise, play continues until all dogs in the line in the middle of the table have been taken. When that happens, players count up their points to determine the winner. A lone dog by itself is worth one point, two matching dogs in a row is worth four points, three consecutive equals nine points, and four scores a whopping 16 points. Add all of your points together (as well as three points per bone card acquired) and compare totals with your competitors. The player with the highest total wins. If there is a tie, the tied player with the longest streak of matching dogs win the game.
Alan Moon’s original rule (which is included as an advanced rule) was to deal four cards to each player at the start of the game. Then, players would have to pick whether to draw (up to a maximum hand size of four) or play a card each turn, adding a bit more strategy to the game.
As you could probably guess, we are big fans of Alan Moon’s games here at Geeky Hobbies. Ticket to Ride is probably one of our top five games (and the gateway game that got us into designer games), Ticket to Ride Europe got a 5/5, and even lesser known games like Incan Gold, 10 Days in the USA, and 10 Days in Africa got solid scores. While imperfect, Walk the Dogs is another of his many very good games.
First of all, this is a very good game for families since it is very easy and quick to play. Kids will love the cute little dog pieces and probably have a lot of fun with the game itself. They should be able to easily learn how to play but you might need to help them in certain areas (like explaining what their options are when they have two or three of the same dog in a row). While not the most educational game out there, Walk the Dogs does teach counting and the concept of risk vs. reward (deciding whether to protect three consecutive dogs of the same type or push on to try to score more points).
However, Walk the Dogs isn’t just a game for families. It’s also good as a short and light strategy game if you only have 15-30 minutes to play. There is a lot of luck involved (drawing cards, when the dog catcher comes up, and the order of the dogs in the main line) but there is still plenty of strategy and decision making. Players have to decide which card to play, where to place their dogs, and whether or not to protect their set of consecutive dogs from the dog catcher or not (whether or not to press their luck). Luck definitely plays a part though, if you are constantly drawing cards that only allow you to take one dog, the dog types you want never come up, or the dog catcher hits you at a bad time, you probably aren’t going to win.
Walk the Dogs is perfect as a first “designer” game because it is more advanced than normal games like Monopoly and Clue while still being easy to play (I don’t think it’s any more difficult to learn than those games) and very accessible. It’s also good for gamers who want to try to get their inexperienced family and friends into gaming (a good gateway game). This is the type of game you could easily play with your grandma who has never played a board game other than the classics.
One of the best parts of Walk the Dogs is the great components. The game comes with the cutest little pieces ever which kids should love to play with. All seven of the dog breeds are adorable and I give SimplyFun a lot of credit for including them instead of some boring tiles. The general art style and cards are also very cute and well done. Dog lovers will especially love this theme and the components included. I love games that include high quality and unique components like this.
While I don’t have a lot of negatives about Walk the Dogs, I do have some small, nit-picky problems with it. First of all, the game is actually a little too fast. Even though the dog figures are cute, I wish a few more were included to add a few more rounds to the game. Also, because of the lack of dogs I actually think playing with just three players is ideal. While you can still play with four, it makes the game a bit too crowded and quick (and players’ lines don’t really get that long). Unless you have to, I definitely wouldn’t play with five even though the box says you can.
Another nit-picky problem is that you need a lot of space to line up all of the dogs and create lines for each player. This is definitely a game you need a big table to play comfortably. One rule I’m not a big fan of is the bone cards. I don’t have a problem with them being included; the main issue with them is that one player could easily wind up acquiring all of them that come up in a game and win mainly due to them. While it’s a good idea to reward stinginess (not taking more dogs than you need) and help mitigate unlucky card drawing, in one of our games the winner got all of them and they accounted for over half of their points. This probably won’t happen often but I think setting a limit of one or two per player is a good idea.
While Walk the Dogs is very good, the game is a little pricey in my book. Even with the great components, I think the game (which is $34 on SimplyFun’s website and up to $40 plus shipping on Amazon) is a little too expensive. This is mainly because Walk the Dogs isn’t a game that you’ll play as your “main course” for the night. It’s more of a nice, quick filler game that you’ll play when you have 15-30 minutes to play. If you really like the theme, value high quality components, or think the game sounds fun it will probably be worth it to you. Otherwise, you might want to wait until you can find it on sale or at a thrift store.
Walk the Dogs is another very good game from Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum. If the price was a little lower, I would have no problem recommending it to pretty much everyone. However, even at its price it still gets a very good three-and-a-half out of five from me.