Here Comes the Dog (2018) Review
I will not lie, what attracted me to this game is the box. Long before I knew what it was, this silhouetted dog and Chinese writing clearly intrigued me. Then, I saw that it was the publishers and the author who gave us Tokyo Highway, another game of rather original address. It did not take more to try this new game.
Here Comes the Dog is the latest game by Naotaka Shimamoto. The few illustrations that there are from Yoshiaki Tomioka and all this is published by itten. This publisher is famous for offering games with original themes but especially with always pleasant components.
Here Comes the Dog plunges you into a time far away. Humans lived among themselves and dogs were still considered dangerous creatures. The game offers us to relive the first contacts between the two species. The women and men of the village gathered at night around big fires to feast and feed. But fire attracts strange creatures too. Indeed, dogs quickly realized that the best way to find food is to get closer to these bonfires. Thus, every night, the villagers must have leftovers to feed the pack, at the risk that they will attack humans if not. While paying attention to what surrounds them, the villagers must also maintain the fire to avoid darkness.
With a theme finally quite dark, the game installs you in a special atmosphere. The campfire is represented by sticks of wood (which reminiscent of iced lolly sticks) of different colors. Therefore you’ll find red stick for fire, black for charcoal and the most important beige for meat. Once the fire is well established, the small villagers are placed around the fire (in front of us) and the dogs around the humans. I can tell you that on a table it looks really good. Everything is made of wood, which lends character to the game. The mixture of shapes and colors delight the eyes. Starting from a game that seems to lean towards the abstract, the material brings a lot for immersion.
All players start with three villagers in front of them. You will have to make sure that you survive at the risk of starting over again with only two villagers. On your turn, you’ll have two choices: throw the dice or make an exchange.
If the player opts for the dice, you’ll take the three available and roll them. The player can then choose two results out of the three and apply it. The six-sided dice have three different colors corresponding to the colors of the sticks. Thus, the player can choose two to remove them from the campfire. But you have to pay attention to your choices. Depending on what is left in the fire, events may occur.
If there is not enough coal to power the fire, it will go out. The dogs will then take the opportunity to attack the villagers. They will then go to the players who own meat. Each victim of the attack may try to defend himself by sacrificing two sticks of food, or by lighting a torch to scare off the dogs, in which case they will sacrifice fire and charcoal. But that's for every dog. As a result, dogs that have not fled ... feed directly on humans. This is one of the ways to see its population decline.
If there is no more meat around the fire, the feast is over. To avoid any trouble, the villagers throw their remains to the dogs. If you have two meat sticks, you can tame a dog. You can then give it the name you want. Class, no? It's even better because taming works for every pair of meat you have. In other words, if you have four, it taimes two dogs for you, etc. The dogs stay with you until the end of the game because they are faithful ... like Lassie.
If food and coal run out, the round ends but nothing happens.
Depending on the results of rolls, some events may occur.
Yes it can happen often. But do not worry, the one whose turn it was does not lose it. They reroll the dice ... at the risk of re-triggering an event. And so on.
But that's not all. There is one last possible combination. If all three dice are different, then the player can steal a stick directly from another player. Any, but just one, then the turn is over.
The other possible action is the exchange. You can very well choose to limit the dangers by exchanging your sticks with those of the fire. So you can give a coal for meat; a fire for two meats or a fire for two coals. But watch out for events.
The game is played over five rounds. At the end of the fifth, the player with the most domesticated dog wins the game.
But be careful, you can very well be eliminated during the game. As I already told you, when you lose your three villagers, you come back. You lose all your dogs and you have only two villagers . If they die, you have one last chance, this time with only one villager. If they disappear, you do too. The others continue to play without you. Fortunately, the game is fast. When you get eliminated because of bad throw, there is something rage.
Here comes the dog is a particular game. Particular in its theme but also in its way of apprehending it. It may seem simple but it can be difficult to explain without playing at the same time. The rules are short and not to complicated. But the logic of the game seems at first a little confused. You’ll often have the unfortunate impression of not mastering anything and suffering constantly. Some parts can even become nightmarish when nothing goes your way and you just die doing nothing.
Once the logic is understood, the game works. One might have thought this is a game of skill, considering the material, but it is not so. You are faced with a pure game of opportunist combined with the omnipresent chance. It is precisely this chance that makes it so special. While you could quietly select your combinations and think of long-term strategies, the game prevents this. The pressure of an imminent attack of dogs is present. All the time, every turn, every roll of the dice, no one is safe. This special atmosphere coupled with constant risk taking works perfectly and adds to the theme. In turn, we are facing real dilemmas.
The interaction is very strong. At any moment, you have to look at what the other person is doing. This is not necessarily a direct interaction (except for the flight) but what you will achieve on your turn, the sticks you collect or exchange, affect the game for the others. Behind a cute design, the game is actually at the height of its theme: naughty, bestial. Errors are fast and expensive. It's like a survival game but more minimalist.
There is also a variant included in the game: The dance of the villagers. This time, the dice are set aside. You will use the villagers to know what actions are available. Depending on the number of players, each will have a number of villagers to throw as dice. Depending on how it lands, the actions will be different. The goal is once again to win more dogs, but lighter. This variant may be a bit reminiscent of the Pass the Pigs, with one side more strategic.
Here Comes the Dog is really a title apart. It has a superb material that really participates in the immersion. Even though the first games may not be easy to understand, the game deserves to extend the experience. Once mastered, if you are not allergic to chance, it offers a special unique atmosphere. The publisher Itten has a catalog of unclassifiable interesting little games. Here Comes the Dog could finally be a kind of life lesson. Learning to train dogs is not so simple. However, it is priceless, except ... as is your life …
Technical Score 9/10
The material is really great. Everything is wooden, nice to handle. The rules are rather well written even if sometimes you’ll have to re-read it. A small box with content that makes its effect once installed. And besides, there are plenty of meeples! If that's not class.
My BGG Score 7/10
(Good game. Enjoy playing from time to time)
Starting from an original theme, the game manages to distil a particular atmosphere. It's bad, it's hard, the chance is very present. However, the game offers a different, pleasant experience. The price remains accessible for the material. Try it to get an idea.
Combined Score 8/10
Now, it's your turn to play ...