4 Chits, 3 Giggles
Did you ever have a Tamagotchi? Ah the good old days of poop, hunger and hatred. I once threw a Tamagotchi out of a second story window for beeping constantly at three in the morning after the little poop machine had managed to fill the screen with digital excrement and wouldn't shut up about it.
Dungeon Petz is pretty much 'Tamagotchi: The Board Game' without all the beeping. It may come as a bit of a shock but it is absolutely brilliant! Dungeon Petz embraces its theme so darn well. Your little monster pets are all misbehaving and it's a struggle just to keep them in check so they don't die in a swamp of sickness or disappear to another dimension (it happens.) It's tense and a whole lot of fun.
This is a worker placement game with a whole lot more going on. Each player is running their own dungeon pet shop and scores points by raising 'petz' (sic), entering them into competitions (like Crufts for monsters) and selling these pets off to Dungeon Lords that visit your shop. It has a really interesting bidding mechanic when it comes to placing your worker Imps. Instead of taking it in turns to place Imps on locations of the board, players secretly place a number of Imps on each tunnel exit as a bid. Once all bids have been made, they are revealed and the highest bid goes first. This means you can make huge bids in attempt to grab the best pets or magic items but forfeit a lot of other actions that turn. It's a neat mechanic that spices up the usual way of playing these sort of games. There are lots of interesting options to send your Imps to, such as building new cages to house your pets, collecting new pets, getting food to feed them, transporting over distant relatives to help out at the pet shop and bribing judges at the contests to name a few. There's a lot going on! This is a heavier game than some players might be used to but I've found it surprisingly easy to teach thanks to its intuitive, thematic mechanics.
On each turn players, they'll also have to manage their pets by revealling behaviour cards for each of them, which is a real highlight of the game for me. By bringing a light story telling element to this phase, it really adds a lot of fun to the game and whilst not compulsory, it's highly recommended. Players talk through the chaos that unfolds in each of the cages in their pet shop. For example, if I deal a 'play card', a 'poop card' and a 'rage card' that may translate into the following scenario: “Cthulie wants to play with the Imps but gets too excited and poops in his cage. This makes him all angry and he tries to escape! Luckily there is another Imp to contain him. Cthulie doesn't go easy on the Imp though, and the poor Imp ends up in hospital with a broken collar bone and a fractured ego.” This really lifts up the gaming experience in my opinion as you genuinely look forward to seeing how each player has managed their pets each turn.
The game is for two to four players and works best at the latter. The two and three player variants add blocker Imps to the game meaning some actions are unavailable on certain turns. I have no issue with this as the blocker Imps move around on a set path meaning you can plan ahead accordingly, but some people find this frustrating and perhaps they would have preferred a slightly different variant or no blockers at all.
Finding the balance and working out the timing of your actions proves this is a weightier game than it seems, hidden behind its cutesy theme. Experienced players often stand a better chance of winning as they will understand the games complexities and how best to play to them. It is a really great game for those ready to step up from the lighter strategy games that are out there.
Dungeon Petz is definitely in my top ten list. It is a game that combines lots of familiar mechanics in a new and extremely fun way; bidding, card management, worker placement, story telling, etc. There is so much game in this game and it will be hitting my table often. It really benefits from a gaming group with a sense of humour. If you own or have ever owned a Tamagotchi this is definitely a game you will enjoy playing. At least Dungeon Petz doesn't wake you up in the early hours of the morning crying out for your loving attention and your poop scoop...
Review by David Murcutt