Running a pet shop should be easy business, right? Well not if your target customers are Dungeon Lords! Dungeon Petz is the newest game from Vlaada Chvatil (designer of Dungeon Lords and Through The Ages board games). Dungeon Petz is a board game for 2-4 players where you are tasked with running a petshop in the crazy Dungeon Lords universe. The game combines worker placement mechanics with resource management. Taking about 1.5 to 2 hours to play, Dungeon Petz is not for the casual gamer.
Dungeon Petz is played over 5-6 rounds. There are a lot of different components, including 2 central boards and various player boards (more on that in the components). Each round is played with 6 phases, ranging from round setup to shopping to taking care of your pets.
Each round, you must first send your imps out into the world to do your bidding. They take actions such as: buying food for your pets, buying new pets, getting cage upgrades and recruiting relatives from distant lands to work for you.
Then you have to assess and take care of your pets needs. This is accomplished through a unique card system. Once those are all met, it’s time to show and sell your pets for money. All this is with the end goal in mind to earn reputation points. The winner is the player with the most reputation points at the end of the game.
When producing Dungeon Petz, Vlaada Chvatil went all out as usual. First, the artwork is beautifully illustrated. It is done in the same cartoony style as Dungeon Lords, so if you liked that game, you will enjoy this as well. There are 4 different player boards that come with the game, each artfully done. The central board holds all the marketplace items, there is a progress board to, track the game progress. Each player gets a set of player boards, one is cages for your pets. The other, your imps homes.
In addition to the standard, cardboard and wooden tokens found in any game, There are the sculpted imp figures (similar to the ones in Dungeon Lords). The petz themselves are two piece items made out of cardboard. The top part attaches to the bottom on a swivel. The top shows the pet artwork while the bottom is used to assess the petz needs.
All-in-all the components of this game are as high quality as you will find in any game. The weight of the box alone lets you know you are getting your money’s worth.
How to Play:
First off let me say, this is not a simple eurogame. The rule book clocks in at 20 pages, and it’s packed full of information. That’s not to say the game is unbearably complicated, but you should know what you are in for. There is just a lot going on.
The game is played over 5-6 rounds (tracked on the progress board). Each round has the following phases:
- Needs Cards
- Showing Off
Setup has 3 sections: get income, add new stuff and reveal new information. In this round everyone collects some gold (the game explains it as distant relatives investing in your business). The add new stuff part is replenishing stocks of cages, food, artifacts and petz. In the reveal info part, you flip up customer and exhibition tiles. This lets you preplan your purchases by knowing the needs of future buyers and exhibitions. Finally, you restock the food, artifacts, cages and pets.
Shopping is done via a blind bidding mechanic. You start with 6 imps and a handful of gold pieces. Behind their screen, each player secretly separates their imps into different shopping groups (and including gold with some). Once everyone is ready you reveal your shopping groups. The largest groups get to head out first. So if you have 4 imps in a group, they will be able to go shopping before the 3 imp group. If you send gold with your imps, it counts as an extra “person.” So 4 imps would equal 3 imps and 1 gold piece.
Priority is important because shopping spaces are limited and first come, first served. As mentioned earlier, the main shopping spots are: getting food, getting artifacts, choosing a new cage, choosing a cage add-on, buying a new pet, volunteering for judging or visiting the hospitals. Some of those are self-explanatory, while others you’ll figure out as the game progresses.
You will have a hand of color coded cards. Each pet has a set of bars on the bottom if it, each color coded as well. In the “needs cards” step, you must play enough cards from your hand to match a pets needs. If a pet is showing a yellow and purple bar, you must play yellow in purple card from your hand for that pet.
The cards all have icons on them, such as food, playful balls of string and magic icons. When playing one of these cards, you have to have the specific requirement to satisfy the pets needs.
I won’t go into all the pet needs here, but to give you an example, if you play a food card, you have to have food in your stash to pay for that. If you don’t the pet gets a suffering token. Suffering tokens are bad and reduce your pets value.
After the need cards are assigned, it’s time to see what they do. you flip your cards over and take care of the requirements listed. In another example, the card might show the anger symbol. Each cage has an anger rating. If your pet has an anger value of 3 and your cage only rates a 2, it breaks out an escapes. Not good. Assessing and satisfying needs is a large part of this game, so you will want to make sure everyone understands it before starting. But it will also probably take a round or so before everyone fully grasps how the mechanic works. Once players do, it will be smooth sailing (except when you can’t meet a pet’s need an feel shame).
After the needs are all taken care of, you move on to the exhibiting. By referencing the current exhibition tile, you score your pets. Each tile will give points for certain qualities on a pet. Some value anger while others might deduct points if your pet has suffered. It’s not a hard system to grasp and it helps to plan ahead by looking at future exhibitions. Winners of the exhibitors will get reputation points (meaning victory points).
Starting in round 3, customers come around. This is where you can sell pets for profits and make some much needed income. Selling works similar to the exhibitions in that buyers will have specific desires. Some might want a playful pet, while others might want a magical beast. Find the pet that best fills the buyers criteria and sell it for profit.
Here your pets finally start to grow. You rotate the two pieces of your pet so more lines on the bottom show. Their needs per round will increase, but so will their value. Buyers don’t want babies to guard their dungeons. The longer you keep a pet, the more work it will require, but the more profitable it will become for you.
In this step you also age your food and bring your imps back home. Meat can only be kept for 2 rounds before it spoils, while veggies will hang around for 3 rounds. Be aware of that if you are buying a carnivorous pet or a omnivore.
Still with me? Well after all that, you move the start player token and begin a new round. Using the progress board you can tell when the game is about to end. Once the final round is done, you do some final scoring and declare a winner.
So I warned you at the start that this game isn’t for the feint of heart. It’s not the most complicated eurogame out there, but it’s probably not going to fly with your non-gamer friends. There are just a lot of things to remember and keep track of.
That all being said, I did enjoy playing a lot. I liked Dungeon Lords and I think Dungeon Petz actually improves on the concept a lot. Once you understand how Dungeon Petz works, it’s a lot of fun. The combination of resource management, worker placement and auctioning is a lot of fun. There is just so much to do and keep track of each round that it’s going to keep the interest of anyone who loves strategy games.
The theme also helps to keep the game light hearted despite its heavy rulebook. Vlaada Chvatil did a great job with Dungeon Petz theme, you really feel like you are doing all the steps you need to run a successful pet business. Combine that with top notch components and there is a lot of love about this game.
If you can get past the heavy rule book, I’d say Dungeon Petz will have a great spot in any gamers’ collection. Besides, those monster petz are just so darn lovable!
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $45
Final Score: 7.5/10 – There is a lot going on here, but once you get the rules down, its a great strategy game with a theme you don’t see very often.
• Heavy rulebook will turn off some
• Longer playing time for a eurogame