Classic board games from my childhood far too often rely on the roll and move mechanic. Even as a kid I shied away from games like Sorry, Life, Chutes and Ladders, and Mouse Trap, gravitating more to Battleship and Labyrinth. Today, we will be looking at a kid’s game that uses a lot of dice with no movement involved.
In Lucky Dogs, players will be rolling dice and placing them on the dog bone tiles. You are trying to collect enough dog bone tiles in order to reveal letters that spell out Lucky Dogs. Players will have to work together to complete the phrase as quickly as they can before they run out of dice. While the game could just be a boring exercise, the game does have a few wrinkles that makes it more interesting.
Lucky Dogs is a cooperative dice placement game for 2-4 players to play in around fifteen minutes. In my experience, the game plays identically with all player counts.
On your turn, you will roll six dice (or all you have if you have fewer). Then set aside any dice that match other dice you rolled, these dice are not eligible to be placed on the dog bone tiles this turn.
You then take your remaining dice and see if you can place them on any of the matching number on a dog bone tile. If you are unable to play any of your dice on a tile, either because of rolling all multiples or there are no matches on the tiles, place one die on the doghouse tile.
If you have completed a dog bone tile, you first follow the instructions on the tile. Either you gain another die from the doghouse or you place one of the dice used to complete the tile into the doghouse. Then distribute all of the remaining dice on the tile to all the players. Flip over the tile to reveal the letter/word you have earned and place them to the side as you work to reveal the correct tiles to spell Lucky Dogs. The game ends when you spell out Lucky Dogs or all of the players run out of dice before doing so.
Lucky Dogs isn’t going to knock you over the head with strategy elements. It is a cooperative kid’s game after all. Fortunately, there is enough tension and decision-making to not turn the game into a snore fest.
Tension is added to each dice roll because of the matching number dice not being available for you to use this turn. There is almost a sense of dread when you see the exact number you need to complete a bone tile, but then check the rest of the dice only to find a match.
While I appreciate the added rule to make the dice rolls more interesting, they do add more frustration. I found that this was the most likely reason that a player wouldn’t be able to do anything on their turn. While a few lost turns isn’t a big deal in a dice rolling game, it seemed to happened a lot in the games I played with my kids and I could tell they were getting frustrated by it. While most dice games try to allow some manipulation of the dice to help you, Lucky Dogs takes it the other way and makes it more restrictive.
Players have to be mindful of how they place their dice. If you don’t take stock of everything before you place a die, you could lose out on placing a die somewhere else. Even though you lose dice as you place them on the bone tiles, you have to place as many as you can each turn. This issue gave me an opportunity to teach my kids about observing everything before we make a decision on our action that turn. Often they just jumped at the first thing they saw and that ended up hurting us in the end.
Throughout the game you will slowly lose dice to the dog house. This does a good job of moving the game along and making you feel that you might run out of dice at any time. This natural culling happens enough that it seems an odd choice to occasionally be required to place one of the dice in the dog house. While this does up the tension because you have less dice to roll, it really isn’t necessary.
This isn’t the biggest issue with the game. That honor goes to the bone tiles. The major issue is you have no idea what letter/word is under these tiles. This isn’t an problem at the start of the game when you are just trying to collect as many tiles as you can and place dice. However, it gets annoying when you have no idea what tile to go after as you are looking for the last tiles you need. You can spend way too much time focusing on a tile that will net you nothing but the dice that you placed on it.
Also, while trying to complete it you may lose a die or two. I’m not saying we need to know exactly what is on each tile because that discovery element is key to the game. Rather some type of roadmap to get us pointed in the right direction to what is under the tile would be helpful.
These thoughts are from the gamer dad perspective. Seeing this is a kid’s game, we should get a few thoughts from my little play testers. The reviews were mixed. My daughter (7) enjoyed the game a little but wanted more to do during the game. She liked the dice rolling but just wanted more options as she played. My son (4) enjoyed it a lot more than my daughter. He loved rolling the dice and finding where they could be placed. I think this game is more for the younger crowd. The dice rolling keeps their interests as you help them place the dice on the tiles.
Lucky Dogs suffers from an endgame situation that isn’t representative of the enjoyment of the overall game. At the start, players will be placing dice quickly all over the place. Kids will enjoy placing the dice and the game is a good introduction to dice placement mechanics for younger kids. However as you get closer to the end, the resources become thin and you just want a little guidance on where to focus your placement of dice. Lucky Dogs isn’t a bad game and something I would gladly play over the games I listed in the start of this review. I would recommend Lucky Dogs for parents with younger kids (ages 3-5) that want to introduce a new game to the rotation.
Final Score: 3 Stars – Unique dice management and placement mechanics are interesting but bogged down by a frustrating end game situation.
• Lack of information on bone tiles
• Extra way to lose dice isn’t necessary