Game: Dungeon Petz
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Four years I worked for that dreadful dungeon keeper, “mine here” he’d say, “Go trigger that trap”, “Hold on let me possess you, you’re not doing it right”. Enough I say! Enough of his hero slaying dungeon full of red-horned devils, smelly fat-demons and hungry spiders! So I left, but not before noticing how much he liked monsters. Those monsters he had he got for free, but why shouldn’t he pay! Why shouldn’t all dungeon keepers pay for the finest quality monsters? The best of the best, the fartiest of demons, the hungriest of spiders the horniest of devils! And that’s why I’m the proprietor of the first ever imp-run pet store! Now my old dungeon keeper pays me, well... he paid me before... but it’s different now okay! I’m my own imp and no-one can take that from me without a really big whip or a big enough bag of gold!
Dungeon Petz is a 2-4 player worker placement game in which you control a group of imps who are trying to set up a pet shop full of various forms of monsters. Firstly a pet shop is a wonderful idea for a board game and I don’t know why more people haven’t made pet shop games, secondly this game is simply adorable! The manual is written with a hint of cheek which really suits the theme of crazy little goblins running a pet store, and perhaps most importantly the rear couple of pages have descriptions on all the pets and buyers so you start to feel that little bit attached about ensuring your mutant eyeball plant goes to a good home!
The game is a worker placement and as such you can guess half the gameplay, you place your imps on the board and use them to collect resources (food), money (leaving them home to work), steal new cages, buy pets, steal artifacts, steal cage upgrades, smuggle their imp relatives into the country, bribe judges of the pet show, steal medicine from the infirmary... did I mention imps are a little mischievous? The interesting part of the worker placement comes from the turn order, which is determined by how many imps you send at once. Every player has a little screen to hide their decision behind and then they reveal. All groups of 3 go before any groups of 2, which all go before any single imps etc. However you can improve the imps abilities by giving them money, apparently paying for goods takes less time than stealing them because a shiny gold coin is worth the same as sending an extra imp.
Ultimately you are running a pet shop so you need pets, these are my favourite part of the game, the pets are all cute in their mutant-monster kind of way, they come on little egg-shaped bits of cards with a dial. When you buy a pet it’s either size 1 or 2, but the longer you own it the more it grows. Any pets not bought do grow up, but once they get to big they have to... live on a farm? The manual explicitly says that the meat added to the food vendors is entirely unrelated! Pets have needs which are represented by the rotating part of the dial, the bigger a pet is the more needs it has so they become harder to keep, especially to keep happy. For each needs represent the mosnter’s personality, some pets need to eat more, others like to be played with a lot, others thrash about and try to break free etc. For each need you draw 1 card of that colour and add it to your hand (which is normally 1 card of each colour) then you assign them 1 card of the correct colour for each need they have. Then you have to use your imps to play with/contain the pets, feed them, hope they don’t magically mutate or poop everywhere etc.
The pets can break free, or mutate, or simply just suffer enough from not being fed/getting sick that they outright die, this costs you points, because honestly, what kind of inhuman monster are you? Oh... right, an imp I guess, but still, even imps have standards! So before you lost control of your ever-growing pet you may want to sell it on to a dungeon lord, but before you do that display your pet at the pageant. These are the main 2 ways of getting points, The factors needed to win the pageant change per round, some reward based on all your monsters, some only on one. One round you may have a pageant for the most well-fed pet, but then have a lich come to the shop who wants to buy the most diseased pet he can find. It’s important to play the relevant cards to make the most points, but remember, if you can’t beat your opponent, you can always cheat by sending your imps to bribe the judges!
|The game board, pets for sale are in the center, food is to the right, cages and cage accessories are to the left. Depending on player count you may have neutral imps wandering around and blocking certain spaces.|
Dungeon Petz is a wonderful game, I’m not normally a huge worker placement fan, but this one hits the nail on the head. The theming is brilliant, the manual is cute, the art is wonderful, including all the little imps scurrying around on the board! The game makes me feel downright sad when I fail my pets and that’s an accomplishment in itself. If I had to point out a flaw it’s that selling pets can sometimes work so much in someone’s favour, if they get a lucky card draw, that they can pretty much win the game in one fell swoop, but that’s a rarity and ultimately everyone did have the same opportunities, they just weren’t willing to put down enough imps/money to get the right pet/artifacts/whatever they needed first. I can’t sing this game’s praises enough, it’s up there with X-com and Pandemic legacy on my favourite games list.