It’s time to spoil your furriest of best friends with bones, toys, walks and the most delicious bowls of crunchy-munchies in the pawsome set collecting game, Dog Lover by AEG Games!

Publisher: AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group)
David Short

Artist: Kali Fitzgerald

Release date: 2021

2-4 Players

Age: 10+

30 mins

Favouritefoe score 8/10

*Set Collection * Open Drafting * Scoring Objectives * Tableau * Strategy * Card Game*

I love my dog. Whether she is sitting by my side or chewing up my favourite shoes, I love her. I even love her when she is jumping in the pond or chasing after our hens. Helps that she’s cute, but it wouldn’t matter if she wasn’t. She’s like a big, furry, baby bear cub who wants to play 24/7.

So when AEG very kindly sent me Dog Lover to try, both Star and I were wagging our tails and pulling at the parcel tape! A card game all about the bond between human and hound? Yes please!

Collecting Canines!

Dog Lover is a set collection card game. During play, you’re trying to feed, amuse, walk, and generally spoil your pups by taking cards from a central tableau. You can also adopt doggies from the shelter and nurture their special traits for pawsome points.

But watch out! There’s a guard dog about who will not let you take whatever you want on your turn! Can you learn some new tricks to get the best cards? And will you stockpile enough crunchy munchy food to be able to satisfy all those hungry tums by end game? Let’s find out!

Here boy! Here girl!

You start the game with a random dog card (small, medium, or large) and a standard or random special Trick. The Trick dictates how you take cards from the central tableau on your turn, and the standard is a straight row or column of 3.

The central tableau is a grid of 3 x 3 cards comprising dogs, food, traits, and a whole host of other stuff like bones, walks, and favourite things that puppies like. There’s also a column of 3 rescue dogs waiting patiently to be adopted (check out their pup-tastic names!), and a column of 3 special Tricks that will allow you to take cards from the tableau in different patterns.

There’s also a Guard Dog token that gets placed next to one of the rows or columns, and its job is to stop you in your puppy picking tracks!

So, on your go, you are going to use one of your Tricks to take cards from the tableau in the pattern shown on the Trick. You will only have one Trick to start the game, but you can rotate it if it works better for you the other way. Some Tricks will even let you pick up 4 or 5 cards at a time! The only restriction is that you cannot take more than one card from the row or column protected by the Guard Dog. So effectively, taking the whole row or column in line with the Guard Dog is not allowed and Tricks do not override this protection!  

The cards you take can do a range of things:

  • Dogs – any dogs you get will sit in front of you and you can have as many fur babies as you like – awwww!
  • Adoption papers – when you get multiples of these then can be exchanged for a rescue dog from the column next to the tableau who can do sneaky things to the usual rules – bless their puppy hearts!
  • Food – your puppies need chow, and not just any old snacks. Each dog card you collect specifies how much of the canned, dried, and scrap food they need in order to count at end game scoring. There’s also a wild food resource. So collecting these cards to exchange for crunchy munchy cubes of the right colours is good dog owner 101!
  • Favourite things – dogs love toys! And the more they have the better for you as their point value goes up as your sets grow.
  • Training  – these can either be exchanged for new Tricks from the Trick column during the game or tucked behind one of your dog cards for points at end game.
  • Walks – again these are worth points when tucked behind one of your pups. 
  • Bones – so long as you have fed your pups, the bones you have kept for end game will earn you bonus points (although watch out for a nasty negative nip if you only have one bone by game end!); and
  • Traits – these represent ongoing special puppy powers. They also award points at end game but it must be paired up with one of your pups on the turn you take it. If you can’t attach it then you must discard it. And dogs can only have one trait – they can learn new tricks but never change their traits!

After you have collecting cards and deciding whether to display, discard/swap, or tuck cards until the “End Game” card is revealed in the deck. Then it’s time to add up the points from all your well fed, walked and generally contented pups!

Pretty, puntastic pups!

The cartoony artwork is cool in a very cute, comic strip type way. And the names of the rescue pups do make me giggle – check out the street wise pug “50 Scent” who, besides looking gangsta, also rewards extra points if you have Escape Artist and/or Food Thief Trait cards in your collection!

Pawsome, Furry Fun!

Dog Lover is a light, fun, set collecting filler game with a cutie pie-puppy theme. Once set up, the game play is fast, and the Guard Dog dynamic gives it some bite!

The Tricks you use to select cards restrict choice in a clever way. And combined with the prohibition on taking cards in the Guard Dog’s protected row/column, decisions become less straightforward. Similarly, knowing the Trick you use to get your cards also determines where the Guard Dog runs off to protect next can also make you second guess your Trick choice. Having said that, Tricks that enable you to take 4 or 5 cards on your turn are almost always worth using when you can.

With some tableau cards promising end game points or instant actions (depending on whether you keep or discard them), you’ll be spending a lot of your time weighing up short v long term benefits. But with the Guard Dog bouncing about and the grid and Trick/Rescue rows changing all the time, trying to plan too far ahead is almost impupable!  

There’s also a bit of meta level gaming action going down in Dog Lover. You are collecting pups of course. But within the game space you can also collect sets of bones and/or favourite things for accumulating end game points, not to mention all-important food resources to feed your collected canines! Similarly, you can collect adoption papers to gain rescue pups (who have their own puppy plans!), or training cards for those uber useful Tricks. And don’t forget there’s a chance for those puppies in your patch to be worth more if you can collect the perfect puppy Traits to pair with them.

I think if I could change just one thing, I would like the chance to discard and pair new Traits to pups as the game progresses, or add more Traits to a dog in my care. As it stands, you can’t teach an old pup new Traits, but I really like games that give a feeling of position development over time.

Having said that, because Traits act like personal scoring objectives, gunning for any pawfect pairs is definitely a fun challenge. We love dogs and we like set collection games with a bit of a spatial twist, so this is definitely going to be staying in our collection!

Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.