Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

(Czech Board Games/Z-Man Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 90-120 minutes; $64.99)


After the great success of Dungeon Lords, it would have been a real shame not to exploit the atmosphere of the dungeons and the neighboring village. It has taken two years to prepare the Dungeon Lords expansion (to be released this year in Essen) but in the meanwhile, the real protagonists of Dungeon Lords, the small Imps, get a game for their own: Dungeon Petz.

Dungeon Petz and Dungeon Lords are two really different games but you’ll feel at home when reading Dungeon Petz rules which follow designer Vlaada Chvatil’s now usual, narrative style. (Actually, the 20 pages of rules are really overmuch compared to the complexity of the game.)

Players are Imps going into business opening Pet Shops. The pets they are going to sell are not the usual pets but are young monsters, once grown, to be sold to Dungeon Lords. During the game, players will buy pets, feed and take care of them, bring them to exhibitions and, finally, sell them to interested Dungeon Lords. The game runs for 5 rounds and, in the end, the one with the most prestige points will be the winner.dungeonpetzbox

The main idea behind Dungeon Petz are the needs of the monsters. You know what each of your pets need but you are not always sure you will be able to meet those needs so you have to be prepared. All pets are different both in the beginning and also as they age. Pet counters are made with a special wheel you can just turn round to round to mark the new age making visible more needing symbols.

Every turn has 6 phases: set-up, shopping, need cards, showing off, business and aging. Some phases have several steps.

In set-up, you get some gold, reveal information on the next exhibition and Dungeon Lords’ tastes and prepare the map board with new stuff including food, cages and pets. It is now time to go shopping and each player has to secretly prepare (in up to six groups) the Imps. You can add one or more coins to each group that has to have at least one imp.

Than a “worker placement” phase starts where the players will decide what to buy. Placement order is determined by the amount of Imps+coins in each group starting from the largest one. Of course, bigger groups mean less actions for you; you start with just 6 Imps and you can get only 4 more during the game. Tied groups are resolved in turn order. How many groups? How many Imps? How many coins? These are not simple choices because there are a lot of things to do.

You can buy cages that can help you in growing your pets, especially the highly magic or highly angry ones. Every turn, three cages are available but just two can be bought and you need a group with at least two Imps to get one since the cages are really heavy.dungeonpetz2

You need food for your pets: vegetables and meat. You need to buy new pets from the 4 available each turn. But you can also get artifacts, potions, add-ons for the cages, new Imps or just a place on the platform to earn more “reputation” selling your pets.

Without going into details, I can assure you that the possibilities are many and the decisions not easy. Of course everything must fit with the pets you own or are going to acquire since pets are really different and have different needs.

The next phase is “need cards” and you will draw cards from 4 different decks according to your pets’ needs. Every pet displays one or more symbols according to his age and you take the corresponding cards. You will take all the cards needed from all your pets and combine it with the 4 cards (one of each color) you can preserve in hand from round to round. Than you have to assign the number and type of cards to each pets according to the symbols.

If I have a pet with two food symbols (green) and one magic symbol (purple) and I have two green and one purple card and then I have to assign him 2 green and 1 purple, then where is the game? But it’s not that simple. There are decisions to be takes since you have cards in your hands and you have, usually, more than one pet. Each symbol give you an idea of what a pet usually wants: a food symbol means that you will need a green/food card and in the green/food deck you have mostly food but you have also some angry cards, some disease and some manure (pets eating a lot also produce a lot!). You know the exact composition of the different decks, you know which cards have you in your hands and, hopefully, you have gone shopping to be prepared to fulfill your pets’ needs. You need to check if you are been able to fulfill your pets’ needs. Not being able to fulfill a need could lead to some mutation or suffering tokens to discovering that your pets have escaped or disappeared into another dimension!

Now it is time to “show off” by bringing your pets to the exhibition. Every exhibition will promote pets with particular features and, again, the cards you have played beside the pet will indicate this feature. Since you know the exhibition requests two turns in advance, there is time to prepare and grow the right pets. Best fulfilling the exhibition request is the main way to score prestige points during the game and that is what will make your pets shop the greatest one in the end. Starting from round 3, every pet shop can also sell one pet to Dungeon Lords. Dungeon Lords have different tastes and, again, you will get more or less prestige points according to how your pet fulfills these tastes.

In the final phase, “aging”, pets grow old (that means will display more symbols) and food in your stock will grow old too and it could be you have to trash it.

I really like Dungeon Petz a lot. I’m a Vlaada Chvatil addict and I’m really overwhelmed by his designing skill! Turn by turn, you have to face the probabilities, trying to prepare for many different possibilities. There is a classic worker placement phase but the order of choice is determined by a very clever mechanism (larger groups means more choices but fewer actions). You have to manage Imps and coins really well and also be able to predict what your opponents are looking for. Of course, the pets are actually the only way to score prestige points (bringing to exhibitions and selling to Dungeon Lords) so you need to buy pets during the game to win. For me there is really a lot in this game and, play after play, I enjoy discovering its depth. – – – – – – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue


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