What will imps, those amazing eared creatures do, when they lose their master? Heroes, who wiped their master of the world, are not interested in these tiny creatures. They certainly won’t chase them around the dungeon as if they were trying to catch a tiny mice and then brag about it. What’s here to brag about? So of course, the lonely imps would have to go looking for a new Dungeon Lord, which will serve loyally whole their or his life.
But now they have another option. There are whispers in the dark whispers, rumours go around quietly, that an modern imp can become businessman with creatures. Several imps own famous shops with animals, such as retail chain Sharp claw or Yellow fangs. And that’s definitely a great challenge for any small imp, which lost his beloved master – to fill an abandoned dungeon with furry creatures from underground.
Dungeon Petz is a game by Vlaada Chvatil, renown Czech author. It is situated in the same world, that already hoste Dungeon Lords in 2010. Dungeon Lords have enchanted everybody by their skillful graphic illustrations and when something is working, why replace it.
And so, as well as Lords also Dungeon Petz have been brought to life by one of the best artists in board games business, David Cochard. As is obvious at first sight, the author was not afraid to unleash his imagination, when it comes to creatures. His illustrating skill breathes on the player already from the cover and subtly suggests, that this will be a game, that surely will be worth attention. Even if it’s just for perfect drawings.
As indicated in previous lines, appearance of the package cannot disappoint anybody, but what if it’s just a mirage, designed to confuse buyers to buy a pig in a poke? After opening the box, no monster pops out at you (unfortunately), but inside you will find their accurate portraits in the form of cardboard eggs. You will have to punch them out of the sheet, of course. Moreover, underneath there lie hidden our beloved imp figures, this time in four colors. And like in the box of Dungeon Lords, also here we will find several game boards. The main and largest plan is the marketplace, which is common for all players. In addition, there is a plan with the game progress, player boards and dungeon for raising creatures.
Other components worth mentioning are plastic cubes of suffering, which are familiar of Vlaada’s another game Through the Ages, and then the wooden cubes of food, money, poop and colorful characters servants. We will find also a deck of cards with imprinted needs of monsters and cardboard tokens of artifacts and possible mutations. The last part of the game is a pile of cards, illustrated in several ways: customers with their special needs for creature characteristics, creature exhibitions, where you can gain reputation points and gain fame for your business. And in order to improve your offer, the game offers cards with special cardboard cages and their improvements.
It is clear from the list, that this is a game with a large number of components. This of course must be reflected by the complexity of the rules. The style of these rules is interspersed with many great pictures and notes to read. They are more pleasant to read, because the person does not feel like studying a terse instructions.
One entire round of a game takes place in six stages, during which you are trying to get as many points for your business reputation. During the round, you will buy creatures on the market. meet their needs, such as the desire to play or for a good meal. You will also go to the exhibitions and offer them for sale to potential buyers. During these rounds, the creatures will grow and you will be forced to appropriately modify their cages.
At the beginning of the game, each player receives a dungeon with imps in his colour, wooden servants, place with one dirty cages, four cards and some gold to send imps on the market with. Some of imps in your color will remain as distant relatives unavailable, but during the game they can join you and help with shopping and taming of animals.
Besides the big game board, you lay the season plan. You will randomly draw cards with buyers and competitions on it. Players always see a few steps ahead, what the visitor is going to want for a creature. They can accordingly adapt their tactics.
The main objective of all players is to raise a happy creature, which they can sell well. But in order to buy monsters and have them in his dungeon, it is necessary for a player to have an nice empty cage. One player can have up to four cages and that also a maximum of creatures, he can raise at the same time. But do not worry, it will be a lot of work.
Most of the situations on the board are decided by where players send a group of imps. First, all players secretly create groups of imps and money. They will have to send them on the board right away. At some places can be sent only a larger group, elsewhere it is necessary to equip imp with gold. The largest group goes first, because they have the advantage of numbers and can push out the others. The later you go, the lesser options you have and only vacant places are available.
A fixed number of monsters is places every round on the market as eggs from a hatchery. There you can buy a little clumsy creature. Each creature has its specific characteristics, some are more playful, others voracious and aggressive. The player has to watch, what kind of customers will come to the market in the next rounds, and if he has sufficient supplies to make sure that his creatures have the best possible comfort.
Players can purchase various equpment for their housing, that usually increases the resistance against magic of cages or strength abilities of the population. Each monster will also need different kind of cage, so it is important to select and buy the right one. You can find metal, anti-magic, wooden, or grass covered holes in the game. Each cage can have a special feature, for example, can be self-cleaning, or a place, where the creature will be able to play alone.
All of this equipment and objects contribute to high quality facilities for the creatures. It is important to have a clean environment, in which they cannot get sick, and cages to suit all their needs. The creatures are alive animals, so they will be hungry, they will want to play and will also last, but not least, make poo. Monsters age, and as they grow older, they have greater demands and it is harder to satisfy their desires.
If you won’t take care of your creature, it will suffer. And then you weary creature can mutate, pass into another dimension or even die! And you would be wrong masters, if you let this happen to your little pets. When the monster will have magical powers, and your cage is not able to suppress it all, you have to reckon with the fact, that it grow some tentacles. On the contrary, if the creature is too powerful and angry, it will break through the hard bars of the cage. Then you have to have imps, who can catch it. If you do not succeed, creature will escape to the countryside, where it will probably live happily. But you won’t have anything for it. Even is you suceed and catch it, there are still consequences. The monster runaway wounded your imp, who catched itm and he has to go to heal for some in the hospital.
And how does you meet the needs of your creatures, so you won’t have to face these ugly consequences? During the round after the imp distribution on the board, you will draw cards into your hand, according to the needs of creatures. They are depicted by icons on creature eggs, which numbers are increasing as creatures grow. Eggs are wearing a rotating circular part, which you gradually expose. These symbols on creatures show needs – a magic, food, and more. For each symbol according to the color, you’ll draw one card from the pile. But the pile does not contain only the needs, but also different ones. Therefore you have a high chance, that you will have to deal with inconvenience of bad draw.
Once you get your cards, you’ll try to deploy it to creatures, so that they get no mutation, won’t run away or die. In addition to their food cards, playing, magic, or anger, there are also poo and disease cards. The first one results in a simple thing – your monster leaves a poo in a cage, so you put one brown cube inside. Poo by itself has no consequence, it is just lying there. But the situation changes, if illness comes to town. Each creature with a poo in its cage can get ill then.
If you cannot fill the desires of your creatures or it gets sick, it will receive suffering cubes, which are really not good. They repell every customer and also in competitions for the most beautiful creatures, the troubled ones won’t you bring too many points.
It is in the next phase of the move, where you will brag with your creatures in various exhibitions. There you can get a large number of points of reputation. And they will help your very much to get your business famous (and win the game). Every player knows the competitions to be held in advance, that they could prepare well. It may be a competition for one or all creatures you own. The card competitions have always the desired characteristics depicted: those increase the value of the creature (someone wants savage monster, while another want playful) and also undesirable traits, that reduce the price of creatures (for example previously mentioned suffering).
Like the competition, also the incoming customers are known in advance, so you know, who want to get which of those creatures. There is certainly a positive impact on the game with the system, in which players are not competing for each customer. Every player can sell each customer one creature instead. For good sale, you’ll get gold (depending on size monsters) and also reputation points based on how much is the customer impressed by your creature – how well did you meet his requirements.
When you sell a creature, you can clean the cages with free imps, or send them to earn some gold. The last phase of the turn is creatures aging. As the monster grows older, it needs more, but is also rising in price on the market. You will not have a problem to sell a large contented creature on the market.
The game ends after a number of rounds (according to number of players) and won by the player, who has the most points of reputation. We didn’t mention other small game parts, that appear in the game, like purchasing artifacts, needs to have a supply of food for the creature (vegetables or meat – some are omnivores, some herbivores), or the ability to increase the price for creatures sold on stage.
Dungeon Petz represent really faithful model of the situation, which you’ll face, if you got into creature selling business. It offers incredible wide variety of strategic options and choices, and a pile of different paths to victory. But despite the complexity of the tactical options, there can be found some pre-determined – such as low-maintenance pet we recommend, worm in combination with evergreen cages.
The greatest experience of Dungeon Petz is really the playing itself. You’ll enjoy each and every purchase of creatures and its growth. You will live its joys and sorrows, and when you finally build a relationship with it, you have to say goodbye to it and sell it into foreign hands. All this without a guarantee, that the new owner will be nice.
The game, of course, also owes much to its visual processing. You will hardly find someone, who at first glance wouldn’t fall in love with those lovely animals. And it is perhaps also a little problem, because every creature can have only one owner and the players will often argue and fight hard for them. The incredibly detailed game graphics plan and the amazing eggs with circular system of growth. And then you’ll find imps as another great bonus. The only little glitch is absence of a sack, from which you should draw pets for market.
The game is open to two, three or four players and is all those numbers the game provides great fun. It is obvious that the author had put a lot of work into balancing, as you won’t ever experience a lack of strategic options. In addition, many parts can be played simultaneously, so you do not need to wait for each other. However, due to the complexity of the game, the playing time raises with ease over an hour and will be rather close to two.
Although the game may itself seem a bit erratic, but everything in it is the result of a fixed strategy. Even the cards drawing, which is random, is essentially a probabilistic calculation. You will find the exact number of separate types of cards in any given package on the screens, where players secretly plan their moves. In addition, you can prepare for the unexpected situations by appropriate purchase of the cage, an artifact or a good choice of four card to keep for the next round.
The hardest part is not send out the imps on game board, but caring for the creatures. The distribution of cards is complex and difficult to combine. You have a perfect overview of what the monster wants, needs, and which card you want to put where, so the creature won’t suffer or run away. And sometimes it is impossible to avoid a cube of poo or another accident, but such is life.
This text is obviously full of our enthusiasm and amazement, that comes to our editorial room, whenever we pull this game out. It is therefore possible to find some flaw in such game? We can start with players who have a morbid desire to calculate each chance (the deployment of cards can be infinite then), but that can be avoided with player choice. But the game lacks any family variant, so it will not be playable by the target group, to which its visuals will appeal the most: children under twelve years. It would certainly work, to surrender some principles and simplify this game a little for the little ones.
Dungeon Petz are well made strategy game with great possibilities. It is set in a functioning world, which is almost completely plausible. The attention to detail of illustrator David Cocharda leads everything to perfection. Dungeon Pets are a real nirvana for all the fans of complex strategy games and a game, that should no collection be missing. We declare it as the best Czech board game, we’ve had the pleasure to play.
+ incredible visuals
+ perfect game system
+ creatures are growing
+ it's a breeder simulator
+ constant action
+ player has the outcome in his hands
+ game asks for expansion
- difficult for beginners
- family variant missing
- no drawing bag