Board Game Review, Previews

Barking Up The Right Tree! (Canine Capers Preview)

We were sent this prototype to preview and are not paid for the media produced. This game is currently available on Kickstarter through the Playful Pets campaign. Check it out!

Are you a cat or a dog person? Not in the literal part animal sense. (If you are one of these anthropomorphic folk that’s cool too.) I’m taking whether you’d rather run with the slobbering, excitable pooch pals? Or cuddle up with the lethargic, often mad feline friends? I grew up with dogs, so I’m all about dogs. Big, small, wide, thin and even the size you can ride into battle. They’re loyal, hilarious and great company. But they’re also known to be the greatest detectives in the world. Canine Capers by Atikin Games is a cooperative game of finding clues and getting them back to base before the ferocious felines snatch them all up!

Concept

This game is part of a trio from Atikin Games’ recent Kickstarter, all oriented around pets and their… activities. For Canine Capers, you play as dogs investigating a crime. As the top notch detectives, you need to sniff out clues and return them to HQ before all clues are stolen by those felonious felines!

Every players plays as a pooch, working at the detective/investigation/sniff-it-out agency. They need to collect clues and return them to HQ quickly and effectively to score points. As they do so, cats will be reducing the available clues and reducing the dogs’ chances of a good score. Clues come in two tiers, with cats stealing the tier unable to be placed. Should one pool be diminished, they move onto the second.

Rules and Gameplay

The rules are straight forward and easy to handle. On a round, players roll the yellow and purple dice to see if a clue has appeared on the respective signs on the map. Five and sixes mean a clue is present. Then players take turns to roll a die twice, once to check if a clue is at their house, and another to identify what actions they can take this turn. Again, fives and sixes result in a clue appearing. However, spaces can only inhabit one space! Should a clue already be there when the result occurs, the cats swoop in and steal one from the remaining, unplaced pool.

Players need to divide and conquer to best collect the clues, making use of prioritisation and ensuring they’re aware of who can go where. After all, only the pooch resident can enter their home! Once all clues in the pool are gone, either through placement or claims by players, players get one final round to score points. After that, the total is counted with boring yellow clues being worth one point, and the super exciting purple clues being worth two. The team’s score is marked against a tier system based on player count.

How It Handles

Canine Capers is a family friendly, super light, cooperative game that we adored. Perfect weight, spot on mechanics. It’s rare to have a fun family game that’s also cooperative – children are innately competitive and desire nothing more than to crush their enemies. However, we found it to be one that everyone was on board with and there was rarely an “I win the most” moment. L

You Scratch My Back…

Canine Capers relies heavily on players’ ability to communicate. Their skill in balancing actions out and deciding who’ll do what and how best to utilise their actions. Your roll is unique to what you’ll be able to do, and how you decide you’ll use it needs to be in the interest of everyone! In example, some rolls let you move clues or upgrade them. The value determines your orthogonal movements available able and the ability you could used. But again, it needs to be in the best interest of the group.

This heavy emphasis on cooperation results in a game that’s centred on teamwork and risk/reward mitigation. You could gamble and move into a spot with range for multiple clues, or rush to a high value one, hoping everyone will be able to support this if they can. But that has to be communicated! And, normally, that’d be too much for children to handle… however, in this superbly executed game, the mechanics force players to make it the forefront. It leads by example and emphasises the need to know what will help, as no dice roll can get you a clue and get it back in a single turn. It’s all about communicating to mitigate the potential losses!

Faster than a Wagging Tail!

The game is surprisingly quick to both set up, teach and play. Once you’ve got the map out, tokens placed and dice rolling, you’re good to go. The explanation is straight forward and you can learn as you play! What’s more is how quickly you’ll get the game played and have dice rolling a second time. And a third. Maybe even a fourth if you’re on a vengeance streak against those conniving cats.

So Adorable You Can’t Be Mad!

Canine Capers is tough. Crazy tough. Incredibly tricky to beat or achieve a quality score! Those cats steal clues at such a pace based on dice rolls and don’t mess around with being nice… With a third of all die rolls (statistically) resulting in a clue being stolen, you’ve got to not only act fast, but decisively. However, this game is not frustrating. There’s a lot you can do to reduce those cats’ efforts!

The game gives players a lot of choice in terms of how they can prevent the cats’ progress. Moving clues, dropping them in a panic, sharing clues mid-move or even teleporting home in a pinch! As much as these are circumstantial and centred on die roll outcomes, they’re hard hitting when triggered! Tailoring plans on the fly to utilise these best is going to not only save clues, it’s going to net you a great score. Having scoring driven by player choice ensures the randomness is mitigated and can be adjusted accordingly. It’s, what if argue, the sweet spot for a light dice game!

Final Thoughts

Canine Capers is a lovely family game and the perfect introduction to light cooperation. You work as a team, tackle the problems as a team, and win as a team. The theme is gentle and fun and will resonate excellently with children’s imaginations. If you’re after that small tin, cooperative, on the go family game, I’d recommend you check this delight out!