It’s hard to believe that Katie, our Australian Shepherd, came to live with us just two short months ago! She’s an amazing pup, aside from her tendency to chew literally everything in our house. What a lovely addition to our family!
Speaking of additions, our game shelves grew a tiny bit recently with the arrival of Alien Puppies, a self-published card game for 2 to 5 players, designed by Piotr Hoang and Kim Anh. The game was birthed by the juggernaut known as Kickstarter, and these puppies managed to win over 500 backers to help bring it to life. Click here to view their original campaign page!
The story of the game: Cyberpunk Puppies have arrived from another dimension, and their whole purpose is to take over the backyards of humans and do puppy things. How dastardly!
Three types of cards make up the deck of 77 cards – Alien Puppies (surprise!), Earth Puppies, and Action Cards. Three types of actions are available in the game – allow an Alien Puppy to land in your yard (play it on the table in front of you), play an Action Card and follow its instructions, or play two Earth Puppy cards. We’ll come back to that last option in a moment.
Winning a game of Alien Puppies is pretty straight forward. Just get three Alien Puppies into your backyard before any other player! As mentioned above, one of the game’s actions is simply to place an Alien Puppy from your hand of cards onto the table in front of you, making this a seemingly simple goal to achieve.
However, the rest of this game is not quite as cute and snuggly as the setting might suggest. The Earth Puppies in this game are not happy about all these Alien Puppies taking up space in their yards! As such, the game is filled with cards that remove Alien Puppies from the yards of other players, either tossing them into the discard pile, or in some cases snatching them up into your own hand. Bad doggos!
Playing two Earth Puppy cards gives a player two options – either force a player to discard one of their played Alien Puppies, or look through the discard pile and find any card to place into your hand. These are very powerful actions for the active player, and extremely frustrating actions for anyone watching these actions take place!
Each game lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes, although if other players aren’t paying attention it could literally end before the end of the third round, assuming a player starts the game with three Alien Puppies in hand.
Ooh, and I almost forgot about Barkmageddon. If a player draws this card and cannot immediately discard an Alien Puppy from their yard or discard three cards from their hand, they are eliminated from the game. In the six games we have played, we have yet to see a player lose the game this way. Still, it’s a harsh punishment that results from a random card draw!
The game lives and dies based on how much you love the artwork on the cards. These puppies are adorable, and all of the various costumes they’re in immediately sets the tone for a silly and light-hearted affair. However, most of the cards in this game are NASTY! It’s one of the most pure “Take That” games I’ve ever played, and in that sense it’s very easy to introduce to players of nearly any age or experience. How they enjoy that experience is likely to be a different matter, but there’s no questioning that this is an easy game to jump into!
My first impression of Alien Puppies was not a positive one. My partner and I played a two player game, and it was a bit surprising to realize how unapologetically nasty the game can be. For us, the cuteness of the artwork did little to disguise its lack of strategic depth.
Fortunately, I didn’t give up on the game right away.
Because my girls absolutely ADORE playing Alien Puppies! Whereas adult players might get frustrated by the mass of cards that serve to simply undo a previous player’s turn, Big and Little Bean looked right past all of that and were utterly obsessed with getting the right combination of three Alien Puppies in front of them, and would actually negotiate with each other over which puppy to discard when the time came!
All bets are off, however, if the Lucky Prince is in play. Both of my girls call that one their very favourite puppy of all, and it consistently causes an explosive powder keg of drama and fighting. We’ll probably hide that one from most of our future games, because in contrast to my personal impression, it’s a surprisingly peaceful experience for both of them.
The game box recommends itself for players aged 7 and older. So long as the children at your table have some basic reading and comprehension skills, they should be able to play this game independently without many hiccups. Big Bean is 5 years old and a superstar reader, and grasped most of the game quite easily. By sitting beside me, our 4 year old Little Bean was also able to enjoy the game with some parental guidance, even if her decisions were not always optimal and sometimes a bit chaotic.
Although it’s not a great fit for my own tastes, there’s no denying how much fun my girls are having with Alien Puppies. For adults, there is most definitely an audience for this game. Players who enjoy Munchkin, Uno, or Fluxx will find a game that is much prettier, and generally a lot quicker to play. And of course, anyone who loves puppies and dogs will get a great kick out of what Alien Puppies offers!
I don’t imagine Alien Puppies will be available through traditional distribution, and thus may not wind up on the shelves of your favourite local game shop. However, it is available to purchase directly from the publisher at their website – https://www.alienpuppies.com/. If you enjoy quick-playing “Take That” games with fantastic artwork, this game may very well be a winner!
Our thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this game.