The Board Room Episode #2: Good Dog, Bad Zombie by Make Big Things
TIME TO SAVE THE HOOMANS!
My wife and I are stereotypical dog people. On almost a nightly basis she shows me pictures of dogs being dogs and we laugh at their adorable ridiculousness. We have two of our own, and when we inevitably purchase our new home, we will likely be fostering others. So when Good Dog, Bad Zombie popped up on my social media feed, I simultaneously cursed and praised the gods for promoting a product that so perfectly fit my lifestyle.
*click* Add To Cart.
Immediately after, I had terrible thoughts of zombies eating dogs and I thought ‘absolutely not’. When it came in, I then thoroughly read through the game. There was an understanding that if this game showed puppy death in any way, I would baselessly review it with all zeroes, and the entirety of the review would then be six words: ‘Puppies get hurt?RAGE QUIT game!’.
Spoiler Alert: No dogs are hurt in the playing of this game.
Design – 4
The game is based around dogs trying to rescue their trapped hoomans from being eaten by zombies. Bravely running through the city, they Lick, Bark, Herd, Chew, and Sniff through the hordes of zombies in order to save the hoomans and lead them back to their home base, Central Bark. Hoomans, on the other hand, are little more than zombie food. If they are found, they’re lunch. Too many hoomans get eaten, or too many zombies enter Central Bark, and the pack goes feral, losing the love and endless scratches forever.
The dogs love the silly hoomans, so into the city they go.
The clever piece of this design is that just about everything is centered around the dogs. Hoomans are the damsels in distress, and the city sections are in dog speak. The Vet’s office is called ‘Worst Place’ on the map. The Airport? ‘Loud Birds’. It’s admittedly silly, but since we’re meant to play through the eyes of the dogs, it makes sense.
Mechanics – 3
The game is simple and straightforward to play. Each dog has two actions, some of which directly affect the other dogs in the game. During their turn, they can spend an action to move one space across the board, lick themselves to draw extra energy, sniff out a hiding hooman, or play a card that gives them additional abilities. Some of these cards allow them to take additional actions in the form of zooming, or howl to give other dogs energy.
After each of the doggo’s turns, that player rolls a die and a zombie gets added to the board. If the zombie is added to a space with a dog, it is startled, running back to Central Bark. If it’s added to a space with a hooman, then it is snack time. The more zombies get added to the board, the more difficult it is to save the hoomans.
Unfortunately, for a strategy game, there’s nothing particularly deep about the game itself, even if making things overly complicated would go against the spirit of such a premise. You are dog. You save hooman. There are associated difficulty levels that the game can start off with, primarily by increasing or decreasing the starting zombie count and the number of additional hoomans to save, but it doesn’t change the primary play and simplistic nature of the game. While this is meant to encourage replayability and cooperative game play, it doesn’t change enough to keep people wanting more day after day.
Components – 3
As said above, the game board is a map of the city, laid out in dog speak. It’s a clever way to present the city as if you were in the mind of a dog. All of the other physical components are pretty underwhelming. Energy cards make up the majority of the game play, and all of the dogs, zombies, and humans, are all thin cardboard. It would have been nice to have plastic dog, hooman, and zombie tokens, as the folded cardboard is easily damaged. The cards themselves are just asking to be damaged in some way, since they’re continually shuffled and dealt. And these things are small. I’m not asking them to be the size of normal playing cards, but these things are not much wider than my index finger. The card with the dog is the most used component in the game.
When opening the box, the cards were just wrapped in rubber bands, and the zombie / hooman tokens were printed on a sheet. They appeared to have just been thrown in the box, and they needed to be individually put together. It wasn’t too much of a hassle to sort everything out, but it was a letdown.
That being said, the artwork in the game is the saving grace. On each of these energy cards is a completely unique drawing, with each card having a different dog model. You’ll see dogs playing, sniffing, smiling and generally having fun. Each of the components contains for the most part the same art style, decorating the entire box with helpful dog hints, pictures, and colorful, friendly pictures of a silly, fun time. Every single zombie is also a unique drawing, which shows an attention to the artwork that other games typically do not contain.
The instructions are easy to follow, laid out very logically, and they even have links to view the game being played, as well as an online Dog Creator that allows pet owners to create their own pets. Although these aren’t physical components of the box, their inclusion is a smart choice.
Mood – 4 /5
Even though it’s a game about zombies, there’s no question that this game is only meant to be a good time. The game makes the statement that Dogs are the Best, and runs with it. A hooman without a puppy escort is snack time, and zombies can quickly overwhelm the board, but it never feels like it’s meant to be scary. When the zombies pile up, the tension can escalate. Yet, then you look down at your puppy, realize his name is Captain Woofster, and charge in with a grin. Since you can also print out your own dogs using their online card creator, you can run through the city as your own pet! Who wouldn’t smile at that? “Don’t worry Hoomans I’ll save you!”
Inclusiveness – 3/5
You wouldn’t think a game about dogs in the apocalypse would not have any sort of inclusiveness in it. However, while the hoomans are nothing more than faceless figures, each of the cards has a different name. They could have copped out and reduced the hoomans even further, as in the end they don’t mean much to the game. However, the names are diverse, from all walks of life, and even though there’s no mention of color or race in the cards, it’s obvious that they’re not all derivatives of the same white, male naming convention. It’s a small but important touch, and very much appreciated. It would have been nice to have associated pictures with the names to emphasize the racial differences, but since hoomans are an afterthought I suppose I can’t fault the creators too much on that.
As for dogs, however, you name a breed, it’s in there. I think. Don’t quote me on that. There are a lot of dog breeds you know.
Final Score – 4/5
Good Dog, Bad Zombie is an objectively fun, cooperative game that can be played with 1 – 4 people. The box says 2 – 4 but you can totally trooper through by yourself. If you’re a dog lover, play this game. If you’d rather play as other animals, then they have a mini expansion that allows you to. If you’re not an animal person, then instead of playing this game, you should immediately re-evaluate your life choices. I hear animals are good to have around during the apocalypse.