Updated: Feb 12, 2020
There is definitely a thematic mismatch with this game, designed by Joseph Liano and published by PetEVIL Ltd. The game is not what you might expect from the box, with its cute animals looking like they are renegades from a Village People tribute act and its cutesy references to 'pawfect people' (perfect, geddit?).
We guess the cute artwork, which is sustained through the game's cards, is intended to defuse and lighten the deadly serious actual theme of the game which is nothing whatsoever to do with pets but is actually about building and launching rockets and nuclear warheads to eliminate other players and be the last left standing.
Put aside all the pet puns, as a competitive 'take that' set collection game, PetEVIL works well. It is light enough to be played as a social game, and, unless one player is particular unlucky, it is likely to finish close enough that player elimination probably isn't going to be a huge negative.
Players start with a health value as shown on the track. Players' rocket markers (given the supposed theme, surely these should have been cute animals rather than plastic rockets) move down the track towards zero and elimination whenever a player takes damage from a missile attack. The players will be collecting cards to build missiles, each of which has to comprise a rocket, a warhead and one or more explosives. Missiles do more damage if the cards are of matching colours, and two or three colour-matched explosives deliver a devastating blast of double or triple the value of a single-explosive missile. There are wild cards that can be used as a card of any colour but there are so few of them in the deck as to make them seem an unnecessary complication.
There are nukes that damage multiple targets, though these are so much more difficult to build that we found players tended not to bother with them. There are health packs which allow players to recover health. What makes this a fun, social game, however, are the countermeasure cards, particularly those that allow players to deflect missiles to hit another opponent. These can prove to be an especially effective deterrent if you are lucky enough to nab one from the face-up salvage piles that are always open as an alternative to drawing blind from the 'components' draw deck.
Game play is simple and straightforward. Players always draw a card from the draw deck; they must then always draw a second card, either from the draw deck or from one of the face-up salvage cards. As an alternative, however, they can steal a random card from another player's hand or agree with another player to trade a card. The disincentive to stealing is that the game includes several sabotage cards which, if taken into your hand by stealing or trade, immediately impose 5 points of damage. We found the presence of these cards, coupled with the fact that players can lie about what they are handing over in trade, meant that trade in PetEVIL was never entertained as an option.
Aside from adding to your hand, you have the option each turn of playing cards: discarding a health pack (recovering health), putting out a treaty card which gives you immunity from attack until your next turn, or - the meat of the game - building, targeting and firing a missile.
We enjoyed PetEVIL. It takes 2–6 players and works best with 5 or 6. You can vary the starting health to alter the length of the game, and we got most out of PetEVIL played with a starting point of 20 health (the middle option), keeping the playing time to around 30 minutes.