Updated: Oct 24, 2020
It seems as though barely a day goes by without the appearance of a new cat-themed game. Evidently that are a lot of cat lovers intent on designing board and card games. Dogs not so much, it seems. Relatively speaking then, it's a novelty to see a dog-themed card game.
Published by Golden Ginty, the creators make no fancy claims for Canine Kleptomaniacs. They describe it as 'unashamedly silly' with no 'sophisticated gameplay or in-depth strategy'. Are they underselling it?
Canine Kleptomaniacs is a simple set collection game. The idea is that players represent dogs that like to steal and hide away items they find around the home; mostly smelly items and their owners' underwear. There's a deck of 'collectables' and an action deck. In addition there's a small 'Master's Bedroom' deck with valuable items in it. Players each start with a hand of collectables and a 'hiding place'. On their turn they can draw and follow the instructions on an action card or, if they have pair or more of matching items, they can put a set down in a hiding place, where it will be safe from being stolen by another player and where it will score points at the end of the game. Players can also offer to trade items with others, although we found this tended to be a rare occurrence in the games we played at Board's Eye View. The game ordinarily ends when the action card deck runs out.
Only one type of collectable can go into each hiding place, so players will be hoping to pick up more hiding place cards on their action deck draws; if you are unlucky with the draws and end up with notably fewer hiding places than your opponents then your chances of winning are greatly reduced. The fact that you may well collect more sets than you can 'hide' means that there is some judgement and a degree of push your luck over which sets to collect and put down. As you'd expect, it's easier to collect pairs and sets of low value items than those with high points values.
This aside, game play is pretty much automatic. If you have a set and an available hiding place, you're probably going to use your turn to put down your set. Otherwise (and therefore on most turns) you'll draw an action card and just do whatever it says on the card. Some cards allow you to draw a bunch of collectables, some invite you to roll a die and claim a valuable Master's Bedroom card if you succeed in rolling the odds or evens specified. Again, there's a bit of agency here because you can sacrifice cards in your hand for rerolls. There are cards which allow you to steal from another player's hand, and, as an incentive for not hoarding sets in your hand, there are some egalitarian cards that require all the players to surrender their entire hands so that all the cards in play can be reshuffled and shared out equally among the players. There is an 'Ultimate Paw of Pilfering' card which carries a 30 point end-game bonus and allows players to place single cards in a hiding place (as opposed to only placing out pairs and sets). Although there are cards that allow opponents to steal the 'Ultimate Paw' we found the card rather overpowered because it allows the single cards to placed in hiding not just on your turn but at any point.
There is some toilet humour that will particularly appeal to children, but Canine Kleptomaniacs generally succeeds at what it sets out to be: a very light family game with a small push your luck element. And yes, it's better than Exploding Kittens.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview copy of the game. Canine Kleptomaniacs went live on Kickstarter in July 2019.