Pet Detectives Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up
  • For 2 to 10 players
  • Variable game play length (will depend on the number of players)

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Memorization

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Find the town’s missing pets to collect big cash rewards!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek not applicable
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

An alarming number of pets have gone missing in town. Their owners are desperate to find their missing companions and are offering big cash rewards to whomever finds them. Not being one to dismiss a lucrative opportunity, you quickly get to work investigating! Not surprising, a number of other people have joined the hunt and want the money just as badly as you. The most observant detective will win, so keep your ears sharp and listen for clues!

Pet Detectives, designed by Allen Wolf and published by Morning Star Games, is comprised of 80 Pet cards (40 green, 40 blue), 4 Custom Pet cards (2 green, 2 blue), 40 Pet Dollars (paper money), and 26 Action cards. The cards are durable, but not rounded with smooth ends. That’s pretty important to some people, so I thought I should mention it. The Pet cards have images of some of the cutest animals you will ever see, which will make some gush over them. The Pet Dollars are made of paper money, which is the bane of my gaming existence. The entire game comes in a tin lunchbox, making it very portable.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first shuffle the Pet cards and deal 5 out to each player, face-down. Players should keep their cards hidden until played. Place the remaining deck of Pet cards face-down in the middle of the playing area.

Note: If any player has been dealt a matching pair of cards, they should play them now and collect the appropriate amount of Pet Dollars. They should then draw backup to 5 Pet cards.

Second, shuffle the Action cards and place the deck face-down next to the Pet cards. You should now have 2 decks of cards in the middle of your playing area. If not, you are reading too fast.

Third, place the Pet Dollars to one side of the gaming area or give them to one player who will be the designated Banker for the game.

Note: The Custom Pet Cards are blank and allow the game’s owner to create their own pets. They should not be used in the game until they have been created.

That’s it for game set up. Time to find those missing pets!

Here, Spot! Here, Boy!

Pet Detectives plays in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is summarized here.

Step 1: Ask About a Pet

The player can ask any of their opponents if they have a specific pet. Each Pet card lists the pet’s name and animal type. The player MUST have the card they are asking for. What the player is looking for is a matching card to create a “Pet Pair” which consists of 1 blue Pet card (“Found”) and 1 green Pet card (“Lost”) that shows the same animal WITH the same name. The color of the card the player has is important. If the player has a blue Pet card they want to match, they should ask a player who has the most green cards for the missing pet.

Example of a Pet Pair

Example of a Pet Pair. WARNING: Do not stare too long into the kitten’s eyes…

If the opponent does have the matching Pet card, they must give it to the player. The player then places the Pet Pair down in front of them and collects the amount of Pet Dollars shown on one of the Pet Pair Pet cards (not both).

The player now skips step 2 and proceeds to step 3.

Step 2: Investigate

If the opponent does not have the Pet card the player asked for, the player draws the top-most Pet card from the Pet card deck and adds it to their hand. If the drawn card creates a Pet Pair, the player places it down in front of them and collects the amount of Pet Dollars shown.

Step 3: Buy Action Cards

If the player has collected 100 or more Pet Dollars, they must purchase an Action card. Each Action card is worth 100 Pet Dollars. The player returns the Pet Dollars to the Banker and draws the top-most Action card from the Action card deck. The Action card is read out loud and resolved immediately. Not all the Action cards are beneficial to the player and might even cause them to lose points.

petdetectives_actioncards

Played Action cards are placed face-up next to the face-down Action card deck. If the Action card deck is ever exhausted, shuffle the Action card discard pile to create a new deck.

Step 4: Draw Cards

If the player has 5 or fewer Pet cards in their hand, they now draw back up to 5 Pet cards. If the player has more than 5, they do not discard.

This completes the player’s turn. The next player in turn order sequence now takes their turn starting with step 1 above.

Completing the Investigation and Winning the Game

The game continues as noted above until every Pet card is part of a Pet Pair. If a player runs out of cards before their opponents, they wait until all the players have finished. All the players then count the number of Pet Pairs they have collected (not the amount of Pet Dollars they are worth). The player with the most Pet Pairs wins the game.

Game Variants

Memory Game

Shuffle the Pet cards and deal them face-down  in even rows. Players then take turns flipping over 2 Pet cards. If the Pet cards match, the player takes the Pet Pair. If they do not, the cards are flipped back to the face-down position. This continues until all the Pet Pairs are found. The Player with the most Pet Pairs wins the game.

Go (Dog)Fish!

Remove the Action cards and the Pet Dollars to play Pet Detectives exactly like Go Fish!.

Victorious Reward

Instead of counting the number of Pet Pairs, add the Pet Pair Pet Dollar reward amounts. The player with the most Pet Dollars in reward money wins the game. This provides for more strategic game play as some of the Action cards require the players to exchange Pet Pairs.

To learn more about Pet Detectives, visit the game’s web page.

Prediction

Pet Detectives sounds like Go Fish! with some random surprises thrown in thanks to the Action cards. That isn’t going to be enough to interest the Gamer Geeks and will most likely result in a total Gamer Geek rejection. Not surprising when we considering that Pet Detectives is a meant for the Child Geeks. I’ll be lucky if I can get a Gamer Geek to sit down and play the game with me.

For the Child Geeks, I think they’ll find Pet Detectives to be an enjoyable game, but I don’t believe our older Child Geeks will be interested in the game for long. This is a very simple memory game and not much else. The Child Geeks who are already playing complex board games might get bored. The Parent Geeks will also be bored, but will most likely find Pet Detectives to be an enjoyable game they can play with their Child Geeks. With their peers, I cannot imagine that Pet Detectives will be a game worth playing.

Teaching Pet Detectives is best done with a few examples of play. Demonstrate how pets are matched and make sure players understand that they don’t need to have the “Lost” Pet card to ask for the “Found’ Pet card. They MUST have the card they are asking for, however. Note that Pet Detectives does require players to read, making Pet Detectives a difficult game for those Child Geeks who cannot. Team up the younger Child Geeks with older siblings or Parent Geeks to include them in the game play.

After teaching Pet Detectives to my two oldest Child Geeks, I asked their thoughts on the game so far.

“This is Go Fish! with pets. Meh. I do like the crazy names, though.” ~ Liam (age 9)

“I can’t read all of these yet, Daddy, but I know you and I will win!” ~ Nyhus (age 6)

The names on the Pet cards are pretty funny and many of the animals pictures are ridiculously cute. Will that be enough to keep our interest? Let’s play and find out.

Final Word

The Child Geeks really enjoyed Pet Detectives. The game’s speed and complexity were far from overwhelming, but did keep the Child Geeks focused and engaged. There is no downtime in the game, since you learn a great deal about your opponents when it isn’t your turn. This wasn’t lost on the Child Geeks, especially the older Child Geeks who wanted to keep notes. I told them “no”. They had to keep track of all the cards in their head. The Action cards were found to be more of a nuisance than anything else, but they didn’t hurt the game play. The Action cards provided a short mental break from the game and gave all the Child Geeks a moment to catch their breath. One Child Geek said, “I love the pets – THEY ARE SO CUTE! – and the names are sooooo funny!” All the Child Geeks agreed, mentioning they liked the game as an afterthought. Pet Detectives was approved by the Child Geeks.

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My wife and oldest listen as my mom asks for a specific pet…

The Parent Geeks also approved Pet Detectives, but not because they found it to be a fun game. According to one Parent Geek, “This is a simple game that my kids find to be a lot of fun to play. I find it to be a bit too simple and repetitive, but it does bring back some happy memories.” Both the game and the game’s tin lunchbox were found to be subjects of nostalgia, bringing back floods of memories of early childhood card games and many grade school lunches. When the votes came in, all the Parent Geeks found Pet Detectives to be an enjoyable family game, but not a game they would want to play with just adults.

None of the Gamer Geeks wanted to play this game. Since you cannot reject that which you know nothing about, the overall endorsement for the gaming elitist is “Not Applicable”. Pet Detectives is just a bit too easy and a bit too childish to attract the attention of the serious gamers. Clearly, the Gamer Geeks are not the target audience.

There is a game here worth playing with your Child Geeks. It introduces strategy, reinforces memory, and plays fast enough to keep your Child Geeks focused and involved. Parent Geeks will recognize the benefits, but might suffer in silence while playing. There is very little offered in the game play that will keep Parent Geeks interested enough to play the game often or with their peers. The Gamer Geeks took one look at Pet Detectives and voted to ignore it completely mostly because it’s a Go Fish! clone.

Personally, I didn’t mind it and would play Pet Detectives again with my little geeks if they asked for it. It’s a charming little game with cute pictures of animals and funny names. The game doesn’t do much for me intellectually other than the necessity to remember who asked for what card so I can grab it later. But not all games you play with the family need to be brain burners. Pet Detectives provides just enough game to make it an enjoyable family experience without causing you to slip into a coma out of boredom. Since it sits up to 10 players, the game is also a good one for larger get togethers when there are a lot of Child Geeks running around.

If you and your Child Geeks like a good card game, do take a look at Pet Detectives.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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