uDog Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 2 to 8 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Get your dogs home! ASAP!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

British publisher, Henry George Bohn, said “Every dog is a lion at home.” In this game, each player will control a small set of marbles (or dogs, if you like). The objective is clear. Take those marbles and bring them home, but the road is not an easy one to travel. As they journey, players will encounter other “dogs” who will get in the way and even cause progress gained to be quickly lost.

uDog, designed and self-published by Carl Kresge, is comprised of two decks of standard playing cards, eight interlocking game board pieces, 32 marbles (in eight different colors, four per color), four Player Reference cards, and one standard six-sided die. The game boards are made of solid wood, but are light and easy to handle. Excellent quality, but the game lacks any kind of visual “zip”. In short, it looks very spars, but this works to the game’s advantage.

Making Circles

To set up the game, first determine the number of players. uDog can be played with as little as two players or as many as eight. The number of players in the game will determine how the game board is built. Each piece has an interlocking section, allowing the game board to be put together like a puzzle. Place any game board pieces not used back in the box.

Second, hand out to each player four marbles that match the most immediate colored area of the game board closest to them. The four marbles are placed in a section of the game board referred to as the “Kennel”. The game board has recessed spaces which cradles the marble, keeping it in place while at the same time allowing for easy movement around the game board.

Third, shuffle both decks of cards (including the Jokers) and deal six cards to each player, face-down. This is the player’s starting hand. Players should keep their cards hidden until played. Place the remaining deck of cards off to one side of the game playing area. Leave room on the game table for a discard pile.

Fourth, players now look at their cards and pass one, face-down, to their teammate. If not playing with teams, this step is skipped.

That’s it for game set up. The player left of the dealer goes first. Give them the die and have them set the die facing to six. The die is not used as a method to score the game. Rather, it’s a simple and efficient way to determine the number of cards to be dealt, as you will soon learn.

Example of an eight-player game in progress, courtesy of www.udoggames.com

Getting Ready to Run

uDog is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. A player’s turn is summarized here.

Step One: Play a Card

If the player wants to move their marble out of their Kennel, they must play an Ace, King, or Joker. Suits do not matter in this game. Once played, the player takes one marble of their choice from their Kennel and places it in the Start position on the game board. Note that a player’s Kennel, Start position, and Home (which we have not talked about yet) are the same color as the player’s marbles.

If the player already has a marble out of their Kennel, they can play any card in their hand to move their marble around the game board. In almost all cases, movement around the game board is clockwise. The card played determines the number of spaces (and in one case, direction) the marble (or marbles) are moved.

  • Cards with the face value of two, three, four, five, six, eight, ten, and Queen all move one marble owned by the player and in play clockwise a number of spaces equal to the value of the card. The Queen has a value of 12.
  • Cards with the face value of Ace allow the player to move one marble from their Kennel to the Start position on the game board or move their marble already in play one space or eleven spaces clockwise on the game board.
  • Cards with the face value of King allow the player to move one marble from their Kennel to the Start position on the game board or move their marble already in play thirteen spaces clockwise on the game board.
  • Cards with the face value of Jack allow the player  to switch the position of any marble they own and in play with any opponent’s marble.
  • Cards with the face value of seven allow the player to move one marble they own and in play seven spaces clockwise on the game board or move two or more marbles a combined total of seven spaces in any direction.
  • Cards with the face value of four allow the player  move one marble they own and in play counterclockwise four spaces.
  • Cards with the face value of Joker are considered “wild” and can be used as any other card value as described above.

A player must play a card on their turn. If the card allows marble movement, they must move their marble. If the player is unable to move any of their marbles based on the cards in their hand, they must still play one card. This ensures that all players have the same number of cards in their hand during the game. This also allows a player to “ditch” a card in their hand they do not want.

Step Two: Move Your Marble

As stated, the number of spaces and the direction of the marble or marbles moved is dependent on the cards played.

Marbles in play can be “jumped”, meaning the player counts the space their opponent’s marble is in, but the marble does not stop movement. If, however, the player ends their movement on the same space as another marble (be it theirs or their opponent’s), the marble in that spot is sent back to its owner’s Kennel and the marble being moved takes the now vacant position.

The seven card allows the player to “burn” a marble in play through jumping. Instead of leaving the marble that is jumped, it’s removed and placed in the owner’s Kennel. However, burning a marble only occurs if the player is moving their marble counter-clockwise. Landing on a marble, regardless of direction around the game board, always removes it from play, forcing it back to the Kennel.

There are two spots on the game board that make it impossible to interact with marble in play. These are the Home and the Starting positions. Any marbles in those spots cannot be burned or landed on. However, the Home spot is temporary. Once the marble moves off it, it does not receive the same protective properties if it returns while still in play.

If playing as a team, players can opt to move their team member’s marbles, but only if the player has moved all four of their marbles from their Kennel to their Home.

This completes the player’s turn. The next player in turn order sequences now takes their turn following the steps above.

Homeward Bound

The goal of the game is to get all of your marbles into the Home position. Once a player does, and they are playing a team, they can still play and move their team member’s marbles. A player is not forced to move their marbles to the Home position. If there is a strategic or tactical reason to avoid the player’ Home, the player may do so. Just keep in mind that a marble in play is a marble that is susceptible to being kicked back to the Kennel. Depending on the number of players, that could mean a lot of traveling around the game board will go to waste. Before any player may move their marble to one of the four Home positions, it must travel around the game board once. The one exception is moving the marble backwards from the Start position using the seven card.

Ending the Round

The round completes when all the players have played the cards in their hand. The next round beings, but the players are dealt one less card than the previous round. For the first round, they are dealt six cards. The second round is only five cards, the third is four, the fourth is three, the fifth is two, and the sixth round is one card. To help keep track of the number of cards to be dealt, use the standard six-sided die. When the game first starts, the die is set facing six. After all six cards are played, the die if turned to face five, indicating that only five cards are now dealt. Continue to shift the die facing to help keep track of the number of cards that should be dealt.

The next round after the previous round that only dealt each player one card restarts and gives each player a total of six cards. If there are no more cards to deal, shuffle the discard pile to create a new draw deck.

Top Dog

The game ends one or two different ways. If playing as a team, the team wins if both players get their marbles into the Home positions. If playing as a single player, the player wins when they get their marbles into their Home position.

Game Variants

By default, uDog wants you to play in teams, but it’s not necessary to do so. Instead of acting as a team, players are competing with each other as individuals. All rules of game play are the same.

If playing with only two players, the rules are the same, but the number of cards dealt to each player is slightly more and each player uses two sets of marbles. They win when they have both sets in their respective Home positions.

For a faster game, have each player places one of their marbles in the Starting position before you begin to play. This is a good idea for the younger players, as it automatically allows them to take actions with their cards, regardless of what cards they were dealt.

Home Rule

If a player’s starting hand does not include an Ace, King, or Joker, the player reveals their hand, discards, and is dealt a new hand. This ensures that all players have at least one card in their hand that allows them to move a marble out of their Kennel. Zero fun playing six cards that do nothing…

To learn more about uDog, visit the game’s website.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had a great time. Moving their marbles around the game board provided a rewarding experience and immediate feedback regarding their overall progress. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game. It’s fun and easy to play and the cards give you lots of options. It reminds me of Sorry, but I think this game is better.” Another Child Geek said, “I like how you can use the cards to move all your marbles and I really like being able to send marbles that belong to other players back to their starting spots.” Yep, that was always a big winner. Such moves started by a cheer from the player who moved the marble and a sigh or growl from the opponent who was forced to move their marble. Retribution was always swift in most cases. And speaking of swift, the Child Geeks quickly voted to fully approve uDog.

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game, finding it to be casual and light enough for the family, but engaging enough to be a source of entertainment that required creative thinking and decision making. According to one Parent Geek, “Good stuff. Just the perfect game for visiting friends or when I go up to the cabin with my family. I can see this becoming a favorite and played for generations. Reminds me a lot of Sorry, but it plays smarter.” Another Parent Geek said, “Love the wooden board and how the marbles sit in and stay on the game board. The biggest challenge is learning what the special cards do, but the handy reference cards make it easy to remind yourself.” When all the games were over, the Parent Geeks decided that uDog was a pup they loved.

The Gamer Geeks approved of the game’s quality, but poo-poo’ed the game play. According to one Gamer Geek, “This is a Sorry. It is! It’s the same game only with cards. I didn’t like Sorry as a kid and I don’t like it now.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A good game for a casual player or for those who do not play games too often. I’m sure it’ll be a big hit with the kids and families with kids. But for me and my gaming elitists, this is one dog that won’t hunt.” Oh, so clever. When all the votes were in, uDog didn’t win the Gamer Geeks over. But before they kicked it from their table forever, they made one last mention about the game’s quality. Turns out all the Gamer Geeks really liked the wooden game board.

As mentioned by our players, uDog is a Sorry variant, wherein the goal is to move your pieces around the game board to a safe position faster than your opponents. Along the way, you can bump and move your opponent’s pieces. However, instead of dice to determine the player’s action, each player is given a hand of cards that they can select from. I like this, as it allows the player more control of their marbles, giving them the ability to strategize and make tactical decisions, although both are fairly limited. But still, injecting just the smallest amount of hand management into the game gives the player a stronger sense of control and direction without being overbearing. Which is great, because this is a family game and it was designed to be engaging and fun, not overly challenging to a point where it would cause a player’s nose to bleed.

There isn’t much more I can say about this game. It’s simple game play and easy to manage victory conditions are very straightforward. This makes the game very accessible. From the young to the old, from the inexperienced to skilled, and from the casual to the elite, the game was easy to teach and fast to play. If you are looking for a new family classic board game, do take a look at uDog.

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.

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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 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....

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.