Puppy Pile (Saturday Review) – Tabletop Games Blog


Release Date: 2023Players: 2-6
Designer: Mike A PrattLength: 30-45 minutes
Artist: Cindy Lee, Jo Masson, Darrin MichelsonAge: 8+
Publisher: Thing 12 GamesComplexity: 1.0 / 5
Plastic (by weight): 10%Air (by volume): 50%

There was a lot of yapping and barking, jumping and tail-wagging. Everyone was excited, but eventually, everyone settled down and lined up in a neat row. There were a few last-minute alterations, with dogs having to change spaces. However, when everyone was ready, it was time to choose the best dog, the winner of this Puppy Pile by Mike A Pratt from Thing 12 Games.

Yes, the intro sums it up quite nicely. In Thing 12 Games‘ latest family-friendly adventure, everyone is the proud owner of one of a long line-up of lovely dogs. Nobody knows who represents which dog, but everyone tries to get their dog to the top of the pile before it’s time to choose a winner. It’s all really quite simple and therefore very quick to teach and easy to learn. Ideal for a game you can play with all the family.

Piled Up Puppies

To manoeuvre their dogs to pole position, players draw the top card from the deck and do whatever it is that it tells them to do. Mostly it’s about choosing a dog and moving it up or down in the pile. Sometimes you can swap two dogs or even bring one dog from the top of the pile to the bottom or the other way around. To make it not quite so much of a free-for-all, every dog has three properties: size, length of hair and a job. Many cards will say what type of dog you can move, based on one of their properties. So, for example, you may be asked to move a long-haired dog down two spaces.

So far, so easy and simple. The twist comes in when it comes to choosing which dog to move. You don’t want to make it too obvious which dog you have, because once that’s known, the other players will probably ensure your dog ends up at the bottom. So while you do want your dog to move up in the pile and end up on top, you need to be a bit subtle about it.

the draw deck, dog basket, discard pile and the line-up of puppies
the draw deck, dog basket, discard pile and the line-up of puppies from Puppy Pile (prototype components shown)

Luckily, Puppy Pile helps you along. Sometimes you are unable to move your own dog, because the card tells you to move one with a certain property that yours doesn’t have. So you are forced to move a different dog, which could well be another player’s. I think it’s great that this is how the game was designed, because it means younger players, who can find it harder to keep their dog a secret, are empowered to pretend with the help of the cards.

Puppy Pile Puzzle

There are more puppies in the game than there are players. So when someone draws the “Pick a winner” card from the deck, it is very likely that the top dog isn’t anyone’s. In that case, the dog is removed from the line-up and you continue play. So there are many moments in the game when everyone thinks the game is over and they have lost, when in fact nobody has won and there is still time to manoeuvre your dog to the top.

There are two “Pick a winner” cards in the deck, but the game can still sometimes feel a little long. I don’t think younger players mind that too much, but older players may get a little bored. However, there is nothing to stop you from removing some dogs from the setup to create a shorter game.

The illustrations of the puppies are wonderful and do help with the gameplay experience. The whole game looks really fun and is perfectly aimed at the whole family, younger players included. There is even a dog, that’s actually a cat, but totally a dog, in the game to add a bit of extra fun.

the card for the cat that is "totally a dog"
yes, definitely not a cat and totally a dog (prototype components shown)

I’ve only had a prototype of the game, so I can’t comment on the final product quality, so check out the details on the Kickstarter page for more information. From what I can see though, it does look like it’s going to be a really good product, that’s going to be a pleasure to play.

We certainly enjoyed it a lot when we played it. There are some cards that are surprising and really throw everything in the air. It’s those little touches, along with the illustrations that make Puppy Pile the perfect game for all the family.

Perfect Puppy Present

So if you have someone in your house who loves puppies, and to be fair, who doesn’t, then this game is a great present idea. If you want a fun, light game where you don’t have to think hard and can just let madness happen, then Puppy Pile definitely fits the bill. There isn’t anything else to add really. Check out the campaign and see if you want to take a puppy home with you, but don’t forget: a puppy is not just for Christmas.

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Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

Sound Effects: bbc.co.uk – © copyright 2023 BBC

Music by Bensound.com/free-music-for-videos
License code: SEUYH8AVFAGUPQ5B

Playlist

These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review:

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