Canine Capers Preview
Disclaimer: This preview is based on a prototype copy of the game. All artwork, components and rules are subject to change before release.
One of those odd questions that people seem to ask is, “Do you prefer dogs or cats?”. I’m not sure why it matters, but whether you prefer canine of feline, Atikin Games have you covered with their latest 3-in-1 Kickstarter for Playful Pets. It combines two main games: Feline Felonies, and the one I’m writing about here, Canine Capers.
I’m not sure why, but putting games in mint tins seems to be a thing, with Mint Works being the most famous. They’re undeniably cute, and I always like to find out how much game designers have managed to pack into a small package. Some games pack in way more than you’d expect, like Palm Island. Nikita Sullivan – the designer of Canine Capers – has used a really novel system of connecting the game board pieces with overlapping magnetic pieces.
Sniffing out clues
The premise of Canine Capers sees the players taking on the roles of dogs. The dogs have very active imaginations, and are busy sniffing around for clues for various imaginary capers in their village. Your job is to gather as many clues as you can, and return them to Canine P.D. in the middle of the board, working together to do the best job you can.
Roll-and-move is the order of the day here, and you roll dice to find out how many Paw Points you have for your turn. Paw points are spent moving, picking-up and dropping-off clues, and using the various special abilities available to you. If it’s not obvious by now, this is a game aimed at younger players. I played with my eight-year-old son among others, and with some occasional steering, he was easily able to understand and play the game.
Although I generally don’t like roll-and-move in a board game, in this case it fits. For some reason kids seem to really enjoy it as a mechanism, and long after I tired of rolling for the umpteenth game in a row, my son was still keen to keep going. There’s a nice balance in place whereby low rolls might mean you have limited actions available, but the special abilities available for rolling a 1 or 2 are more powerful, compensating for the bad luck.
There are so many mass-produced, franchise-milking board games out there for younger children that I just can’t stand. My little boy enjoys them, because of the familiar characters on them, and because they’re simple. I watch his eyes roll back into his head when I suggest anything a bit heavier, or more Euro in design, but Canine Capers slides nicely into place between them. There is at least some player agency, and there’s loads of co-operation necessary to get a good score.
As a parent, this is a great thing for me. Although after two games in a row, I started to want some variety, I’m still more than happy to play this. There are some great common concepts from hobby board games (action points, special abilities, co-operative play) as an introduction, but the cutesy paw-print player pieces and theme, and the familiar roll-and-move mechanism mean children will be happy to start playing.
Games are quite tight, and the dice rolls add a little drama to every turn. Rolling a 5 or a 6 adds another clue to the board, and if that space already has one, a cat steals it, and there’s a collective ‘Noooo’ around the table, especially if it’s a star clue, which are worth more. You can still get the clues back, but it means using up a low-scoring roll or making a detour to visit a sly fox. Cuteness abounds.
The prototype I played with is clearly a personal, passionate project to Nikita. The pieces are hand-made, sticky taped together in places, and it has the smallest, cutest dice I’ve ever seen. It’s a really charming, lovely thing. It’s not a deep game, or a game you’ll be taking along instead of Agricola to game night, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a light, quick, family-friendly game. As far as I understand it, Canine Capers is the co-operative game, while Feline Felonies is more directly competitive. I’m glad I had Canine Capers, as my son is a) very competitive, and b) hates losing, so having a game where we all either win or lose together is great.
As I’ve said before on this site, there are some brilliant creators here in the UK, making brilliant games, and if you’re looking for something light to bring your family together around a table – even a tiny table in a caravan – Canine Capers is a great choice. The Kickstarter should be live by the time you read this, so check it out
A prototype copy of the game was kindly provided by Atikin Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Canine Capers (2021)
Designer: Nikita Sullivan
Publisher: Atikin Games
Art: Nikita Sullivan
Playing time: 30-45 mins