Will you collect meat to tame the wild dogs, or charcoal and fire to fend them off? Choose wisely, because Here Comes the Dog!
What Is Here Comes the Dog?
Here Comes the Dog is a dice game from Itten, a Japanese publisher, for 2 to 4 players, ages 9 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. The list price appears to be $42.99, though you may be able to find it cheaper than that; because it’s imported from Japan, it’s not widely available, but I’ve found it at Funagain Games online. I’ve found that the game tends to take longer than the 30-minute estimate (especially at a full player count), but since it’s played in a series of rounds, you can also agree ahead of time to play fewer rounds. The “Dancing Villagers” variant, also included in this edition, is for ages 8 and up and takes 15 minutes, according to the rulesheet.
Here Comes the Dog Components
Here’s what’s included:
- Bonfire base
- 25 Dogs
- 12 Villagers
- Round-counter die
- 3 Color dice
- 9 Meat sticks
- 7 Charcoal sticks
- 5 Fire sticks
All of the components are wooden, including the dice, which have rounded corners and are painted. The sticks are a bit like popsicle sticks, but slightly thicker and shorter, and they come in a plain wood color (meat), black (charcoal), and red (fire). When set up, the bonfire looks really nice!
The dog and villager meeples are a lot of fun: each villager has one arm sticking out, just right for petting a tamed dog.
Everything comes in a small box, about 5.5″ square.
How to Play Here Comes the Dog
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is tame the most dogs over the course of 5 rounds.
Place the bonfire on the base, and lay the various sticks around the edge of the base to form the bonfire. Place the dog meeples off to the side. (This arrangement is largely for aesthetic purposes, so it’s not crucial to have everything arranged perfectly. I like to have the dogs a little ways out from the fire, as if they’re hovering at the edge of the darkness.) Place the round-counter die nearby, with the “1” showing.
Every player gets 3 villagers, and stands them up near the bonfire. Choose a starting player (maybe the person with the most dogs?).
On your turn, you may either roll the color dice or exchange one stick.
If you roll the dice, typically you will get to take sticks matching 2 of the 3 dice from the bonfire. (There are a few special rolls, but I’ll explain those later.)
To exchange, you may put 1 charcoal back into the bonfire to take 1 meat, or you can put 1 fire into the bonfire to take 2 meat or 2 charcoal. You may not take the last meat or charcoal through an exchange, and you may not exchange if there’s not enough to take.
The round ends if the bonfire runs out of either meat or charcoal.
If all the meat runs out, it’s a Feed event. Every player tames 1 dog for every 2 meat sticks they have, taking dogs from the supply and placing them with their villagers. Any leftover meat is not used.
If all the charcoal runs out, it’s an Assault event. Every player is attacked by 1 dog for every 1 meat stick they are holding. It costs 2 meat sticks or 1 charcoal and 1 fire to fend off a single dog. (Fending off dogs with meat sticks does not tame them.) For each dog that you cannot fend off, one of your villagers faints—lay it down on the table.
If all the meat and charcoal run out at the same time, the round ends without any event.
At the end of the round, return all of the sticks to the bonfire, rotate the round counter die, and start a new round (just continuing in player order).
There are a few rolls that result in special events:
- 1 of each color: Theft! Steal 1 stick from another player
- 3 meat: There’s an immediate feeding event, but the round doesn’t end. Meat used for taming dogs is returned to the fire, but players keep any unused meat.
- 3 charcoal: There’s an immediate assault event, but the round doesn’t end. Players use meat, charcoal, and fire as usual to fend off dogs, and keep any leftover sticks.
- 3 fire: It’s time for a Fire Fest! Everyone returns all fire sticks to the bonfire. (Sorry, there’s no ball pit.)
For the triple rolls, after resolving the event, the player who rolled the dice gets to roll again. The theft roll counts as the player’s turn.
If all of your villagers faint, then all the dogs run away back to the pack, taking one of your villagers with them, and then you stand your remaining villagers back up. If your last villager is taken away, you are eliminated.
The game ends after 5 rounds. The player with the most tame dogs wins; ties go to the player with the most active villagers. The game also ends if there’s only one player left.
Dancing Villagers Variant
This edition of the game also includes the Dancing Villagers variant rules, which turns the game into a simultaneous-play game about quick reflexes. You set up the bonfire with only 5 meat and 3 charcoal (and no fire), and everyone gets a certain number of villagers (based on the number of players). Place 1 dog near the bonfire on the side facing one of the players (to be determined by rock-paper-scissors).
Everyone simultaneously “rolls” their villagers onto the table. A villager that lands hand-up (as in the photo above) will count toward 1 meat stick, and a villager that lands hand-down will count toward 1 charcoal stick. Villagers lying flat on the table do not count. You total up all of the hand-up and hand-down and subtract the smaller number from the higher number—that results in the number (and type) of sticks that will be removed from the fire. For example, if there are 5 hand-up and 3 hand-down, then you would remove 2 meat sticks. If all of the villagers are flat, add 1 more dog to the village, lined up behind the first one.
Any villager that miraculously is rolled standing upright immediately gains 1 dog for its owner.
Here’s where the reflexes come in: if, after a roll, you can determine that it will remove the last of the meat or the charcoal, then you have to grab quickly (instead of removing the sticks).
If the meat would run out, then you have to grab the dogs in the village. You get to take as many of the village dogs as you’re able to grab first.
If the charcoal would run out, then you have to grab the bonfire. The player with the bonfire is protected, and everyone else loses 1 villager. (If you lose all your villagers, you return all your tamed dogs to the pack, and then get all 3 villagers back again.)
If you grab the wrong thing, you lose 1 villager.
After each tame or assault event, reset the bonfire and start a new round. If anyone took a dog, add 1 dog to the village on the opposite side from the first one.
Dancing Villagers ends when anyone tames 7 dogs, with ties going to the player with more villagers.
Why You Should Play Here Comes the Dog
Even though it’s not actually a story-based game, I love the narrative that arises while playing Here Comes the Dog. Here you have a small tribe of humans, huddled together in the safety of a giant bonfire, cooking meat from the day’s hunt … and just outside the circle of light, a pack of hungry dogs
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.