Chances are pretty good you've seen a picture of dogs playing poker... you know what I'm talking about, right? I've even got a Peanuts T-shirt with Snoopy and his various relatives arranged in similar fashion. Well, when Haba decided to put bags filled with poker chips in a game about dogs racing across the yard, it's no surprise that you're reminded of the ubiquitous paintings. (The box cover art is just icing on the cake.)
Racing, Avoiding Dog Poop
By the way, these are not your average kids' game poker chips -- or even the nicer Hasbro / Avalon Hill chips that you find in Vegas Showdown and Axis & Allies: D-Day. These are the real deal. They've got weight / heft (or whatever poker players like to say about good chips) and are custom printed for this game. (How do I know they're custom printed? I'm guessing not too many standard poker chip sets include a dog poop chip.)
The game itself is a race game (be the first to zoom across the board) powered by a push-your-luck mechanic. The first player (which rotates each turn) rolls two dice that tell the dogs (aka "players") what the prizes will be for this round. It's either a number of spaces or a golden bone, and there are golden bones scattered along the track.
The Game Begins in Earnest
Then the players reach into their bag and grab (sight unseen) one of their chips. They are revealed, and then the game begins in earnest. The players must now decide if they will:
- Reach into their bag and fake drawing out a chip (in other words, choosing to stand with the number on their chip); or
- Reach into their bag and draw out another chip.
Those next chips (or empty hands) are revealed, and the process is repeated until all of the players have stopped drawing chips or found their dog poop tile. (Finding doo-doo puts you in deep doo-doo, at least for that round -- you're knocked out of the running.)
The two players with the highest totals will get prizes, with the highest total choosing first. If there's a tie, the player closest clockwise to the "first player" goes first.
One More Wrinkle
There is one other wrinkle (which can be ignored when playing with younger children): there is a 2x chip which multiplies the value of all your other chips. I like that simply removing this chip makes the game easily playable with kids who can do basic addition.
Press-your-luck games are always interesting with kids... just like adults, some are unable to quit drawing chips until things go wrong, while others are completely unwilling to take risks. This would be a wonderful game to train kids in judging probabilities and rate of return (though if you use those particular words in trying to teach the underlying concepts to a six-year-old, you need your head examined).
My eight-year-old son loves this game -- and only partly because he gets to use the word "poop" when we play. He isn't perfect at judging the odds, but he's old enough to figure out his chances for himself. My four-year-old son is less enthused by it, but he's willing to play.
I myself think it's good light fun, but it is a press-your-luck game -- so if you're turned off by those kind of things, run away now. And while the rules say it will work with two players, it's not nearly as fun as playing with three or four.
Casino Hot Dog is for 2 to 4 players, ages 7 and up. It was designed by Wolfgang Dirscherl and published by Haba.