“Dogs Are Brave and Smart”: A GDBZ Board Game review
Make Big Things
It’s that time of the year again; my house is decorated with ghosts, we’ve carved the pineapple jack-o-lantern, and I’ve been subsisting on a strict diet of Boo Berry cereal for the past 30 days. And although this is typical of my life year-round, it’s the one season where this is socially appropriate: Halloween. And like all things going on this season, the board games I bring to my game nights also have a spooky vibe to them. For this late October board game review, I wanted to bring some attention to a less popular entry in the Halloween-themed games. Today’s review is of the game “Good Dog, Bad Zombie” by Make Big Things.
Good Dog Bad Zombie (GDBZ) is a 2-4 player co-op game where each player takes on the role of a different dog trying to save their hoomans (That’s what they’re called in the game, I’m not being asinine) from the zombie apocalypse. The stakes are high though; they have to save their hoomans before the dogs become fully feral and forget their domestic natures.
In this game, players take turns sniffing, licking, herding,
and just being an all-around good doggo (again, game’s phrasing not mine). Everybody
wins if the dogs are able to work together to safely herd 6 hoomans to Central Bark
and the safety of Hooman Town. If the dogs succumb to their more Jack London-esque
instincts before rescuing 6 hoomans, the game is over, and all the players lose.
The bulk of the gameplay revolves around the dogs investigating scent tokens to locate missing hoomans while keeping zombies away from Central Bark. You must coordinate with the other players to balance mitigating the encroaching zombies, with locating and saving hoomans. Every turn, a new zombie is added to the board, so if you don’t take care of them soon enough, players will soon find themselves over-run. There are a variety of dog-themed actions players can take each turn, including sniffing, howling, and barking which each correspond to a basic action. This is the only game I’ve played where “licking” is a primary mechanic; doing so allows other players to draw more cards; you sacrifice an action yourself, but it’s all for the good of the pack.
Every hooman located by investigating scents also triggers an event in the game, possibly drawing the attention of new zombies. The zombies won’t harm the dogs, but if they end up in the same location as a hooman, it’s curtains for that guy. Every hooman who makes it to the safety of Central Bark counts towards the 6 needed to win and earns you a unique bonus. Every zombie who makes it to central bark, heightens the call of the wild and moves the feral tracker one point closer to defeat.
The different dogs each have their own powers and by using
the “good doggo” energy cards you can activate them to come in when your
friends need you the most. I’m particularly fond of Wayne’s ability “being
For what it is, I enjoyed the game. I found the co-op to be a refreshing change of pace from competitive play, although it didn’t seem to be especially important that players coordinate until late-game. The mechanics are pretty simple and easy to pick up. My primary criticism of the gameplay itself was that it seemed like there weren’t enough obstacles for the players. The dogs have a lot of great tools at their disposal, and the zombies just seem pretty lack-luster in comparison. They don’t really have any AI either, so it’s not hard to thwart them or even just avoid them entirely. There are different difficulty levels in the game, but for the most part I felt relatively unopposed.
Keep in mind though, the strength and appeal of this game is
not in its mechanics but in its theme!
GDBZ is billed as a charming zombie apocalypse game told from the perspective of dogs, and the designers really delivered on that promise.
Dog lovers will enjoy the chance to play as one of the many dog
characters, while horror fans will enjoy the almost serene take on a zombie apocalypse.
The fact that the zombies aren’t after the dogs makes them seem almost like as
passive malignance, which gives the world a creepy but unique feel to it.
Everything from the names of the locations, to the actions you take are from the dog’s perspective, which gives everything a distinct, dog-like optimism to it. I’m particularly fond of the airport location that the dogs have aptly named “loud birds.”
The artwork on the energy cards is where I think this game shines the most. A wide variety of breeds are represented, and I enjoyed the opportunity to draw cards just so I could see which adorable dog picture I’d get next.
If you visit the GDBZ website, there is even an option to make your own dog a character in the game with their own stats and doggo ability. Playing as a dog you know and love adds a whole new layer of fun to the game. The game comes with customizable hooman cards as well, so if you’re so inclined, you could play as your own dog saving yourself from the zombie apocalypse. Or if you’re like me, you can play as your own dog, ignoring your rivals and intentionally saving other people.
The only real criticism I have of this game’s presentation is that the components feel a little amateur. The board itself is made of a thin plastic, and the standing pieces are all cardboard on plastic stands. If you decide to continue reading my game reviews as I put more of them out, you’ll almost definitely hear me talk about board games as a sensory experience, one of the most important senses being tactile. I love a board game whose pieces feel good in my hands, and GDBZ does not fulfill that desire.
That being said, I understand that making it with less refined components likely dropped the price of this game significantly, making it accessible to more gamers. Because of this, it allowed us to experience a product that otherwise may not have come to fruition at all. Honestly, these component complaints are minor for me, GDBZ is a game that thrives on it’s artwork, and using card stands allows more artwork to be represented. The designers still manage to create an ambiance and deliver a unique and compelling theme. It’s hard to condemn such a unique game on such a minor offense. It’s also relevant to note these components are made with environmentally sustainable ingredients, which may also have an impact on the nature of the components.
As far as replaying goes, I have not revisited this game since the first time I played it, but that is not necessarily a reflection on the game itself. The game has a random element to help generate variety between play-throughs, but I didn’t feel like the random elements of the game were significant enough to add variety, so the play-throughs start to become pretty similar. The zombies don’t really have any AI to speak of, and I can’t imagine the base game being vastly different if you were to really try to exhaust it.
But, I think it’s important to note that this game for me
was really more about the experience and enjoying it for the fun of the theme and
not so much as a board game that needs to be mastered. It also has multiple
difficulties where different amounts of zombies start in different positions on
the board. This does help add some variety, but the core strategy of the game
doesn’t really change.
There are two expansions to this game that give you new ways to play and new, dog-adjacent (animal) characters to play as. I own both these expansions but have not gone too in-depth into them. The unlikely allies pack does add some nice twists to the theme, and if you’re serious about this game and plan to keep in in your regular rotation, I would encourage you to grab the expansions.
My opinion of this game is overall favorable because I had fun with it, and I’m glad I own a copy, if for nothing more than the novelty. This was a game someone clearly enjoyed making, and I can genuinely say I enjoyed playing it. I really love the theme and world-building that went into this. The artwork is well done, and playing as a dog is definitely appealing.
The game play was engaging enough, although it didn’t really require too much coordination with the other players. Still, it was a nice change of pace from the standard fare of competitive games the players at my table are often faced with. I like the ambiance and it’s a nice, intermediate level of engagement. It’s easy to learn and is accessible to players of many ages. This isn’t something that offers endless hours of play, but is definitely worth a couple play-throughs. My final grade: 75%– generally positive