Disclaimer: Please note that this is a kickstarter preview for which I was sent a copy of the prototype game for review purposes. All views on the game are my own however.
The Bark Side is a card game in which you are trying to keep your mischievous dogs from bringing home their messy dog friends. The player who has the least messy dogs in their home at the end of the game wins! This game was designed by Kotaro Kanda and illustrated by Serene Wyatt. The game will be coming to the crowd funding website Kickstarter at the start of April and will be published by Korea Board Games. The Bark Side is for 3-5 players aged seven or over.
How to Play
The Bark Side is described as a climbing card game. I’ll be honest here I didn’t know what that was until I did a bit of research! So just in case you are like me, the definition of a climbing game is one where each player must play a card to beat the card of the previous player. I would say for those who are still interested that this game feels more like a combination of this and a trick taking game.
The game comes with 50 cards, each of these has a strength value detailed in the top left corner of the card. There are 5 of each strength of card in the game and each strength represents a different dog and has distinct artwork.
Shuffle all the cards and then deal ten cards to each player. The remaining cards are set aside. All players then choose two cards from their hand and pass it face-down to the player on their right. When all the cards have been passed all players take these new cards into their hand.
The starting player will on their turn choose to play either one card or a set of cards. You can only play a set of cards if someone has performed a tail-tucking move on a previous trick, more on this later. You also cannot play a set if that would cause you to empty your hand.
Playing One Card
The starting player can choose to play any card from their hand. The remaining players however must then play a card of equal or higher value than the one played by the previous person.
If you cannot or do not want to play such a card, you must play the lowest card you have in your hand, this is called the tail-tucking move.
Playing a set of cards
The starting player could also choose to play a set of cards with the same strength, for example two 4’s or three 5’s. As mentioned previously this can only be done if someone performed a tail-tucking move on a previous trick.
Then as before players must play a set of the same number of cards of equal or higher strength. If you cannot or do not want to play this set then you must play the same number of cards of the lowest strength from your hand.
Finishing the round
After all players have played a card or a set of cards, the last player who played the highest card or cards wins the trick and becomes the new starting player. Game play continues until all players have only one card remaining in their hand, this triggers the final trick.
In this final trick all players in turn order from the starting player must play their remaining card. The winner of this trick actually loses the round and must take the highest card and the two lowest cards into their area.
At the end of the round all cards, except those in a players area, are shuffled and a new round is started.
The game ends when either:
- One player has seven cards of different strengths in their area, in which case that player has lost the game.
- There are four or less cards to deal per player at the beginning of the round. The loser of the game is the player with the most cards of different strengths in their area. In case of a tie this becomes the most cards in total in their area.
In either case the winner of the game is the player who has the least cards in their area!
Before I get into my final thoughts it is important that I mention that the game is still in prototype form so it is possible that things will change between now and the final version of the game. I would think for example that there will be similar artwork on the strength 9 and 10 cards which you might have noticed are blank at the moment. Whilst I don’t know if it is final artwork I do like the style, it has a fun silly charm to it. It certainly was a hit with my children who enjoyed all of the dogs antics! The theme here is very much pasted on but it definitely doesn’t detract from the gameplay and in fact i think it adds charm to the game.
I didn’t know what to expect when I received a copy of this game. I haven’t played an awful lot of this type of card game since I was a child. This game invoked a lot of happy memories of playing trick taking games growing up. I really liked how simple it was to learn and teach. My children who have just turned eight picked up not only the rules but also some tactics very quickly.
I really enjoyed how it provoked more tactical decisions than those card games I remembered. You have to really think about when you want to play those higher cards to win a trick and when you want to hold them back to prevent you being forced to discard your lowest cards. There are also some interesting choices to make as to what cards to pass to your opponent at the start of the round.
I wouldn’t say that this game is particularly difficult to play but that in turn makes it very well suited to play with children and people who don’t play games regularly. For example I think it will be a great one to teach to my mum who taught me all those card games growing up. I think she will enjoy the familiarity of what she knows but with the addition of some more complexity.
Is this game going to appeal to everyone? I don’t think so but I think it’s a great game for introducing to your non gaming family and friends especially if they enjoy traditional card games.
My children enjoy this game even more than I do. It was simple enough for them to learn easily and they have really enjoying thinking about the best tactics to use. I have also really enjoying listening to them discussing those tactics with each other which is something that doesn’t happen all the time.
Overall I think if you are looking for a light fun card game to play with family and friends this could be a great choice.