Go Bark!
Edutainment that is both educational and entertaining.
on Tuesday 14 August 2007
by Areala author list print the content item create pdf file of the content item
in Reviews > Tabletop Gaming Reviews
comments: 0
author awarded score: 95/100
not rated -

Using the standard rules for a game of Go Fish, players attempt to match up breeds of dogs in order to win.

Go Bark! is a quirky variant of the old Go Fish playing card game. Only instead of attempting to complete a set of four identical numbers, players play instead to create "packs" of four dogs from the same breed. It features twelve different breeds of dogs (Beagle, Black Labrador, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Shetland Sheepdog, Shih-Tzu, Siberian Husky, English Springer Spaniel and Yellow Labrador), six "bark" cards, and one two-sided rule card that explains how to play. The cards are all plastic-coated like normal playing cards, making them easy for smaller hands to grip and hold and giving them a bit more durability than standard cardstock. While the box says it can be played by 2-6 players, the game gets exponentially more fun the more people are added to it, and at least three players is recommended to prevent the game from stagnating quickly.

95% of this game is exactly like Go Fish. Players are dealt five cards each, the remainder of the pile is placed in the center where everyone can reach it, and play begins. The player to the left of the dealer starts it all by asking any other player if he has any cards depicting a certain breed ("Hey, Mitch, you got any Shetland Sheepdogs?") If the player asked has one or more of the given breed, he passes all cards of that breed to the player who asked for them. The asking player can then inquire again of any player (including the one just asked) about another breed. This continues until the player asks another player for a breed of dog that the asked player does not have in his or her hand. When that happens, the asked player tells the asking player to "Go bark!" and the asking player draws a card, ending his turn. Play then proceeds to the next player.

Once a player has acquired all four of any given breed of dog, she lets the table know she has made a Pack, and plays them face-up in a pile in front of her. The object of the game is to be the player who acquires the most Packs of dogs when the last one is made.

Unlike Go Fish, however, Go Bark! has one extra bit of complexity. Six of the cards in the deck are of no breed at all; these are the "Go Bark" cards. A player can play one of these from his hand any time he is asked for a breed by another player whether he actually has any dogs of that breed or not. Each "Go Bark" card has a different dog noise printed on it, such as "Howl" or "Yap Yap Yap"--the player of the card makes that noise as he plays it, then instructs the player who asked him to bark at a different player. ("Grrrrrrrrrrl! Go bark at Emily.")

The game is clearly centered more towards younger children than it is adults, but the results when played with dog lovers are almost immediate with players howling, barking, and having a heck of a good time playing an updated version of an old classic. The six "Go Bark" cards introduce an element of strategy to the game that allows you to deflect questions away from you, direct questions back at the person who deflected them originally, or keep hold of that nearly-complete pack that someone else is trying to steal away.

The artwork on the cards is top-notch, including a lovingly-rendered, photo-realistic painting of each breed by artist Sally Berner, and two to three lines of simple text describing the habits, behaviors or quirks of the breed. Also included on each card are four names - three in red text, one in black - that represent the names of the four dogs in that pack (the black one is the name of the one shown on the card). To increase the difficulty of the game, you can require that players ask one another for specific names of dogs instead of the general breed. On the other hand, you can decrease the complexity of the game by leaving the "Go Bark" cards out of it and playing it like a standard game of Go Fish. Finally, though the rules card does not mention it in the section for rules variants, you can simply spread all the cards out face-down for a quick and easy solitaire game of Memory that is ideal for children who are too young to play the game with others but who are interested in matching the pretty pictures to one another with some adult supervision, or older children who can't find enough other players to make for a fun game.

It might not become a regular feature at your adult game night, but for playing in a mixed-ages environment or between younger children, Go Bark! has enough strategy and variation to keep everybody entertained for at least a couple of games. Younger players will have a ball both imitating the dog noises on the card and watching the older players try to do so with the same gusto. It's also great for dog lovers who might not be gamers normally, as the artwork on the cards is beautiful to look at in and of itself.

For those who are looking for family-oriented games, or something the children can play while the adults are playing something else, you might have found exactly what you have been wanting. Go Bark! is simple, fast-playing, and fun for all ages.

If you'd like to learn more about this game, or purchase it for yourself, check out the Go Bark! homepage.

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