SNAP Review – Pavlov’s Dogs
Ready? Now, speak!
Anitra, this is 2022. We’re not supposed to treat our children like pets.
But we’re all dogs in Pavlov’s Dogs.
Pavlov’s Dogs is a cooperative memory and cognition game from Heather & Chris O’Neill and published by 9th Level Games. Up to 8 people can play in about 20 minutes.
The box says it’s for ages 14 and up, but this is a game you can definitely play with younger gamers. We included Elliot here when we played. It did slow us down a little, but it worked.
Pavlov’s Dogs has a cute art style that we like, but there isn’t a ton of art in this game. There just aren’t a lot of components to it. You’ve got the tests folder, the rule cards, the bone tokens, and the playing cards.
Our favorite piece is definitely the rule cards – these are a treat for any students of psychology with dog names like Abby Maslow, the dog-tor of Doggy Needs, and Sigmund Fetch of Big Dog Ego.
They are, of course, all the goodest bois and girls.
The playing cards are clear and simple – and they need to be! They come in three colored suits (yellow, brown, and blue), numbered 1-5, and they have commands like Sit, Speak, and Fetch.
There are also grey Bell cards with value zero – but several of the rules change how the Bells work.
Speaking of how things work…
Start by giving every player three bone tokens. Players will take turn being the “dog-tor” each round, making sure the other doggies follow the rules.
Each round, the current dog-tor adds a new rule to the tests folder. After reviewing the rules, the dog-tor hides the folder, deals five playing cards to each other player, and the round begins!
The starting player flips the top card from their pile. They announce the value of the pile plus their card – after following any of the hidden rules that apply to the current card.
So let’s say this rule is out, requiring a player say “Hi” before putting a “Speak” card down.
If Elliot flips this “Speak” card onto the stack with a current value of 20, he needs to say “Hi” and then play the card into the center, ending with the –total value– of the center pile. “Twenty three!”
All of the rules for past rounds would stack up at this point, so Elliot might have needed to do a couple of other things, depending on what rules were out. In this case, Elliot followed all rules correctly, so Anitra, as the dog-tor, gets to say “Good dog”. Then it’s the next player’s turn!
If Elliot failed to follow a rule – like this one that says “Subtract Yellow Cards” – or gets the math wrong – the dog-tor must tell them they are a “Bad Dog”. Then they tell them what they did wrong, and take away one of their bones.
The central pile resets to zero after a mistake and the next player around the table takes their turn.
Play continues until all the doggies have exhausted their 5-card piles. But you immediately lose the game if any player runs out of bones.
When a round is over – if you haven’t lost already – pass the folder to a new dog-tor, who gets to add an additional rule. At this point, you can redistribute bones if one player is having trouble.
Keep adding a new rule every round until you’ve beaten the desired difficulty level – three, five, or eight rules – or one player runs out of bones.
If you didn’t run out of bones, you can check your grade in the rulebook after you finish.
It’s really unusual to see a game in such a small box that plays up to 8 players – especially if it’s not a trivia game or a guessing game.
With a name like Pavlov’s Dogs, I expected plenty of puns and some science education.
The rules were a little tough to decipher; 9th Level Games leaned a bit too hard on the psychological test theme and the dog puns. That meant it took several reads-through before we were sure what we were supposed to do.
Once we started playing, we had a great time. You can tell from the rules and the cards that this is a game that does not take itself seriously.
Even though this is already kind of a silly game, you can play it seriously to test your memory – there’s even a team mode for competitive types, where each team is following a different sets of rules.
But the game also offers a chance to replace one of the “easy” sets of tests with “silly” tests to make it even more ridiculous, requiring actions like sticking out your tongue or sniffing your bones.
Pavlov’s Dogs actually gets harder the more you play it – you’re more likely to mis-remember and follow rules from earlier games. Playing this one back-to-back is especially difficult. That was a huge surprise.
I expected Pavlov’s Dogs to be educational given the name, but the way in which it helped our kids the most was actually math, not science.
Of course, there’s a ton of material here that can lead to conversations about Pavlov and his experiments, but mental arithmetic is something people get better at with more reps, and Pavlov’s Dogs provides that in spades.
It’s also just hilarious.
Pavlov’s Dogs is a fun game for group play. While it’s definitely play-able with two players, we much prefer it with at least four, even better with more.
When you pick up this game you might be tempted based on just the art to play it with your youngest gamers. While it can flex down to gamers as young as seven or eight (it did for us), the psychology puns and the recommended age of 14+ on the box suggest the game is intended more for silly science fans. We think the truth is somewhere between the two.
We rate Pavlov’s Dogs 3 bones out of 5.
Find it on Amazon or at your local board game retailer.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Pavlov’s Dogs from 9th Level Games for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Number of Players: 2-8
Age Range: 14+ (We say 10+)
Playtime: 20 minutes