Dogs are great and personally I miss having a dog, so to celebrate the existence of dogs everywhere, I’ve decided to make a list in no particular order, of the best dogs I’ve encountered in board games. The usual disclaimers apply; this is my list, it only covers games I’ve played where there are dogs I’ve liked. If there are others out there, that’s cool, mention them in the comments.
All of them
This is obviously the correct answer, but this wouldn’t be much of a list if it was just ‘all dogs’. We’ll go through a bunch of dogs, but in my heart, all dogs are the best dog.
The characters of Dead of Winter are filled with rich backstories and storylines which can take place if a crossroads card is drawn for them. Sparky the stunt-dog is no different. If he was simply a dog in a cape, that would be enough. If he was simply immune to zombie infection, that would be enough. He’s so much more, though. Sparky can wield weapons, Sparky can build barricades. The first time Sparky came into play, we expected more restrictions but he quickly became one of the more useful members of our group. His Crossroads card even came out and he managed to obliterate a ton of zombies in one go. The game’s been out for a while, but I won’t spoil the majesty of his Crossroads card here. It’s a tough burden being Sparky though, once when he wasn’t in play, Felicia Day pretended to be him, ran around killing zombies and ended up bit. Oh, and he’s the star of the Dead of Winter comic by Kyle Starks, which was amazing. Sparky’s a definite best dog in board games.
Best at: Becoming mayor if it’s literally just him and Forest Plum the mall Santa left alive.
Near & Far is a game about going wandering over hills, through strange locations and taking companions with you. Most people are hired in a pub, but before all of that you start with a pet as your default friend. You can pick a dog or cat, but really there’s only one choice here.
Your trusty dog will help you search for things, they’ll keep you company on your first experiences of the wilderness and won’t ask for anything in return.
Throw in the illustration by Ryan Laukat and you have a dog who looks adorable and like he’ll eagerly bound around the hills as you travel past busted robots and mysterious bandits.
Best at: Running over the next hill and bringing you things.
There are a few dogs in Descent, most notably the hellhounds. But they don’t pop up in Descent every damn time we play the game. The Barghests do. They’re most of a dog, I guess. There are chunks missing, but they’re wilful, motivated and won’t let something like that slow them down.
I mainly play using the app, but the times I’ve played as an Overlord, they’ve been my loyal companions. They block not one but two spaces, making getting in the way of players a great tactic. Their howl drains people of stamina unless they can make a willpower test. They’re even evasive when you shoot them at range. They’re not on fire like hellhounds, instead they have a big shaggy mane, which looks like it’d be great for stroking, as long as the Overlord keeps it well-groomed. I can imagine an undead dog’s hair getting a bit bad if it’s not well-maintained.
Best at: Getting in your way for a cuddle.
Fallout is a lot of really nice ideas, but it’s still got issues with the endgame. It can be a lonely life wandering through the wasteland, so you need companionship, all of whom are pretty demanding. A lot are recruited at markets, but if you save a dog from an abusive owner, you get to keep it! Even better, this is Dogmeat, the famous dog from the Fallout series. He allows you to skip bad parts of enemy traits which is really useful, and he just needs you to have a bit of first aid to patch him up. He’s a good boy and pretty persistent, certainly worth keeping around.
Best at: Helping you in a fight.
This is one of the only dogs I’ve not played with yet. I’ve only played one game of This War of Mine so far, but I’m pretty sure having a dog would help from a morale level. This War of Mine is like a bleak version of The Sims, so it was perfect for being turned into a board game.
Eureka’s a CCG dog, one who went through a few changes in his time. Doomtown was a card game which had a storyline running through its releases, even having an end (and a resurrection, which is fitting for Doomtown). The fiction and flavour text worked great in showing the changes to the overall story, and Eureka was a perfect example. This was a weird Wild West game with a lot of casualties, so beware as there is some violence against animals here.
The card, Eureka, is an event card which adds an extra card to your hand (Eureka bringing you things!) but then he travels through the players as he’s a nice dog who wants to help everyone out.
Spike Dougan, a real bad egg, shot Eureka, which was its own Event card. It also led to the death of Spike Dougan and his elimination from the tournament-usable cards. Spike was killed by his own boss, Black Jack Jackson, because you do not mess with Eureka without bringing the whole town down on you.
But you can’t keep a good dog down, and Eureka returned as what Doomtown calls ‘Harrowed’, a kind of more aware zombie, possessed by a manitou which will often control their host. Eureka’s back, but now he’s a bad thing to send round to the other players.
I love that cards in a CCG can tell a story so quickly and effectively. Eureka made a few more appearances over time, as did a Harrowed Spike Dougan.
Best at: Endlessly playing fetch.
Duke (Arkham Files Games)
Ashcan Pete has been a mainstay of the Arkham games. He’s wandered through Arkham Horror (board and card versions), Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness First and Second Edition and even travelled the globe in Eldritch Horror. He’s gained a good amount of backstory and depth over the years, but there’s been one constant all the way through; his trusty dog, Duke.
Duke’s often the only real ability Ashcan Pete has, acting as the carrier of items between players in Mansions of Madness or sniffing out clues in the Arkham Horror LCG. It became pretty clear that if you’re playing Ashcan Pete, you’re really playing Duke and his trusty human sidekick.
I’m not a fan of the Inhumans. They were fine as the wacky neighbours of the Fantastic Four who happen to live on the moon, but Marvel’s brief attempt to make them the new mutants (different to the New Mutants) really soured me on them. They’re slave-owning royals who act all superior to everyone else. There are a couple of good Inhumans who are free from that baggage; Ms Marvel and Moon Girl. The only old school Inhuman who’s any good is Lockjaw.
Thought briefly to be an Inhuman who turned into a dog (later retconned into being a joke told to Ben Grimm), Lockjaw is loyal, friendly and can teleport. He’s also massive. When he was gifted to Ms Marvel, he looked like some giant Ghibli beast.
In Marvel Legendary, Lockjaw is found in the Sidekick deck with the other Pet Avengers. He’s bought for two money, provides two attack and has phasing. This means that if you’re having one of those turns where you don’t have enough attack to do anything useful, you can put Lockjaw back on top of your deck and hope for a better turn next time.
Best at: Being reliable, even if everything you own is now covered in drool.
So in summation, virtually all dogs are good dogs. If you know of any others you like from board games, sound off in the comments.
Clearly I need to chime in here as while Charlie has certainly hit on some of my favorite canine companions from board games he’s missed a couple of clear contenders.
I’ll extend this to any wookie in Imperial Assault or indeed Star Wars games in general. Any Star Wars nerd worth his salt will know that the basis for the creation of everyone’s favorite walking carpet was George Lucas’ dog ‘Indiana’ a Alaskan Malamute. And Chewie and his Wookie brethren are as loyal as any faithful hound you’d find with the added bonus of that whole pulling arms out of sockets thing they have going for them.
Best at. Wookie Rage and murderising stormtroopers.
This alien puppy bounds about the war torn edges of this cosmic battleground bringing back WMD’s to delighted combatants while expecting a nice pat on the head for his obedience.
Best at. Being a happy space puppy.
Arcadia Quest (Pets Expansion)
Arcadia quest is a big bright plastic strewn toy box of silly so the introduction of pets for the adventurers was an obvious choice. And this includes two faithful pooches to help you Ace the adorable little bundle of fluff and Padfeet (technically a wolf but pah!) complete with little miniatures and the ability to level up. They are a completely superfluous and highly unbalanced bling for this already extravagant box of happy plastic but that’s why we love them. And as a Kickstarter Backer I can also gloat over Cerby my three headed puppy from hell that you can’t have because you undoubtedly missed the opportunity and he’s exclusive and everything, which makes him extra special.
Best at. Being extravagantly pointless but fun!