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Unleashing Fun: A Comprehensive Review of Bark Avenue Board Game

I own a dog and it a wonderful thing. but we all get busy sometimes and need help with our furry loved ones. Dog walkers are some of the folks that can help. Bark Avenue designed by Mackenzie and Jonathan Jungck published by TerraDice Games and Good Games Publishing puts dog walkers front and center in this competition to be the best dog walker in NYC.

Bark Avenue game
Bark Avenue board and box

Bark Avenue was crowdfunded successfully in June of 2022 and recently (Dec 2023) finished up fulfillment to all the backers. The Bark Avenue had tiers in the crowdfunding campaign where backers could feature their dogs in the game. Also in the game are real foster dogs from real foster agencies in New York. The game is full of adorable pups and is a sure hit with dog owners.

The game is full of adorable pups and is a sure hit with dog owners.

SETUP

The board is set in the middle of the play area and features a map of Manhattan including central bark (or park if you prefer). Th game board is wonderfully illustrated and has an overlaid grid that will be the places players pick up and drop off the dogs and do other activities. The game also includes 5 walker player boards these have slots for 3 dogs to be walked at a time by each player and along the side it has abilities that each player can unlock as they get reviews. The reviews are for walking different combinations of dogs or preforming certain tasks while walking the dogs.


Player board with 2 dog cards
Player board with 2 dog cards

Players are dealt 2 dog cards and each player will keep one dog cards to start the game. Each player is also dealt 2 secret objective cards and will keep one. The secret objective card will provide bonus points at the end of the game if archived. Each player now has an objective and a dog to walk, they will now place their awesome dog walking meeple on the board in one of the four spots for the location associated with their first dog. There is a row of dog cards (how many depends on player count) that players will be able to pickup during their turns along the top of the board.



Game Play

Bark Avenue uses route optimization and pickup and deliver mechanisms to simulate the day in the life of a dog walker. The first part of a players turn is to roll either the city die or the park die. This can give a player an extra move, have the dog distracted by a bird or squirrel and take off in an unexpected direction, or a dog will poop. Dogs pooping is a good thing in this game. This will earn players an extra tip when they get the dog back home. Speaking of tips, there are two other things a player can get tipped for taking a photo of a dog in a picturesque spot or doing the dogs favorite activity (sniff, splashing, or fetching).

The showcase of the foster dogs in the game and the instruction manual show how thoughtful the designers are about dogs and it comes through in the game play.

After the die is rolled then players will move. Moving with out dogs, players may move 4 spaces and moving with dogs, you may move the lowest speed of the dogs you are walking. for example if you have a dog with 3 move and one with 5 move you are only going to move 3 spaces while you are walking both dogs.


Example Dog Cards From Bark Avenue
Example Dog Cards From Bark Avenue

The next part of a players turn are the actions. The actions player may take on their turn are doing the dogs favorite activity (in a location with that icon), picking up or dropping off a dog, buy or use a coffee, buy dog treats at the pet shop, use the dog park or take a pic of one of your dogs. All of these actions except using a coffee have to take place at a location on the map that has the appropriate icon.


Doing the dogs favorite activity and taking a photo are almost the same with the exception that players can only take a photo of one dog at a time and the activity can be done with all dogs if they like the same activity. Both of these actions will result in more tips for the player when they return the dog. There are 3 bonus tips that players can earn (pooping, photos, activities) for each dog. I found that its worth it to maximize this when choosing what dogs to walk because if the player can do one action and earn 2-3 tips rather than one its much more valuable of a turn for the player.

Coffee allows players to take an extra action during their turn, coffee is great to have.

Buying coffee and buying dog treats are also similar actions where a player has to be at the proper shop to buy the item. Coffee can be used once per turn and has two total uses. Coffee allows players to take an extra action during their turn, coffee is great to have. Dog treats will allow a dog to ignore its restrictions on walking. Some dogs prefer to walk alone or in a group and some prefer to walk only with certain dog sizes (there a small, medium and large dogs). This can be ignored if you give the dog a treat. This lets players further optimize their dog walking journey.


Carly the Dog
Carly the Dog

Much like the action of doing a dogs favorite activity taking them to the dog park will work for all the dogs a player is walking at once. The dog park action is only available to players that have unlocked it. Dropping off your dogs after their walk is the primary way of earning points in Bark Avenue. To drop off a dog players go back to the dogs starting location and pull the card off their player board, gain the tips for the completed tasks and then the player may choose a review and place a star from the right side of the player board starting at the bottom and place it on the review. This will unlock a new action like dog park, give another action per turn, a free coffee or treat, extra points, and the ability to walk 3 dogs at a time. The stars are very important to succeeding in this game. The ability to walk 3 dogs is important and having the extra action per turn is something you cannot leave on the table.


Thoughts

Bark Avenue's dozens of beautifully drawn dog cards will have dog lovers at first sight. The game play is kept simple with players one action (sometimes more) per turn. The single action allows players to concentrate on creating the optimal route for their walks to earn the most point value. There are a lot of icons but they are intuitive so the game flows quickly the only thing that slows the game down is the occasional analysis paralysis. The showcase of the foster dogs in the game and the instruction manual show how thoughtful the designers are about dogs and it comes through in the game play.


Chris and Rick playing Bark Avenue
Chris and Rick playing Bark Avenue

Bark Avenue plays quick and keeps the decision space tight making sure players are not left out of the action for too long when it is not their turn. The game features tons a great dogs and has a wonderfully illustrated board. Game play is made easy with simple iconography and great player guides. Bark Avenue has a short teach and will become a staple on your game table especially if you love dogs.


Players: 1-5

Year Published: 2023

Recommended Ages: 10+

Time to Play: 15 minutes per player



A review copy of Bark Avenue was provided to Bert's Tabletop Games for this review by Good Games Publishing.

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