Review – Wolf & Hound

Wolf and Hound is a light, four-player partnership card game, with each team seeking to chase off the other team’s sheep while protecting their own. On each player’s turn, they will play a card from hand to manipulate a variable array of wolves, hounds, and magical effects to achieve this goal. Previously released in Japan as Tamamoool: Defend the Eggs, this reimplemented version of the game is currently on Kickstarter.

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The Quick Take: Cute and casual, Wolf & Hound could make some headway as a family game. But, even as a filler, it probably lacks the depth to break into the rotation for more serious gamers.

The Basics

           Wolf & Hound is played with two teams of two, with partners sitting opposite each other. The players select which wolves, hounds, and/or magical effects will be used that game (the basic version being one wolf and one hound), and the chosen cards start in front of the first player. Each player begins with three sheep in their pasture. At the start of a player’s turn, the player will lose a sheep if there is a wolf in front of them and regain a lost sheep if there is a hound in front of them. The players also have hands of four cards. On a player’s turn, that player will play one of those cards, either moving a hound (if the card is white) or a wolf (if the card is black) from one to four spaces around the play area (so a four will just put the animal back where it began). The player then draws back up to four, and passes the turn. The game ends if any  player runs out of sheep or if the players run out of cards, in which case the team with the most sheep left wins (when the deck runs out, players don’t refill their hands anymore).

Wolf and Hound in action. Prototype components
Wolf and Hound in action. Prototype components

Variable Cards

            As noted above, the basic version of the game is one wolf and one hound, with no special rules. This is a pretty straightforward experience. Changing up the cards used quickly shakes things up, however. The game comes with 16 different wolves, hounds, and tornadoes (those magical effects). Except for the basic wolf and hound, each of these cards has some special text that affects how it operates in the game. For example, the card might move more slowly, or counterclockwise. A variant wolf might grab sheep from the player to the left or right (or, if you want the nastiest wolf, from three of the four players at once). There are also metamorphic cards, which are wolves and hounds that flip over each time they take a lap around the play area. One pair switches back and forth from wolf to hound, while the second pair stays as white or black, but gains or loses special abilities. The tornadoes (which are moved by either kind of card) don’t directly affect the sheep, but will mess with the player they are in front of (for example, one prevents the player from playing ‘3’ cards).

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Playing a card of a given color moves everything that is affected by the color. So the tornadoes will move every single turn, and when the black/white metamorphic cards are being used, it is possible to “pass” if both are the same color and you have a card of the other color in hand.

            In theory, one could play with any array, but more typically the spread would cap out at 3 cards, either wolf/hound/tornado or hound/2x wolf (when two wolves are used, each player starts with four sheep instead). The metamorphic cards would not typically be used along with tornadoes.

Opinion

Wolf & Hound is very much on the light/filler/casual side of the gaming experience. Play time is listed as 10-20 minutes, and it will probably be on the shorter side of that. Each player has a max of four options each turn, and it’s typically clear that some of them are bad ones (no, I would not like to move the wolf onto my partner). The strength of play on each turn will heavily depend on the cards in hand, with the strongest option generally to drop a wolf on the player to your left if at all possible (the wolves that take to that player’s left or right make it harder to finish an opponent off because there’s not dropping the wolf to your left and giving the opponent no chance to respond). The times with the most tactical depth are when there just isn’t a good play in your hand – no option to shift a wolf or hound from one team to another. It isn’t that there aren’t choices to be made, just that they will usually feel pretty obvious to a seasoned gamer.

Even when the more advanced wolf/hound/tornado/metamorphic options are deployed, the game adds a bit more complexity without expanding the tactical depth much – you have more to keep track of (such as the shifting metamorphic cards or moving the tornado and the wolf/hound at the same time), but there’s still usually some clearly ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ moves as long as you don’t lose track of what will move what where.

Without elements of deduction (social or otherwise) like Love Letter or Spyfall, I don’t think that Wolf & Hound is going to be able to make the leap to the list of favorite gamer fillers, but will instead need to succeed as a more casual game to break out with those aren’t interested in or up for heavier play. Personally, I expect that for me this will get the most play as a family game with the kids, where the light weight and cute factor of the game will go the furthest, and the high luck factor will be seen as less of a detriment.

A pasture. Prototype components.
A pasture. Prototype components.

We were playing with a prototype copy, but the quality on even that was pretty solid. The nice central board, pastures with stand-up fences, and sheep tokens upped the cute factor, and will probably help draw and hold the interest of some non-traditional gamers or younger players. If you’re going on the road and don’t need that cute factor, the game can be made very portable, as none of the boards are strictly necessary – you could easily stick the cards for Wolf & Hound into small box (or a jacket pocket), use something laying around for the sheep tokens, and have something handy for pickup games.

 

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