One of the many hazards of Mostly Not Leaving My House for the last … honestly, by the time this comes out, year and a half? Year and two thirds? Who even knows, anymore. Well, one of many hazards of that is that I haven’t been able to play many of my Oinks, which is a huge bummer because I got a ton from a Japan Import last year and a Kickstarter from a while ago. Yes, that was one of the few Kickstarters I backed. I love Oink Games. Even if I don’t love the game, I love the game’s energy; it’s just … peppy. And I need some peppy games, every now and then. Dokojong seems peppy, so let’s try it out.
In Dokojong, you just … love dogs. You love one dog more than the others, though. You just … want to pet it. It’s the best dog. The goodest boy, if you will. So you hide it in a room and don’t tell the others. Unfortunately, did I mention it’s the king’s dog? And you’re one of the king’s ministers? I didn’t. I should have. Either way, imagine how awkward it must be when you show up for work the next morning and all five of the king’s dogs are missing. Apparently, the other ministers had the same idea, and now the king is (justifiably?) pissed. You, ever faithful (ish), volunteer to help lead the charge to find the missing dogs, along with the other ministers. Just maybe steer them away from that room, right? Will you be able to find the stolen dogs while successfully keeping yours hidden?
Not a ton, here. Give each player a set of dogs in some color:
Those will come with matching Penalty Tokens:
Give each player two Score Tokens, flipped to the blue side:
Set out the five doors in the center of the play area:
And then have players shuffle their tiles and place them facing them, behind the player board:
You should be ready to start! Choose a player to go first and give them the Leader Token.
Dokojong is a weird game. You’re looking for dogs that y’all collectively stole, but you don’t want to reveal where you hid the dog you took. It’s a bit bluffing, deduction, and some luck. The game itself plays as a series of turns, and on each turn you have one of four actions. To start a game (or a round), the Leader chooses a door to search and flips it over, to its yellow side. The next player has four choices:
Approving is simple. You just say, “OK!”, and your turn ends. This means that you’re okay with the current selection of doors to search, so be careful! You don’t gain the Leader Token, either. This is essentially you just passing. That said, if every player chooses to Approve, other than the Leader, you immediately move to the Search Phase.
Open Another Door
If you choose this action, choose another door to search and flip it to its yellow side, as well. You cannot use this action to close a currently open door (a door currently on its yellow side). If you take this action, take the Leader Token.
You cannot use this action if all doors have been opened, as you might guess.
This one’s tricky. If you choose this action, close all open doors, keeping track of how many doors you close (let’s call it X). Now, open X + 1 doors, where none of the doors you open were the doors you closed.
So for example, you can close door 2 and open doors 3 and 5. If you’re in a situation where doors 1, 2, and 4 are open, you cannot take this action (as there are not four doors to open that do not include at least one of 1, 2, and 4). If you take this action, take the Leader Token.
Accuse the Leader
If you choose this action, skip the Search Phase. Instead, resolve the round as follows.
Choose a number between 1 and 5. The Leader reveals their tile at that location. If that tile is a dog, they flip one of their Penalty Markers and you may reveal one of your tiles. Don’t reveal the Dog. If the Leader reveals a dog, they then reshuffle their tiles again. If not, they leave the tile they revealed revealed.
As with the Search Phase, if this causes either player to reveal their third X tile, they score a point, flipping one half of their Point Medal over. They then reshuffle their tiles, again.
Either way, close all open doors. The Leader chooses a door to search, flipping it over, and a new round starts with the player to their left.
The Search Phase
If all players pick the Approve action, the round enters the Search Phase. Now, starting with the leader and going one player at a time, players reveal all tiles on spaces with numbers matching the open doors.
If a dog is revealed, no additional players will reveal tiles. That player flips a Penalty Token, and then reshuffles their tiles, as they would in Setup. If this happens, a new round starts with the Leader shutting all doors and choosing a door to open, and then turns begin with the player to their left.
Otherwise, if a player reveals their tiles and at least 3 Xs and no dog are revealed, they are successful! They can immediately flip one half of their Score Medal to the gold side. They then shuffle their tiles, as they would in Setup.
Once a dog is found or all players have revealed tiles, the Search Phase ends. Play starts again with the Leader shutting all doors and choosing a door to open, and then turns begin with the player to the Leader’s left.
End of Game
If a player flips three of their Penalty Tokens, they are eliminated from the game! If the Leader is eliminated, the player to their left becomes Leader. As you might guess, if every player is eliminated except for one, that player wins!
Otherwise, as soon as one (or more) players flip their second Score Chip to the gold side, they win!
Player Count Differences
This game changes a fair bit as player counts shift. At two, the game almost feels like it’s more about guessing what door your opponent’s dog is behind rather than trying to open up enough empty rooms to win. This can make the game feel a bit intense. Plus, I don’t think the “guess the location of your opponent’s dog” action is where the game really shines, unfortunately. There are better two-player bluffing games, I think. At higher player counts, though, the game can get goofy and hectic. Sometimes you have to decide what you want to push, but other times your opponents will guess each others’ doors and preemptively end the round before you even get a chance to do anything about it! It can be a bit frustrating, but also chaotic in a humorous way. My main issue with higher player counts is that player elimination can mean that a player is knocked out of the game for a hot minute as it takes potentially longer to resolve. I pretty much universally hate player elimination, and there’s no exception, here. That said, I think the game is more dynamic and exciting with higher player counts, so I’m still inclined to recommend Dokojong on the higher side. Just make sure that you don’t get eliminated.
- It’s usually great to be to the right of the player with the Leader Token. In some ways, at least. Being to the right of the player with the Leader Token means that when the Search Phase begins, you’re likely the last player to go and get searched. This empowers you, a bit. It means you can get tricky and suggest a room where your dog is, hoping that the player to your left will “yes, and” you and get you off the hook. The problem is, being the last player to go means that there are potentially a bunch of players that can score before you actually get to reveal your tiles. Someone usually gets hit, at higher player count games, and that means you may not get a chance to reveal your tiles and score. You won’t lose, but you won’t win that way, either. You may need to be proactive and become the Leader yourself, sometimes!
- Try to play inconsistently. Sometimes, that will mean suggesting that players open the door where your dog is! Your goal is to be hard to read. Sometimes, I just recommend shuffling your tiles face-down and then pretending to look at them. I have some friends that insist they’re pros at reading people. I like to play this way against them to see if they’re just making it up. If they try to read me, well, I didn’t look at my tiles. There’s nothing to read! No thoughts, head empty. I can’t recommend making that your foundational strategy, but it’s fun to do occasionally if you think someone’s onto your pattern.
- That said, if you’re going to suggest your own door, try to do that first in a round so that other players might change it or take the Leader Token away from you. Yeah, suggesting a door where your dog is is a pretty routinely bad idea, unless another player gets you off the hook first by demanding a door next. That said, it does take the heat off of you. Players aren’t especially likely to accuse you of hiding a dog behind the door you just demanded to search. Though, now that they are reading this, they might?
- Be careful, though! Sometimes players can behave unpredictably. I did see an unfortunate thing happen to Ruel where I suggested the door where his dog was, he Approved, and then everyone else also did. So he got nuked from orbit basically immediately. That was unfortunate, but that’s how that can go, sometimes! Players might just say “you know what? one tile is enough for me” or something equally goofy. Prepare for unforeseen consequences or whatever.
- Suggesting that you open doors that other players have already revealed is a great way to catch up with them (or trick them into helping you win). I like this one a lot. Look around the table and see which tiles players have already revealed as X tiles. Then, suggest those! They gain nothing from that, but they might be inclined to just approve it because it’s neutral for them. The thing that they don’t realize is that neutral for them might be Very Good For You, if you’re playing your tiles right. I’ve won a few games doing this, honestly.
- Sometimes, it’s better to just guess another player’s door than it is to do anything else on your turn. If you’re up against the ropes and you’re about to get hit and like, four doors are open, just guess the Leader’s door and see if you can hit it. No matter what, you’ve got a 20% chance, at worst, if you guess randomly, and that’s better than a 100% chance of getting your dog found if you Approve. Just keep in mind that if the Leader already has two tiles revealed and one half of their Score Medal, you shouldn’t do this. Unless you’re sure. If you’re wrong, they win the game. And that’s bad.
- You may want to play a bit more conservatively if you’re about to be eliminated. Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t suggest a door with my dog behind it if two of my Penalty Tokens are flipped. That’s a great way to get ejected from the game. Instead, try to Approve or go after the Leader; these are actions that don’t invite a lot of speculation as to where your dog is. Plus, they can occasionally help you reveal tiles that can help you score (and consequently help you win!).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the game’s theme. This has got to be one of the goofier Oink Games themes. Maybe The Pyramid’s Deadline is sillier? Nine Tiles Panic? It’s probably Top 5. You’re a dog-napper who just loves one dog too much, but you’ve stolen from the wrong guy. It’s honestly kind of hilarious?
- Also love its narrative. it’s fun to kind of get into it and accuse other players of lying or being disloyal or committing dog crimes or whatever. The game has a really silly narrative that’s just … fun. It’s nice to have a goofy game or two every now and then; some games are so serious. Looking at you, Castles of Burgundy. Fun, but yeesh; it’s very serious business.
- I appreciate how portable Oink titles always are. It’s a consistent refrain, but it’s consistent for a reason! I just stuffed six of these games in a suitcase for a weekend trip, and it worked out super well. I do need a new suitcase, but that’s a Later Eric Problem. The Oink Games titles being portable is a Now Eric Bonus, I think. I haven’t used that phrase before; I’m going to workshop it.
- The component quality is super nice! Oink seems to have recently upgraded their component process, because these plastic tiles (I assume they’re plastic?) are nice. They have a good weight, they’re simple but easy to check, and they just feel good to play with. Normally I’m used to very thin cardboard (which, don’t get me wrong, they still have that in spades), but it’s nice to see an iteration on the other components.
- The colors / art of the game are also very nice. It’s just such a colorful and inviting game. And there are dogs for everyone! As long as you like some kind of dog, there’s a dog in here that you’ll probably enjoy. I love that pretty much no matter what (with, I guess, the exception of Insider Black), Oink tries to make their games pop with bold or neon colors that look great on the table and catch the eye of people walking by. Oink titles are great convention games, for this reason; I just wish that I were going to more conventions this year, sadly. I’m not, and I’m making peace with it, but I’m still bummed.
- I like that revealing tiles stops as soon as one player reveals a dog. I think that’s a nice bit of strategic play. It allows you to play a riskier gambit and potentially have someone else take the fall for it! It’s sneaky, and I like sneaky, in games. It’s just very satisfying to see the player before you reveal their tiles, have a dog in the same spot that you do, and get burned for it. You end up with no problems! It’s great.
- The game becomes a lot more interesting as players start to have asymmetrical numbers of tiles revealed. It definitely gets challenging. Now, you have to decide if you want to reveal tiles to help yourself at the potential risk of other players piggybacking that to score as well, or if you want to try and do what I advised earlier and suggest revealing tiles that they’ve already revealed to see if you can sneak your way to scoring. This becomes even more complex as you start to have to take in your flipped Penalty Tokens and Score Medal halves into account. Do you go big and try to shoot the moon and score and win? Or do you need to think a bit more conservatively so that you don’t lose? Questions, questions.
- If one player is particularly easy to read, they can get picked on for a while. That’s kind of the challenge with multiplayer bluffing games. If one player can’t keep up their poker face, they’re probably going to get sniped at from other players, which may not feel especially fun. Thankfully, the game’s theme is fun enough that this kind of balances out.
- I think this game’s box has a similar enough color scheme to Mr. Face that I kind of get them confused, from time to time? I don’t know why; I haven’t played Mr. Face in a hot minute, but I think the green and yellow are just enough that they play poorly with my Only Kind Of Paying Attention Brain, and I just kind of mix them up. I had to check a few times to make sure I grabbed the right game before I went on vacation a while back. This was bound to happen eventually; there are only so many color pairs you can make before they start to look a little similar, and this is one of those times.
- Being able to guess another player’s dog’s location kind of blurs the lines between bluffing and deduction, trending a bit more toward social deduction than I like. I think my frustration with it is that it’s an interrupt to the game’s flow, which means that if a player wants to just go after another player, there’s not much you can do about it (see above). But additionally, this means that one player can really kind of junk up the game for other players. If they keep going after the Leader, they might just feed the Leader points, which they can legitimately do without any other players being able to stop them. I may gently house-rule a “don’t monopolize the game by just going after players”, because it does force a round reset, as well. It’s a good action for a variety of strategic reasons, but players can take it a bit farther than I would like. It starts to feel … social deduction-y, and I’ve kind of bounced off of that genre for reasons like this.
- Player elimination is not great, even for shorter games, but the game kind of needs it. I’ll be honest; I hate player elimination, but it’s a necessary evil, here. Otherwise, what do you do if a player just keeps getting their dog revealed? Some players are unlucky, and some players are just bad at being deceptive. Some folks might say you can just end the game as soon as one player gets eliminated, but then the game will feel even shorter than it already is! Which kind of leads me to my next point.
- Honestly, the game can feel a bit short. I think the game feels almost a bit sparse, at times? I would really like a slightly longer, deeper version of this game, but alas; it’s a very light game about dog thievery. A bit more depth would really make this one shine for me, but I think it’s fun, as-is. It just, unfortunately, doesn’t quite end up being my Favorite Oink Game at any of its player counts. That happens, sometimes.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall? I think Dokojong is pretty fun. This is one of the occasionally frustrating things about being a reviewer. When I got this game I was hyped for it. Unbelievably hyped. Loved the theme, loved the colors, loved the components. And then I played it a few times. I didn’t love it? It’s perfectly fun, and I’ve enjoyed the games I’ve played of it, but I was hoping this would be a contender for My Favorite Oink. And it’s not. This sounds a lot worse than a 7.5 / 10 is, which is “Good, almost Great”, but that’s kind of how weird numerical reviews can be. I think the arrow matters a bit, here. If you’re writing about a game that was better than you thought, you might start at a 6 and your arrow points at a 7.5. If you’re writing about a game that didn’t quite meet your expectations, you start at a 9 and your arrow points at a 7.5. Those are very different experiences for a review. So how’d that happen? I think it’s mostly around the depth of the game. I wanted some of the bluffing to be more in-depth and challenging, rather than the quick-and-simple guessing that the game often can be. And that’s just an expectations mismatch. Recalibrating for that, let me tell you where this game shines. There are moments where you see a player having successfully clowned themselves (they recommend players check the door where their dog is, either through failed subterfuge or a bad memory), and they’re deeply funny. There are rivalries that start to form as players accuse each other of hiding dogs behind certain doors, and those can become endearing (as long as they don’t last too long). And as we push closer to the end of the game, it becomes frenetic and exciting. Will you be able to reveal your Xs before another player can win? That’s part of the challenge and part of the appeal. I’ll freely admit this isn’t going to knock Nine Tiles Panic, Insider, or A Fake Artist Goes to New York off of the top of my Oink Games lists, but I think Dokojong has a lot of silly fun going for it, and I appreciate that (more so, now) in its own right. If you’re looking for a game about doing just a tiny bit of dog thievery, you enjoy games with great themes and light colors, or you’re just an Oink Completionist like me, you might enjoy Dokojong! It’s been growing on me.