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Thinking, Thwarting, and Throwing Octopuses in Shady Pets

Quick Look: Shady Pets

Designer: Brian Rauch
Artist: Kristina Vujnovic
Publisher: FireStorm Labs
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 7+
Playing Time: 15-20 min.

From the publisher:

Shady Pets is a highly strategic card game that requires you to play in a most shady way as you strive to correctly guess the identity of the mystery pets. It's a little like Clue, Uno and Exploding Kittens. You have to steal, take, show, sneak peak, expose, ambush, stop other players, grab and even throw an occasional octopus at an opponent on your way to victory.

As players take turns, the game gets more intense because, just like you, everyone is getting closer to solving the mystery pets, yet who is going play the best game, collect the most points and win the game?

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

A copy of Shady Pets, the Totally Twisted Deck, and the adorably Shady Octopus were sent to me for the purposes of this review, but the opinions here are the honest opinions of this cephalopod-lover and her friends and family.

Review: Shady Pets

Overview and Theme:

Deduction with a side of dashing dogs, clever cats, and one shady octopus...

Shady Pets is a deduction card game where players try to figure out which one of the eight animals in each category (dogs, cats, hamsters, and reptiles) is missing, using action cards with charmingly funny cartoon illustrations to let them peek, swap, steal, and thwart the other players on the road to success. Watch out for the Octopus Facial!

Components and Setup:

The cards in Shady Pets are of two kinds:
  • 32 Pet cards, with photos of real sunglasses-wearing pets
  • 52 Action cards, with illustrations of all the funny ways that clever pets could influence the oucome of the game

To set up the game, shuffle each type of pet separately and slip one, unseen, into the matching Mystery Card Holder (in the same way you'd set aside a Suspect, Room, and Weapon in Clue). Then you'll shuffle all the pets together and deal them out. The Action deck also gets shuffled and each player gets five cards. In addition, you'll each need a score sheet (a pack of 53 is included) and something to write with (not included).

I was pleased with the component quality in Shady Pets, though I do worry about running out of score sheets, since deduction games are a favorite of ours and tend to get played with high frequency. Looks like I'll be pulling out the laminator to preserve a set of the sheets!

The box, cards, and card holders held up nicely to several plays, but the instructions booklet is a little small and not as sturdy as I'd like, though the instructions are laid out well and it's easy to learn.

Game Play and Mechanics:

As with similar deduction games, the goal of Shady Pets is to find out what's missing. Use your score sheet to mark down what you've already seen so you can figure out which dog, cat, hamster, or reptile (cards are color-coded, labeled with text, and numbered) is missing. The colors here are helpful but not necessary as pictures and/or text are used as well for colorblind friends to be able to join in the fun.

The flow of the game is familiar: draw a card and play a card. The action cards have amusing animal illustrations and will allow you to take specific types of cards from other players, draw cards from their hands at random, draw extra cards, peek at the mystery cards, and so on.

The two "re-action" cards include No Way, which negates the power of the last card played, and my favorite: Facial, which steals the power of the card played on another players turn. The octopus stealing a human's sunglasses illustration was the jumping off point for the style and mood of this game, so it's one of the most amusing cards in the deck. Not only that, but FireStorm Labs also created a little plush Octopus that you can keep at the table with you and fling at each others' heads when you play the Facial card!

As play rolls on, you'll be getting to see more and more cards and narrowing down which cards must be the Mystery Pets tucked safely away in the card holders. On your turn, you can choose to guess a mystery pet's identity instead of playing your normal turn. Make your guess out loud and see if anyone else has the card you think is missing.

If someone has that card, they show it to the table and you'll lose points for your incorrect guess. If no one has the card you guessed, then you're correct! and you'll win points for your guess. If you were correct, and you think you know another mystery pet, you can even make another guess right away.

To add a layer of strategy here, the first correct guess earns 5 points, and that quickly ramps up to 10, 15, and 20 points for the second, third, and fourth guesses... so there is a benefit to not guessing right away. It's more valuable to guess the final pets, so you might decide to hold onto your knowledge until later in the game or until you know at least two pets at the same time... but if you wait too long, someone else might figure out what you know and snatch the points away from you!

Keep playing until all four pets have been guessed, and total up the points. You can play just one round or keep playing until one player has a total of 50 or more points. A single round often takes fifteen minutes or less and is a good filler; playing to 50 points makes it a meatier game and changes some of your decisions about when to guess, especially as you're nearing the end of the game.

For those of you looking for a darker experience... there is also a Totally Twisted, NSFW deck of Shady Pets where the game play is exactly the same, but the illustrations and quotes on the Action cards are kinkier and more embarrassingly awkward!

The Good:

The octopus. He's my favorite and now lives in the game room and often visits games where he's not even an official character. I didn't know what my life was missing, but it turned out to be an octopus wearing sunglasses.

The photos of the pets on the Pet cards are adorable, and the illustrations on the Action cards are hysterical! There's a lot of fun to be had just from looking at and reading the cards.

Deduction games are among my very favorites, and Shady Pets gets quick-deduction-with-a-twist done just right, from the action cards to the ramped-up scoring for each subsequent guess. As a gameschooling mom, I really appreciate the opportunity to work on reason and logic in a short, cute package.

The Bad:

There's not much we didn't like here--I suppose I'd like a sturdier rulebook and laminated/dry erase score sheets, if I could change anything.

Players Who Like:

Shady Pets is good for families and friends who want a light-hearted, quick deduction game, who are fans of Clue and Mystery of the Abbey but want something shorter like A Note for Murder. It's also a good game for folks who just like adorable animals like the ones in ScavengeGosh Darn Bubbles, or Exploding Kittens.

Final Thoughts:

I'm an easy person to please: octopus + deduction = yes! The cute animals were ooh-ed and aah-ed over by my daughter, and my son and husband appreciated the light-but-still-strategic deduction. Shady Pets is a lighthearted logic game with plenty of laughs and replayability, and it's a definite keeper for us.

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Alexa Chaplin- Reviewer

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!

See Alexa's reviews HERE.
Thinking, Thwarting, and Throwing Octopuses in Shady Pets Thinking, Thwarting, and Throwing Octopuses in Shady Pets Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on April 27, 2020 Rating: 5

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