Doxie Dash

Last May Travis Wilkins of Mackerel Sky Games reached out to me and asked if I’d like a prototype of a game that was already live on Kickstarter. After asking him a few questions about his game (namely what makes it unique) I decided I was interested enough to look at it. A week later a prototype of Doxie Dash arrived. We played the game and it quickly became a hit. It’s a lot like Sushi Go but with a bit of take that action and variable player powers.

What is Doxie Dash?

Doxie Dash

Prototype of Doxie Dash

Doxie Dash is a card-drafting game where each player takes on the role of a hero dachshund (aka “wiener dog”, aka “doxie”) trying to score the most points. This is not a how to play article or even a review, so I won’t dwell on the details much. To score points you just play cards from your hand. Some combine with other cards to give you additional scoring. Again, think of Sushi Go but with variable player powers and a push your luck element.

Anyway, fast-forward 5 months and the campaign has wrapped up successfully and the game is in late stages of production and more and more people are receiving preview copies of Doxie Dash. I was browsing around the internet and found an unboxing video of the game by Tom Vasel. Of course, I had to watch. You can too.

Why am I telling you this?

I don’t usually have an issue with unboxing videos even though I rarely watch them. I watched this one because I’m familiar with the game (I backed it for a full copy) and I was curious what Tom had to say about it. So, let’s recap what Tom said in a nutshell.

  1. He doesn’t like the pixelated art.
  2. The Quick Reference cards are on paper (he sounded unimpressed).
  3. The cards are not good quality.
  4. The cards make no sense.

Let’s go through these items one at a time.

Pixelated Art

No argument there. Pixelated art is polarizing and will always be polarizing. People love, or they hate it. However, Vasel liked the pixelated art of Boss Monster because it was nostalgic and reminded him of video games from his childhood (look up his video of it on YouTube) while simultaneously bemoaning its over-usage. It can feel out of place and it was one of my first questions to Travis. Why did Mackerel Sky Games go with this art style when it wasn’t based off an 8- or 16-bit video game?

It’s a simple reason, albeit, not straightforward. What Tom didn’t see in his brief unboxing was the back of the Rules of Play where it clearly says:

Doxie Dash is based on the real-life doxies of the viral Long Long Ranch. Find them on Instagram @LongLongRanch

Hmmm. Interesting name for a dog operation. Dachshunds are long dogs. And in The Legend of Zelda video game series there is a ranch that makes a few appearances. That ranch is the Lon Lon Ranch. It seems that the choice to make Doxie Dash art pixelated has its roots in nostalgic video games (and two of the creators’ full-time doxie operation they run when they’re not trying to create games).

So, to answer Tom’s question, this is “why it has to be pixelated”. It is meaningful to the creators. They did not “pixelate it for the sheer sake of pixelating it” as Vasel smugly presumes.

Mackerel Sky Games knew it was a gamble to go with it. They are not unaware of the divisive nature of pixelated graphics.

Quick Reference Cards

Presumably Tom would have preferred either card stock for the Quick Reference cards or maybe even that those had just been in the card decks themselves. I think this is a legitimate complaint. I imagine that they weren’t included in the decks because there is a decent amount of information on them. They might have gotten away with doing the information on the front and back. There are more cards in the game than what is on a single sheet of printed cards from a manufacturer, so this may have been an inexpensive option.

As for why the Quick Reference cards weren’t printed on heavier paper. I cannot speculate.

Bad Quality Cards

Tom is right. The cards are not good quality. They are thin. There is no linen finish to them or UV coating. They are essentially glossy prints (like a magazine) but thicker. Just not thick enough.

But what Tom got wrong is a crucial detail that he did not share with his viewers. He was unboxing a prototype of Doxie Dash. He knew this. But he doesn’t let the viewers know he knew this. Of course the cards won’t be top quality. Prototypes are expensive. The finished game is still with the manufacturer. Travis has assured me that the quality of the cards in the finished game is far superior to the prototype that I, and Tom, have.

Doxie Dash

Doxie Dash—prototype

Cards Make No Sense

Tom criticized nearly every card in the deck. He groans almost puritanically when he saw the bra card. And he responded with incredulity at the poo card. He criticized the lick attack card because he didn’t understand it. Of course he didn’t understand it. He hadn’t even read the rules yet.

After rifling through both decks, he gives a perfunctory sigh and says “you never know…the game might be good. It might be amazing…may God have mercy on our souls.” Once again, Tom is showing how much he has missed this game’s intention. The cards make perfect sense when you consider the total package. You play as one of the dogs (who have living counterparts at the Long Long Ranch). What do dogs do? Especially puppies or untrained dogs? They poo on the floor. They chew on your clothes and they are especially fond of underwear. To score in this game you get points for pooing on the floor. You get more points for pooing on the rug. Also, collecting socks is worth points but if you collect all 3 kinds of skivvies (socks, underwear, and bra) you get additional points for the completed set.

A badger? Can anyone guess why dachshunds were bred? Here’s a hint: to hunt badgers. Who among you dog owners out there don’t understand that dogs are fond licking you? It gives them pleasure. Just like gaining points and winning games gives gamers pleasure.

Get Off My Lawn!

Have I misunderstood the purpose of an unboxing video? Is it a preliminary review? I understand first impressions. Some companies spend a lot of money working on them. But those companies measure their annual net profits in the tens of millions of dollars. There are better ways to be provocative than to shit allover a prototype (that someone sent to you for a review of the gameplay) during a half-baked unboxing video. The more I watch this video the more it seems obvious to me that Tom is unimpressed with the game because he doesn’t get it. But I also contend that he doesn’t want to get it. Being critical is fine. In fact, a good game developer encourages it. But he’s asking his questions to demean and express his disdain. Not to understand.

Does Tom only like what he knows rather than knowing what he likes? He liked the pixelated art in Boss Monster (despite not liking the style in general or the game in particular) because it reminds him of old school games, yet he was mildly enraged at Doxie Dash’s pixelated art that obvioiusly reminds the creators of their youth. I wonder if he’d taken a moment to understand the reasons for everything else in this game if he would have had different thoughts. I’m not sure that he asked these questions to get answers. Nonetheless, here they are.

Final Thoughts

I don’t mean to pick on Tom. He has done great work for the gaming community. But I have played this game heavily for the last 5 months and I have asked a lot of the same questions that Tom did, some of them directly to the creators and some to myself. After I considered them I was able to put it all together and form an educated opinion versus just a reaction. All in all, this game is just oozing with theme if you take more than a couple of minutes getting to know it.

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