Way back when I first started making Pug Time, I created the simple idea of basics, tricks, and disasters. I also wanted to implement different characters, and, with Peach as my inspiration, I first created the Smart Pug. From it’s inception it’s always been about making more informed decisions than the rest of the pugs, so let’s dive in and see how it evolved over time.
Part 1: Inspiration and Design
Of course, Peach is a very bright dog. She figures things out so quickly and it’s so much fun watching her solve little puzzles she runs into in her daily life, from having a toy stuck behind a wall or a treat on a table she can’t quite reach. She has a very cute pug move where she’ll stand next to a table then lift her left front arm up in the air, then slowly stretch it out as far as she can possibly reach to grab whatever it is she’s trying to get. Savannah and I were completely mesmerized the first time we saw her do it and were so excited when she actually grabbed it. Beyond cute. Anyway, that’s mostly the story behind the inspiration.
As far as design goes, I wanted the Smart Pug to make more informed decisions than everyone else, such that they would constantly be making the right move over others. When I first created her, she had the ability to play any card she wanted after everyone else had revealed a card. Obviously with the ability always being active, she used it every turn and always made the right move. It was beyond ridiculous. To try to offset this I tried a few iterations. The first tried forcing the Smart Pug to reveal a card after only seeing a single card (doesn’t work in a 2 player game), and the second asked the player to choose two cards to potentially reveal, and then reveal one of them (was obnoxious having to choose two cards every round and then put one back). Eventually we moved to the treat model, and the Smart Pug gained the new ability “Guess a card type. If that card type is revealed in the next three cards, play that card for twice the effect.” It was a somewhat neat card, but it felt like it rarely worked, the “twice effect” wasn’t super functional, and it was way too similar to the Curious Pug at the time.
After giving it a lot of chances, I settled on a new ability, similar to the one we have now. Look at the top four cards and add them to your hand, then discard down to four cards. If you discard any treats, earn one point. This was always a little problematic for me as I always felt weird asking players to discard treats, but I did feel like it created interesting decisions for players which I liked. Eventually, though, I came to an epiphany about buried treasure cards – I knew exactly what I wanted once I did that, and I gave the Smart Pug the ability to discard treats and buried treasure cards to bury cards, instead of earning points. I like the idea that the Smart Pug would be able to have all the tools available to pull out at any time and constantly counter opponents as they saw what was happening. It was shockingly like the original ability, but it also was substantially more gated in power which was perfect. Eventually buried cards were limited to just a single one at a time, and it became even more unique in the ability to bury more than one card at a time. Overall, I’m very happy where it ended and it’s one of my absolute favorite pugs to play.
Part 2: Tips and Tricks
The Smart Pug really wants to build up a huge number of buried cards and then successfully play everything they have buried to go on a huge point spree towards the end of the game. The bigger the pile of buried cards, the easier it is to counter anything the opponent plays and the easier it is to win. Buried cards are true power.
-Try to avoid playing cards that can fail when playing the Smart Pug. If you save them for burying later, they have a much better chance of working.
-Burying disasters and tricks are extremely powerful in this context, as you have a much better shot of landing them when you know exactly what your opponent is playing.
-Sometimes it’s worthwhile to keep a treat instead of discarding it to bury a card. Saving it allows you to run the ability all over again, drawing more cards and increasing your chances of pulling adventures, buried treasures, and more treats. Keep this in mind early in the game as sometimes small initial sacrifices can have a huge impact later.
The Smart Pug is one of my absolute favorite pugs to play. She’s quiet, contemplating, and always has a great shot to win. She is certainly one of the most difficult ones to play correctly, although on the surface she doesn’t seem overly complex. The better you know the game, the better you’ll know which cards to keep, which cards to bury, and which cards to discard. Making the right decisions is absolutely key, and if you want a challenge to always making the right decisions, the Smart Pug is definitely the pug for you!