Much like the Smart Pug, the Strong Pug has been around since the very beginning. He’s generally been about some form of size or strength across the board for all the abilities he’s been given, and at the end of the day he’s probably the most straightforward, simple, and arguably quite powerful pug in the game. So let’s talk about him!
Part 1: Inspiration and Design
Honestly, I think when most people think of a pug the first thing they think is how overweight they are. Like it or not, pugs are generally greedy eaters and if a pug owner isn’t careful, that pug is going to blow up. Watching Peach constantly try to scarf down food every chance she gets and seeing how fast she is to beg for any and all treats, I definitely get that notion. However, I didn’t want to make a pug called “The Fat Pug” as it felt kind of rude and mean; there’s not a problem with a pug being fat, although it’s generally got a negative connotation. I didn’t want to use that word and instead wanted to use a more empowering one, which is why I settled on the Strong Pug.
For the design, I started brainstorming an enormous list of potential options for him. This included things like holding more cards, playing additional cards each round, unfailing tricks, gaining bonus points, and more. The one I settled on initially was allowing him to hold more cards than other players, holding a hand of 5 cards compared to everyone else’s 3 (yes it was just 3 way back in the day). This was pretty meh, especially considering a lot of cards weren’t super worthwhile at the time and having more cards in your hand didn’t necessarily make your next play much stronger. This pivoted to a version of a buried card, where the Strong Pug could store one card each round to the side, and once he had four cards in the pile, could then choose one card to play and discard the rest. I liked the ability to combo things with it, but it felt extremely underwhelming for most players and was difficult to remember to store a card every round. It got some other changes as I sifted through how pug abilities were activated, until I settled on the treat cards and gave it a new power: discarding all cards played in the round and earning one point for every adventure or treat card played.
That might sound familiar because that’s exactly what it is now. I was actually pretty concerned about it and worried it wasn’t exciting enough, particularly as it didn’t feel like it was doing all that much. As people played it, though, they came to enjoy it more and more. The introduction of burying cards also had a substantial impact on counterplay, as players could potential bury cards to avoid the hit. Burying cards also led to the Strong Pug constantly burying treats and saving them for later (could bury up to three at the time), which felt pretty awful to have any big move countered – Savannah, of course, learned to bait out those treat cards by playing things that were pretty good, then letting me block it with a treat, then would follow up the very next round by playing an even more impactful card (like playing an adventure in the first round, then playing a treat with the Garbage Pug for huge points). All of that is to say, after it got to the point where I felt like players enjoyed playing as it, players felt there was some modicum of defense against it, and it introduced at least some decisions on the things to destroy (as well as debating whether to bury it or not, given you can only bury one thing), the ability just stuck around for the long haul. It’s remarkable what he’s been able to do, really, as everyone else (as we’ve seen) has undergone balance changes and tons of small edits at a minimum.
Part 2: Tips and Tricks
The Strong Pug is one of the most simple pugs, stating nobody gets to play a card this round. It’s easy, straightforward, and for someone learning to play can be a great introductory pug. It has moments of excitement when you finally figure out how to stop another person’s adventure, and it just feels great to succeed with the ability. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
-Bury treats with this guy all the time. Although it can be powerful and useful to occasionally bury other things, if you get a chance it’s almost always a good choice to bury a treat. No matter what happens you’ll be able to counter even the best moves from an opponent and you’ll get points for doing it.
-He gets slightly stronger in larger games, as it’s more likely players will play a treat or adventure in any given round since there are just more cards on the board. This is negated slightly by optimal play (in that, burying a treat is going to roughly have the same impact regardless of the number of players in the game), but it’s a thing to be aware of.
-For opponents, attempting to bury cards pretty consistently when the Strong Pug is around is a good idea. It allows you to avoid him better than anything. The Mischief Pug can also be a good choice if the Strong Pug is driving you insane, as the Mischief Pug can completely remove the treat from his power. Lastly, baiting out the Strong Pug buried treat can be enormously powerful and allow you to successfully play the stuff you need to play. Lose the battle to win the war, right?
He may not be the biggest showoff or the most exciting of the pugs, but he’s simple, consistent, and always useful. There’s not a ton that has to go into playing him, which is great for new players and as you get better at the game recognizing when to pull out treats to counter players and make amazing comebacks is always a lot of fun. If that sounds good to you, then the Strong Pug is your guy!