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Introducing Get the Cheese

Game designer Hisashi Hayashi from Japan is a hot name in the board game industry right now. He's already created several very successful designs, including the Dominion inspired deck-builder Trains (2012), and the hit title Yokohama (2016). Other popular games he's made include String Railway (2009), Sail to India (2013), and Rolling America (2015). I'm looking forward to the brand new English edition of the pickup-and-deliver game Isaribi (2014) that is coming out very soon from Eagle Gryphon Games, and his self-contained Railways of the World expansion Railways of Nippon (2017) is highly anticipated.

Get The Cheese! (2015), a light filler from Hisashi Hayashi for 3-5 players, was first released by Japon Brand with a limited distribution in 2015 under the title "Go Da Cheese!" The good news is that this sought-after title is getting wider distribution now that Stronghold Games has produced it in a fine new edition (2017), which is hitting the market right about now. In this fun filler, you're playing a game of cat and mouse ... and dog! Your mice are competing with mice from other players to get the cheese, but meanwhile your cats are trying to catch each other's mice, and your dogs are trying to chase away each other's cats!

Here's how the publisher describes the game-play: "Each player takes the Animal cards of one color, and a House Card to identify the player''s color. Cheese cards form the circumference of a circle. On his turn, a player may either draw 3 Animal cards or place 3 Animal cards. If a player places 3 Animal cards, he places them beside the cheese cards, on the outer side of the circle. The first card is placed face down. The second card and the third card are placed face up, unless you play some of your special cards that permit you to play them face down. Once all players have placed all their Animal cards, the Cheese cards are resolved one at a time. At each Cheese card, the line of animals is resolved in this order: Dogs, Cats, King Mice, regular Mice. The player with the most points wins! Yep, that's really all there is to it! The biggest challenge is understanding how to resolve the cards for point-scoring.

In this fearsome food fight, can you get the cheese, and can you score the most points? Let's take a look at this lovely new edition, and show you what you get and how it works.



COMPONENTS

Game box

The box comes in the same portable and convenient size that has become standard for fillers, and that most of us will be familiar with from games like No Thanks, Hanabi, Red7, and Saboteur.

The new Stronghold Games edition has delightful vibrant artwork that is humorous and engaging: two mice stealing some cheese under the watchful eyes of a grinning cat, who itself is being stalked by a drooling dog. The kind of humour from Tom and Jerry cartoons immediately and appropriately comes to mind, and that's the kind of light cartoony feel that this game is intended to generate!



The back of the box lists the components and sums up the game this way:

"A game of Cat and Mouse ... and Dog! Strategically deploy your animals so that your Dog chases away others' Cats, your Cats catch others' Mice, and your Mice ... Get The Cheese!"



Component list

Inside the box we find the following:
● 15 Cheese cards
● 75 Animal Cards (15 for each player)
● 5 Player Cards
● instructions



In addition you also get a free promo card for another Stronghold Games title, Fuji Flush.

Player cards

Each player gets a House in their colour: red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Players will simply place these in front of them, to help other players remember their colour, and also use them to store any point-scoring cards they win.



Animal cards

Each player gets their own deck of 15 cards in their colour.



The decks are identical, and consist of the following cards:
● 9 Regular mice (1 point each)
● 2 Big mice (2 points each)
● 1 King mouse (1 point each, crown symbol)
● 2 Cats (3 points each)
● 1 Dog



Cheese cards

These 15 cards represent the cheese that your mice are trying to get. Both sides are identical, and picture a cheese with a number from 2-5, which represents how many mice that cheese can feed.



Instructions

The rules come on a single double-sided sheet of long paper that folds into eighths.



The publisher has made the new English rules conveniently available right here on BGG: Get The Cheese! - final rules

GAME PLAY

Set-up

Deal a random selection of Cheese cards in a circle, depending on the number of players: 6 for 3 players, 8 for 4 players, 10 for 5 players.

Each player gets a deck of 15 Animals cards, which is shuffled and placed face-down in front of them, plus a player card (House) which remains in front of them throughout the game. You each draw a starting hand of three Animal cards.

I love this starting rule: "The player who most recently ate cheese is the starting player."



Flow of Play

The basic flow of play is very simple. Players take turns in clockwise order, and do one of the following: (a) Draw 3 Animal cards; or (b) Play 3 Animal cards. Note that you may not "pass". Let's explain how these two choices works:

Draw 3 Animal cards: Simply take three cards from the top of your face-down deck, and add them to your hand. There's a hand limit of 6 cards, so you can only do this if you have no cards in hand, or just 3 cards.

Play 3 Animal cards: Play three cards of your choice from your hand. This must be done as follows:
- place them on the outside of three adjacent cheese cards
- place them in clockwise direction with the first one face down, and the next two face up (unless they have a "face down" icon on the card)
- place them splayed above/on top of any other cards already outside of that cheese card

Example: In this example, the Blue player has already played three Animal cards, the first face down, and the next two face-up. Now the Red player plays three Animal cards, the first is face down, and the second face up. The third card would normally be face-up but it has a "face down" icon so it is placed face down instead. This card is also splayed above the blue card that is already besides the "4" cheese, so that both cards can be seen.



Scoring

After all the cards have been played, resolve each Cheese card at a time, which happens by turning all the Animal cards face-up (without changing the order). The line towards the cheese is resolved as follows:

Dogs: Dogs chase away cats - any Dog that has a Cat immediately before or after it, causes that Cat to run away. The Cat is removed and added to the Dog owner's score pile.

Cats: Cats eat mice - any Cat gets to eat other player's Mice that are up to three cards away from them towards the Cheese. These Mice are removed and added to the Cat owner's score pile. Note that your Cat will stop its mouse-hunting if you reach a Cat or Dog before getting three cards away! Cats are removed from the line after they are resolved.

King Mice: King Mice get preference - any King Mouses get to move to the front of the line, and get first dibs on the cheese. If ever there's more than one Cat, Dog, or King Mouse in a line, resolve them in reverse order, starting with the last ones first.

Mice: Mice eat cheese - each Cheese indicates how many mice it will feed, and that number of mice closest to the cheese score points for their owners.

At this point, you score up points from the cards you have collected, as noted on these cards. This consists of cats that your dog chased away, mice that your cat ate, and mice that ate cheese. Cats are worth 3 points each, regular mice and king mice are worth 1 point point each, while big mice are worth 2 points each.

Here's a scoring example for a Red player:



What do I think?

Hot designer: Japanese designer Hisashi Hayashi is a hot name in the game industry, and some people who are fans of his designs will want to check out this game for that reason alone!

Filler: This game falls squarely into the filler category. It's easy to learn and plays very quickly, 15 minutes at most.

Nine turns: Every game only lasts nine turns - that's it. Of those nine turns, you'll be drawing four times, and playing five times. Yep, that means you only get to play cards five times altogether in an entire game, and then the game is over. That's not much, so it means that the game plays very quickly, and there's not a huge amount of decisions going on.

Choices: The fact that you only get five turns in which you're actually playing cards, doesn't mean the game is devoid of choices, because each time you are playing cards there's actually quite a bit to think about. Which of the six cards you have in hand should you play? Where should you start playing them? And in which order should you play them? And if you already have three cards in hand, should you play them now already, since the closer your mice are to the front of the line, the better chance they'll have of eating cheese, or should you use your turn to draw more cards to give yourself more options next turn? Should you try to bluff with a face-down card, and do you think your opponent's face-down card is a bluff or not? There's are the kinds of things to consider when making your choice, so the game is not a game of luck by any means, despite the fact that you only play cards on five turns.

Hidden information: There's a lot of hidden information due to the face-down cards. While your first card is always played face down, the fact that three of your fifteen cards have an icon that allows them to be played face-down as well, with careful play you can play at least eight of your fifteen cards face-down. So typically, about half the cards will be face-down, which doesn't give you a massive amount of information to work with. This of course allows scope for bluffing, and you can set traps by playing a face-down dog, hoping your opponent thinks it is a mouse and thus setting them up to play a cat. But this hidden information equally means that it's hard to calculate or plan with any kind of certainty. The amount of hidden information could make you love or hate the game; either you'll love the possibility for bluffing, or you might find it overly chaotic.

Fiddliness: There are some fiddly elements to the game. While turns can't be played on autopilot, because you do need to give careful thought to which cards to play and where to play them, especially the final scoring phase of the game involves some fiddliness. First you need to flip over all the face down cards, while keeping the card order unchanged. Secondly you need to resolve the line for each cheese separately, in the order of dogs, cats, king mice, and cheese-eating mice. Only after doing this individually for every cheese can you actually add up your points. This will seem like quite a bit of work at the game end, especially the first time you play.

First impressions: Our first impression of the game was that it seemed underwhelming, and the scoring phase felt overcomplicated for such a short game; it seemed to be too much work for a light game. But this is mainly just a first impression, and once we were familiar with the scoring phase, this no longer proved to be an issue. The decisions aren't quite as light as they might first seem, and the scoring isn't quite as complex as it might first seem either. This is a game which shouldn't be judged too quickly.

Ideal audience: This does leave me wondering which audience is ideal for this game. I can see scenarios where the eyes of non-gamers start glazing over in the scoring phase, so that they don't want to play again; which would be a pity, because in many respects they would be the ideal audience to appreciate and enjoy this game. Gamers on the other hand might appreciate the nuances behind the subtle choices this game gives you, and would also catch onto the scoring quite quickly; but they might equally find the level of hidden information chaotic and frustrating. So despite all the promise, this clever game might just fall into the unfortunate category of failing to sustain interest for the very people it is designed to please, which would be a pity. Nonetheless groups that are willing to give it a fair go, might find it a good choice to come back to regularly as an opening or closing filler.

Fun theme: I love the idea of dogs chasing cats, cats chasing mice, and mice eating cheese. The theme is one that everyone can get on board with and understand, and it really helps ensure that the mechanisms of the game sense. The way that the different animals interact is very much theme driven, and it's something amusing and really works well.

Charming components: Stronghold Games has done a fantastic job with this edition. The cards are great quality, and I'm especially a big fan of the artwork. I love the fact that all the artwork is unique to each player's deck. In other words, your mice, cats and dogs aren't the same as your opponents, and each player genuinely has different looking animals. Small details like this all help add to the visual appeal and charm of the game. There's also helpful iconography, which will assist players who are colour blind, and which enables you to identify cards quickly even when they are splayed - well done all round!

Where can you get it?: The new edition should now be available and making its way to retailers via the usual distribution channels. You can also obtain Get the Cheese directly from the publisher Stronghold Games for around $15 here:
https://strongholdgames.com/store/board-games/get-the-cheese



What do others think?

The criticism

There aren't many comments on the game so far, but reactions have been mixed. Those who weren't wowed by it mentioned reasons like the following:
● in their opinion it runs a little long for a filler
● the amount of hidden information means there is more chaos than potential for true bluffing
● not enough decisions to make it interesting for adult gamers
● not enough uniqueness to make it stand out from the crowded genre of fillers
But even the critics generally had respect for the game's artwork and game-play, but just weren't charmed enough to want to keep owning a copy for themselves.

The praise

Fortunately there's also more than enough people who did find the game charming, and were pleased to play/own it. They had things like the following to say:

"It's cute, and sensible, and quite charming. And definitely leaves room for some cleverness and misdirection." - rynelf
"Silly bluffing/guessing game. Quick and fun." - larryjrice
"Points for cuteness! Kind of reminiscent of kitty kat auction (aka Felix the Cat in the Sack)". - oowick
"Very simple card-game which can be learned in seconds. Contains some nice decisions though. Fun." - Adam78
"A fun and funky little card game that packs more of a punch than you'd think from the its parts." - eldooderino
"Simple outguessing filler. Dogs chase cats, cats eat mice, and mice collect cheese." - visard
"Really really fun game with great design. Both adults and kids enjoy playing it." - aska_sun
"A decent game with mechanisms seen many times before. A bit of bluffing, some risk taking. Certainly an enjoyable theme." - jtakagi
"Amusing in large groups." - epilgrim
"Some tactical play is present along with deducting/guessing what your opponents play." - frotes
"The scoring rules make it a little complex for younger kids and also mean it's engaging enough as a filler. Kind of clever." - EllenM
"Simple card game with some hand management and bluffing." - Luds
"I'm always interested in what Hayashi is doing." - Salamon



Recommendation

So is Get The Cheese! in its lovely new Stronghold edition for you? Certainly if you're a Hisashi Hayashi fan, you'll probably want to check this out. This charming title will potentially be of interest to anyone who is in the market for a quick and clever filler. It's not ground-breaking, but it has some amusing elements, and the theme and components especially do a good job of combining to add to the visual and thematic appeal. It's not going to be for everyone, and so not unsurprisingly it has had some mixed reactions, but in the right crowd, it could prove to be a very satisfying choice.



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If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please consider giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
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mortego
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Good Game! Good Review!

I already have 5 plays in and we love it!
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Ender Wiggins
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killerjoe1962 wrote:
Good Game! Good Review!

I already have 5 plays in and we love it!

Great to hear, and thanks for the feedback on the review!
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