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Subject: A F(el)ine Game rss

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Robert Sanders
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Cats are cute and adorable, right? They should have warm, fuzzty names, like Mr Cuddleface, right? You can collect them and feed them and dress them up, right? NO. Where I live they should have names like Scarface, One Eye and Health Hazard. Avoid at all cost. However, I guess in other places people can choose to be cat ladies (crazy or not crazy varieties apparently exist). Collect cats, feed your cats and pamper them nicely and you could be the best cat lady.




Overview

Cat Lady is a light card drafting game for 2 to 4 players by first-time designer Josh Wood. He also does the cute cartoony artwork for the game. The game plays in around 20 minutes for 2 players and up to 30 minutes for 4 players.

Rules Basics

At the beginning of a game the main playing cards should be sifted depending on the amount of players (cards indicate for 3+ or 4). Nine of the main cards are then arranged into a 3x3 grid with the remaining cards forming a refill deck. Also, three "stray cats" should be randomly selected, no more will be used in any game.



A turn consists of a player taking a row/column of 3 cards, hence they call it "line drafting". You'll generally have 5 options to draw as you cannot draw the row/column that the cat meeple is sitting next to. Having drawn a line you then refill from the deck and place the cat meeple next to the fresh line.

Any complexity comes through the card options and how they score.

Cats: Indicate what food they need and how many Victory Points [VPs] you gain for feeding them by the end of the game. You will lose 2VPs for every unfed cat. Cats can be white, orange, black or a mix.

Food: Gives you food cubes to feed your cats. Comes in four types - chicken (red), tuns (blue), milk (white), wild (purple). The player with the most uneaten food at the end loses 2 VPs.


a feast fit for a king (or at least a cat meeple)


Costumes: 6 VPs for most. -2VPs if hold none by the end.

Catnip: 1 = -2 VPs. 2/3 = 1 VP for every fed cat. 4 = 2 VPs for every fed cat.

Toys: Scores points for sets of non-identical toys - 1 toy (in a set) = 1VP, 2 toys = 3VPs, 3 toys = 5VPs, 4 toys = 8VPs, 5 toys = 12 VPs.

Lost Cat Posters: When you've collected 2 you can trade them for a 2VP token or a "Stray Cat". A Stray Cat is a cat that generally needs feeding like any other cat (and will incur -2VP if not) but has gives special points scoring opportunities, e.g. 4 points for each set of black/orange/white cats you feed.

Spray Bottle: No points, but allows you to move the cat meeple at any time, allowing you to take a line that would have been blocked, or to block an oppoent.

When you cannot refill a line of cards the game is over and points are tallied.

Gameplay Feel

This is a game with heart and feeling. You get warm and cozy playing it. The artwork definately adds to this. I don't think anyone could ever come close to flipping a table playing this. This game would be great with tea and sponge cake (yes, I'm English).

Decisions need to be taken, but I doubt AP will ever take a toll. There is strategy and tactics, but on a light level. Games I've played have generally finished close (within 10 points) and I have alsways felt a change in strategy could give more success. Try not to get too distracted by shiny things like costumes and toys.

I was interested to hear that AEG originally thought to change the theme due to too many cat games in the market. Well done to Josh for sticking to his guns and well done to AEG for letting him. The game (if not the mechanics) fits the theme.

Paw-satives (sorry)

+ Fun for all. It fulfils the main rule of making games, be fun, but also has simple setup and simple rules. The only complexity comes with scoring that may for younger players require pen and paper.

+ Very little downtime and the cards can keep you distracted all the while.

+ Well timed. The game stops just before it gets too repetitive. You can tell this has been play tested a lot. It was good realizing "oh, this is my last turn already!". Just so you know, in a 2 player each plaayer has 11 turns, 9 for 3 player and 8 for 4 player. This is a game that does not outstay its welcome. I feel the play testing also shows itself in the complexity of options - just enough without end scoring requing a calculator.

+ Good components. Both the cards and wooden cubes feel good, and who doesn't like a cat meeple? (answer: a dog meeple)

Neg-cat-tives (sorry, again)

Nitpicks really.

- Maybe a bit solitaire, but as it's a short game I don't care that much. At 3/4 players it can get more involved with more cards you want being taken away. At 2 there are generally good options to be found so you care less what others are doing.

- 14 & up written on the box. No. Please give children a bit more credit. Should be advertised as 12 (or even 10) and up.

- Card games are great for travelling.



Games that are in boxes twice as big as neccessary aren't so good for travelling.

Mew-tral (not sorry actually)

Cubes? I can tell this was probably a hard decision. On the one hand the game could be played without cubes tracking your food. It would also bring the price point down. On the other hand this is a game with feeling and special wooden chicken/milk/tuna pieces would have added to that. It would have put the price up for what should be a cheapish card game. All in all I think this was a fair balance between feel and price.

Conclusion

Anyone who plays with non-gamers or casual gamers has to try this out. I've played with non-gamers and first game they have taken to it (and beaten me). It also provides a lovely calming filler for those of a heavier disposition.

I noted that Josh is working on other games - I hope publishers give him a chance to get another game out to us. If they come with his own art, all the better. I do feel it added to the heart of the game.
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Edwin Valdez
Guatemala
California
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Awesome review Robert,

I actually play Cat Lady with my son (7 years old), I thinks it's a good options for light games / Family game, with my heavy gamer friends we use it between other games in order to relax before a long board game.
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Robert Brimer
United States
San Diego
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Thank you for the insightful review. I applaud your positive/negative/neutral section. You clearly have a deep punderstanding of word play.
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