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Felicity: The Cat in the Sack» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Friese's Fabulous 'Filou' rss

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James Cheevers
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'Filou' is a new light auction game from Friedemann Friese. Players are attempting to buy the most valuable cats in the sack over the course of nine auctions however at the start of the auction everyone will only have limited information about what is available.

Components

'Filou' comes in a small square box. The game contains :

50 cards for 5 players (10 each). The cards are large and of good stock. The artwork is fun and reused across each players cards.
5 Sack Cards
'Mice' - These are simply plastic counters in green and black. Greens are worth 5, blacks worth 1.
1 Start player marker
Rules in German (but downloadable from the Rio Grande website)

Preparation

Each player is given a deck of 10 cards which consist of Cats (of value 15, 11, 8, 5, 3, -5 & -8), a rabbit of value '0' & two dogs (1 angry & 1 playful). They are also given 15 'mice' which is the games currency.

The 'sack' cards are placed in a line in the centre of the table and the appropriate amount of mice are placed on the cards as marked (2, 3, 4 & 6 - The three is left out in a four player game.)

One player is given the start marker.

Gameplay

Each player discards one of their cards unseen at random. Then the start player player places a card face down under the sack. Each player following in turn placing a card face down under each progressive sack card.

When everyone is done, the start players card is turned over and the auction begins. This is a fairly standard auction in that the choice is raise the current bid or pass. If a player raises the bid play continues to the next player. If a player chooses to pass the retrieve any current bid they have made and they also take the mice from the lowest valued sack card. Also the next card is revealed to the players still in the auction.

This continues until one player remains, at which time the final card is revealed and the winner pays his bid to the bank. He also takes the cards in the sack & the start player marker.

The two dogs that can be played can affect what the player takes however. The large, angry dog scares away the most valuable card in the sack (in this order - Positive value cat, rabbit, negative value cat). The small, playful dog chases away the least valuable card in the sack. If, however, there are two or more dogs in the sack then they chase each other away, leaving everything else intact.

Play is set-up as before for the new round. If there is insufficient mice to stock the sack cards completely then no mice are placed and only the winner of the auction will benefit that round.

This continues until everybody's cards have been exhausted. At which point the cards are scored and any remaining the mice the players have are added to the score. The player with the highest total is the winner.

Thoughts

'Filou' is a surprisingly simple game from Friese, it takes a couple of minutes to explain and is finished in about 20 minutes. However it is one of the more interesting auction games I've played in quite a while.

The fact that everyone has limited information about the contents of the sack (everyone knows 2 cards at the start, the opening card and their own. Putting the start player at a disadvantage). Makes this an intriguing game of bluff and courage. In the games I've played it's been common that the player who placed the last card in the sack has increased the bid simply to have others perceive a bigger value of their card, only for them to drop out abruptly and have it revealed that they had played an angry dog card.

Trying to balance your bid against the potential gain/loss from the current board with more than one card to turn is a tricky art and people with better memories will do better than most.

The groups I have played this with have enjoyed the game and I was even asked today if I was bringing 'The Cat game'.

I have given the game a tentative rating of '9' as befitting my current enjoyment of it. If I revise that rating at any point I will update this review.

Update:

Just upgraded this to a 10. The amount of laughter, faux-threats and abuse this game can generate is staggering for its short time. I've taught this to four seperate groups including non-gamers in work who asked what my hobby entailed and I think just about everyone has enjoyed it.
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