Board games

Cat Lady – Board Game Review

Designer:  Josh Wood

Player Count:  2-4

Play Time:  15-30 Minutes

In general, we tend to love games with tons of moving parts and thick rule books that take hours just to punch and sort.  But every now and then, it’s nice to take a break from all of that and play a game that’s simple, easy to learn, easy to teach and accessible even to friends of ours who are new to games.  Thusly and heretofore today’s review will be about the delightfully simple, lovingly crafted Cat Lady by Josh Wood.  So dig out your best cat frog hat, open up a can of fancy feast and get ready to adopt some cats.  Lots of cats.  Probably more cats than you can ever conceivably feed.  Oh god!  So many cats!!!

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How Does It Play?

To no one’s surprise, in Cat Lady, you’ll actually be playing as a Cat Lady.  This means you’ll be adopting cats as well as trying to feed them.  You’ll also be collecting catnip, cat toys, cat costumes, cat posters (In hopes of adopting extra special cats) and of course food to feed the hungry cats at your table.  This is done by drafting cards off the table three at a time and adding them to your stash.  Each type of card helps you in some way and many also have the ability to hinder you.  With so many ways to gain and lose points, you’ll learn quickly that this is a game where you’ll want to create a strategy rather than collect cat paraphernalia all willy-nilly.

To collect cards, you’ll select a column or row and take all the cards in it.  The catch is that if the cat token is on said row or column, you may not collect it this turn.  As soon as you collect a row/column, the cat token moves there for the next player’s turn, effectively blocking them. This means that you may not always be able to get that thing that you so desperately want.

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The main way to gain points is to collect cats!  But cats come with their own set of problems.  Each cat needs to be fed their favorite food and if you can’t feed them at the end of the game, you won’t gain that cat’s points.  Also, that cat may eat you instead.  That part isn’t in the rules, but I always imagine the worst case scenario. Food comes in four types: Meat, Fish, Milk and Wild, which can be used for any food type.

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By the end of the game, you’ll want to be able to feed all cats or suffer the consequences.  But there are also many other types of point makers.  You could turn in Lost Cat posters for extra points or to adopt special cats.  You could collect cat toys which increase in point values the bigger your collection.  You might try for being the Cat Lady with the most cat costumes.  Sure, your cats will hate you, but if you can manage the most costumes, you’ll earn a huge bump in points at the end.  Catnip is also worth grabbing, but make sure you have more than one or you’ll lose points in the end!  All of this comes down to trying to come up with the best combination of cards to get the most points, while still feeding all cats in the process.

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What Makes Cat Lady so Great?

Cat Lady is adorable.  For people who love cats, that’s going to be a selling point in itself.  The art is super simple but effective, and despite the simplicity of the game, there are a lot of details to be had here.  From checking out the different costumes to reading off all the different names of cats, there’s always something here that is going to make you smile as you play.

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Beyond that, the game is incredibly fast to learn and teach.  It makes for a great intro game or even a filler game in between other big games.  We like to use it as that “Just one more game” when it gets late into Game Night but you want one more chance to squash your friends and taste sweet sweet kitty themed victory.  It’s also a very small game which can be packed up and brought anywhere.  Plus, if you need a game to play at a family gathering this holiday season, Cat Lady is the perfect game to throw on the table.  As a side note, I also love that there are some bits and bobs to this game.  It’s a card game to be sure, but I love the aesthetic of having the food cubes and the cat token moving around the table, it elevates it in a 3-D way and that’s always fun as it gives players little things to play with in between turns as they attempt to figure out which cats to feed.  In essence, this is resource management at its most basic level.

What Could Make Cat Lady even Better?

Something I’d love to see in a future edition of Cat Lady is a pad of tear off sheets with sections for recording all the different ways you can score.  Five Tribes and 7 Wonders have things like this because there are just so many ways to earn or lose points, and Cat Lady is similar.  Because something like this is not included, adding up points in the end can become a bit of a complicated math equation and trying to do it all in your head could easily result in incorrect score reporting.  I’d love to see a simpler way to divide all of this up that isn’t just me running to grab a pen and paper at the end of the game.  The game is so elegantly simple that the fact that scoring becomes a bit of a mess really stands out.

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Final Thoughts

Cat Lady isn’t going to be the premiere game that you spend an hour setting up before your friends come over just so that at least one of them says “Wow!” when they walk in the door and see it in all its glory.  And that’s okay!  Cat Lady is a great little 15 minute game that is full of charm and enough strategy to make you think, but not too hard.  It’s great for new players or veteran players who want a break from long, mentally draining games.  I’ve yet to play Cat Lady where everyone at the table isn’t grinning from ear to ear as they attempt to collect cats, costumes and toys.  It’s a great first game from Josh Wood and I for one can’t wait to see what he brings to our table next!

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