Dogs are better than cats. They’re smarter (it’s a scientific fact!), they cuddle better, and then don’t treat me like I’m just a food dispenser. My dog Wrigley is awesome, and when he chases cats, I stop him, but there’s a part of me that’s like, “You’re just trying to keep lame things away from me. I totally understand that. You deserve bacon.”
Of course, I understand that some people don’t agree with me, and those people are called weirdos. I mean, when you stack it up, how can you like a cat more? Where are the advantages? I just don’t get it. I guess I just chalk it up to those kinds of people being crazy. In particular, I think about those old ladies that just have cats on cats on cats. My grandmother used to be like that – just cats for days. I’ve never been able to understand that mindset – what makes you want to just keep hoarding cats? What brings you into the life of a crazy cat lady?
Well, AEG has released a game this year to help me step into the shoes of those old ladies (or, more than likely, in their worn out pink fuzzy slippers). In Cat Lady, players work to collect cards that represent cats, toys, food, catnip, and more feline equipment. At the end of the game, the player who has been the most successful cat owner (AKA the one with the most points) wins! Is this a game that’s only enjoyable for the kitty lovers out there, or will some great gameplay mechanics sway even the most dogged gamer? (Ha! Word play!)
Cat Lady begins with a basic three by three setup of cards and two to four players. On your turn, you will select all of the cards in a particular row or column. You then refill that row using the top cards of the deck. The next player will do the same thing, except they can’t select the row or column you just picked and refilled. And that’s it. You’ll take the same actions over and over again until the deck runs out.
So the bulk of the gameplay lies in the cards. There are quite a few different types, and they all have their different roles. Any cats that you collect will be placed face up in front of you. Each cat has a name, point value and an amount of food that the need in order to be fed. Some cats score in special ways, based on the food you give them or the other types of cats that you have adopted over the course of the game.
Any food cards will be automatically discarded for food cubes, which you will place on your cats so that they are fed. A fed cat is a happy cat, and happy cats are the only ones that will score you points at the end of the round. There are also cat toy cards, which score more points as you increase the variety of toys that you have. There are also cat costume cards, because what cat lady would be complete without cat costumes? You need to have at least one costume at the end of the game to avoid losing points, but the player with the most costumes gets an extra six points. A few other types of cards – like lost cat posters or catnip – will provide you with even more ways to score more points. Once the cards run out, players will tally up their points, and the player with the most wins!
The artwork in Cat Lady was one of the first things to catch my eye. It strikes a very intriguing balance between adorable and comedic. The cats look very cute and cuddly, but they also seem playful. All of the costumes are completely ridiculous to those sane people like me who love their pets and refuse to put clothes on them, but you could totally see these being real items in some sort of pet catalog. I do love, though, that each cat in a costume looks completely ticked off.
My least favorite part of the art is the isolated to the game box itself. Whereas the main card illustrations have heavy lines and a simple yet endearing style, the box art has thin lines and shading and all kinds of stuff that make it look like a more serious game. In addition, the font is completely off. You’ve got a handwritten look on all the cards, but then the Cat Lady title is written as if it’s on top of a formal invitation. I know this sounds like a lot of complaining about something that’s fairly simple, but I was very close to not playing this game at all because the box art was so off-putting. No, I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you shouldn’t make it so easy.
You’ll also find the same balance of funny and cuddly in other elements of the game, like the names of the cats. There are fairly normal cat names like Bell or Blackberry, but then you’ll throw down “Chairman Meow” or “Sir Cuddleface” and giggle just a little bit. I mean, this game is just downright cute, and that’s not a word that I go throwing around a lot.
Not Much to Sift Through
The gameplay in Cat Lady is simplistic, but your choices do have consequences. Picking up an entire column or row means you have to balance between getting the right number of points and being able to feed all your cats. On the other hand, you can’t just hoard a whole bunch of food, because the player with the most unused food at the end of the game loses some points. You have to strike a balance, and while it’s not all that hard, it does give the game a little bite.
In looking at this game, you can tell pretty quickly that you’re not going to be thinking very hard from turn to turn about what you need to do. But I think Cat Lady serves as a great intro into games that provide several different scoring mechanisms. It’s similar to a drafting game like Sushi Go! or 7 Wonders, but without the drafting, which I think makes it more manageable. You’ve got several different ways to score points, but everything’s in front of you. You won’t have to worry about what’s in the four or five other hands of cards being passed around the table – you know what the choices are for everyone. I don’t think that these other games are necessarily all that hard to pick up on, but this game might work better for the newbies of gaming, or perhaps some of your younger gamers.
All in all, I’m glad that I added Cat Lady to my collection. Truth be told, after playing it for the first time at a game store and then purchasing it, I played it six more times in the next three days. It’s not a life changer, but it is fun. Each time I’ve played, people have been skeptical about how enjoyable a game about cat adoption can be. But in the end, they’re almost always ready for another round right away.
This game may not be for everyone – in fact, if you’ve got plenty of filler games on your shelf already and you’re not feeling this theme, then feel free to continue on to another game review. However, if you’re just starting up a board game collection, this isn’t a bad one to add to the list for a quick game night starter. In addition, if you’re looking for a gift for that cat loving board gamer in your circle of friends, I think this would be a great option.
You can find a copy of Cat Lady at your FLGS, or on board game websites like Cool Stuff Inc. or Miniature Market.
- Great card illustrations
- Easy to pick up, easy to play
- A silly theme that totally works
- The box art is just the worst
- Not much player interaction
- Some players may hate the theme