The chances of me becoming a cat lady are slim. It would involve some pretty bold changes and other unexpected lifestyle choices. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats a lot. They are cute and loving animals. Yet, you get the impression that while they are napping they are permanently plotting how they will kill you if you forget to feed them.
Anyway, as a fan of cats, I can see why some women may end up as dedicated feline enthusiasts, or as the stigma suggests, crazy cat ladies.
All this preamble is to introduce Cat Lady Premium designed and illustrated by Josh Wood and published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). A card-drafting set collection game for 2-4 players. After a far from purr-fect introduction let’s get on with the review…
The game is set up by dealing a 3 x 3 grid of cards from the main draw deck. Below this, from a separate deck, three stray cat cards are chosen at random.
To win the game you need to obtain the most victory points (VP). These come from cats, toys, costumes, catnip and victory point tokens. Each cat has a food requirement, feeding it the correct food gives you VP at the end of the game. If you fail to feed a cat you will pay a penalty at the end. Other penalties will occur if you have the most left over food, only one catnip card, or heaven forbid, no costumes for your kitty.
There are lots of subtleties with the cards, the stray cats for example tend to have a significant power or VP bonus. While most of the cats in the main draw deck give you a fixed amount of VP depending on how much food they require. Toy cards increase in points the more you have. I won’t bore you with all the nuances, as the rule book does a pretty brilliant job of breaking it all down and clarifying certain cards, which saves me a job here.
On your turn you will choose three cards from a single row or column. This is replenished from the main draw deck and the cat token is placed next to the chosen line blocking it off for the next player. The game ends when a row or column cannot be replenished. You can then tot up the scores.
How it actually plays
Firstly, I need to let you know this plays exactly the same as the standard edition. Yes there are a couple of new stray cat cards and customisable cards, oh and score pads, but everything else ‘premium’ is purely cosmetic.
I must say I really like the gameplay. Having players choose an entire row or column of three cards really mixes up the decision making process. The cat token blocking one of these is a great idea too. There is elements of Splendor and Wingspan in the game but that is about as close a comparable as I can make. Stray cats can really be game-changing, but can just as easily be a damp squib if cards do not go your way.
There is a little bit of luck with how the cards land, but this is mitigated by having a variety of choices. To this end, the game can be subject to analysis paralysis, but generally play moves around fairly promptly.
When playing Cat Lady Premium you are generally more worried about your own choices than those of other people. To that degree it can be a little less interactive than some other games. In a 4 player game the cards you were hoping for can all vanish before your turn comes round again. In a 2 player game (with less cards) other challenges present themselves. Generally though it scales okay between the different player counts.
There is some adding up to do at the end to determine the winner and this will be a negative for some people, this does not apply to me and it doesn’t bother me one bit, especially with a score pad! The recommended age of 8 and up is absolutely spot on.
The components in Cat Lady Premium are among the most pulchritudinous out-of-the-box components you will see in a tabletop game. The printed wooden tokens for the food types and cat token are simply tremendous. The cards are whimsically illustrated by Josh Wood. The names of some of the cats are pretty funny too, you will be feeding the likes of Sir Cuddleface, Pablo Picatso and Chairman Meow. You’ll also be feeding more regularly named cats like Blackberry and Bronte.
I was lucky that my cat’s name Cooper was already featured. The Premium version comes with blank cards and sticker sheets to make up your own stray cat cards too. This means you can represent your favourite pussy in the game.
The metal tin box is rather cool, arguably not as easy to store as a square cardboard box. To use the vernacular of the youth, I say: “whatever”. This tin is nearly good looking enough to leave out on the side as an ornament, so any storage concerns are quashed!
Final thoughts on Cat Lady Premium Edition
If you are thinking of buying this game and can’t decide between the premium or standard edition, my advice to you is stop dilly-dallying and buy the premium version now. You will not regret paying a little bit extra for the gorgeous upgrade. The deluxe components do not change the gameplay significantly, but they do enhance the overall gaming experience.
This is a great game for all ages. Our family and friends really enjoy playing it. The table presence is high and the illustrations are great. The strategy is varied and exciting. Just as the game might feel like it is getting repetitive the draw deck runs out ending the game. To that regard it never outstays its welcome and often makes you wish you had one more round to complete your plan for cat domination.
Cat Lady Premium Edition just works. The theme, gameplay and components all come together in a very delightful game. There really is a lot of paws-atives about this game and it is an amazing entry-level game. I would describe Cat Lady Premium as the perfect blend of a warm friendly hug and afternoon tea with scones represented in tabletop form.