All the joy of hoarding animals without any of the allergies, Cat Lady packs a tight, tactical points race into a pastel pink box.
At its core, Cat Lady is a set collecting, card drafting game with a point salad-style finale. It’s a race to collect as many cats, toys, costumes and pieces of food as possible. Cats are fussy eaters with specific dinner orders. Having the right food in the right quantities is key to avoiding a moggy meltdown. But, you’ll need the right combinations of extra cards if you want to claim victory.
Letting The Cat, Cubes And Cards Out Of The Bag
The game comes in a dainty linen-finish box. Inside is 115 pretty cards, a bag of cubes in four colours, a handful of victory point tokens and a chunky cat token. The finish of the components is excellent and the artwork is pitched exactly right for the weight of the game. However, don’t let the cute aesthetic fool you - Cat Lady has some moreish gameplay that will see it returning for many game nights to come.
Like Herding Cats
Set up for Cat Lady is simple. Remove any cards marked for a 3-player or 4-player game as required, then remove two more cards at random. Shuffle the Game Cards before dealing out a 3x3 grid. Shuffle up the Stray Cats deck and deal three more of these for players to try and gather. Then, pick your first player (the rulebook bestows the honour on the last person to stroke a cat) and the player before them gets to choose where the cat token starts. The token indicates which row or column of cards cannot be taken next turn - we’ll explain why that token is so important.
No Room For Copycats
A turn in Cat Lady consists of taking a row or column of cards from the 3x3 grid. Cats are placed in front of you; toys, costumes and catnip go into your hand. Exchange your food cards for food cubes. You cannot take the row or column the cat token is next to, and the cat token is moved to the row or column taken by the previous player. This means players cannot copy the previous player, so unwanted cards cannot be avoided for the whole game. It all feeds back into the theme - no cat gets left behind when you’re a cat lady!
Each cat will score points once fed, with some increasing in value for feeding cats of the same colour. You also collect costumes, with points for the player with the most outfits and a penalty for any player caught with none. There are also toys littering the deck, with increasing returns for players that can collect complete sets of toy mice and scratching posts. On top of these, there are bags of suspicious-looking catnip, which could sting you with a penalty or reward you with extra points for every cat you feed. And if that isn’t enough, you’ll also be collecting Lost Cat cards which can let you woo some special Stray Cats.
The Lost Cat cards are tempting treats shuffled throughout the deck, and two of them together will let you claim one of each game’s three Stray Cats. These have unique scoring opportunities, often valuable enough to snatch victory. Would you like to get two extra points for each of your costumes? Of course you would, you picked up that frog hat and sailor outfit for your furbabies last turn! How about a cat with an insatiable appetite for turning food into game-winning VPs? Snap up that cat and fill up the food bowl, it’s chicken tonight! The variable set-up keeps it feeling challenging - hard for a game this light and quick.
Don’t Be Caught Catnapping
You’ll always take three cards on your turn, whether you want to or not. As a result, you need to be planning ahead for the climax of your cat collecting. This means you may end up with more food than cats, or vice versa, for much of the game. Alternatively, you may have to sit and watch another player hoard all the toys you need.
As the old saying (probably) goes: cool heads make for happy cats. Hold your nerve and pay attention, lest you miss another player picking up the last yarn ball, the final can of tuna, or the deciding duck hat for your hard-fought win.
Purr-fect Filler Game
Designer and illustrator Josh Wood, who’s also behind the beachy tableau builder Santa Monica, has made it impossible to turn away any of the cats in this box. The game's mechanics are smooth, the artwork is adorable and feline names all push you towards picking up more of everything. Moonbeam, Sir Cuddleface and Pablo Picatso are among the furry friends ready and waiting to leap into your arms. With a short play-time and the ability to leave new players asking for one more game, Cat Lady fits into any game night.