The Isle of Cats: Explore & Draw is a reimplementation of the popular Isle of Cats board game from City of Games. Instead of drafting polyomino tiles players will be choosing a set of cards to draw various coloured shaped cats on a dry erase board.
In Explore and Draw you are a citizen of Squalls End and are on a rescue mission to The Isle of Cats and must rescue as many cats as possible before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Each cat has a unique shape and colour and must be squeezed onto your boat. Cats being cats, like to keep in their families and like coloured cats should be kept together to score more points.
In addition to cats, players will be drafting special Oshax cats, ancient lesions and treasures. Lessons are end game scoring opportunities which can score points if the required criteria are met.
Explore and Draw has similar feelings to its parent game, but in a more compact form.
Each player takes a dry erase board and a set of six different coloured pens. A grid of three by four cards is created (this is called The Island) made up of eight cards from the cat deck and four cards from the lessons deck. Each player also takes a lessons sheet to make when lessons are drafted. The day track is set up with the Vesh token placed on day seven.
The game is played over seven days (rounds) and at the beginning of each day The Island is created by drawing the relevant number of cards from the Cat deck and the Lessons deck.
Each player then takes their turn simultaneously chooses one of the four columns of cards and resolves them. Each card in the column must be resolved but can be resolved in any order. The Cat deck contains various coloured and shaped cats, Oshax and Treasures. Oshax can be any colour but when they are drawn a colour must be selected and cannot be changed. Treasures come in common and rare and may trigger end game scoring objectives gained from Lesson cards.
Cats are drawn on your player board in the corresponding colour. The first cat drawn can be placed anywhere on your board. All subsequent cats must be adjacent to a previously drawn cat or treasure. Players are trying to group the same coloured cats together to score points at the end of the game.
The cats, treasures and Oshax shapes can be rotated and flipped but must not be drawn off the edge of the board or covering other drawn shapes. The player board also contains coloured treasure maps and if you cover a treasure map with the corresponding coloured cat you immediately get to draw a common treasure.
If a Lesson card is selected the player simply ticks the corresponding lesson on their lesson sheet. Lesson cards can score some big points at the end of the game and must not be neglected. It is a balance between drafting the cats that you require to score big points for families and drafting lesson cards to score the end game objectives.
A player’s ship board is made up of six different rooms, all represented by an icon (except one that does not have an icon). Players will also be trying to fill up entire rooms as any rooms that are not completely full at the end of the game will score negative points. Trying to cover up all the available spots in a given room before the end of the game is a hard task but there are some rooms that are smaller than others and (sometimes) easier to fill. If you have a single square available, then it is worth trying to fill this in before the game ends to save yourself losing five points.
After each player has selected a column and resolved all the cards, The Island is discarded and a new round is set up. A new Island is created, the Vesh token moves along one space and then play continues. The game ends when the Vesh token moves to the last space and end game scoring is triggered.
Points are awarded for families of cats, with at least three cats grouped together to be classed as a family. Three cats score eight points, four cats score eleven points and so on. Rare treasures score three points each, lessons are scored based on the objectives detailed. Points are deducted with each visible rat scoring negative one and each room that has not been filled scoring negative five points. The player with the most points is the winner.
Explore & Draw has a solo mode with some slight tweaks to gameplay. As part of setup the solo colour cards are drawn and laid out in a row with the first one being revealed. For the easy mode, three solo lesson cards are revealed. For advanced play more lesson cards are revealed. A player’s turn runs pretty much in the same way as in multiplayer. At the end of each day the next card in the solo colours row is revealed. All other rules described above are unchanged for solo play.
Solo scoring for the player works in the same way as multiplayer. For the AI, points are awarded for each of the lesson cards based on what you as the player has done. Points are awarded for the solo colour cards based on the order they are revealed and the colour of cat you have in your boat. The first card revealed is worth five points per cat of that colour that you have drawn. The second cat revealed is worth four and so on.
Compare your points and the AI points and the if you have more points you win.