There’s no end to the number of cat games. Cats are adorable, right? And when you’re looking for a theme to paste on your light card game, how can you go wrong with cutie kitties? A bunch of these cat games are really good too, like Tem-purr-a, Schrodinger’s Cats, and Kittens In A Blender. Exploding Kittens is also a cat game. But they’re all simple, and none are a rich, satisfying strategy game for cat lovers.
So here’s The Isle of Cats. It’s a cat game, and is just as cute and adorable and charming as any other cat game, if not more. But at the same time, it delivers the interesting decisions and captivating challenge that a 60-ish-minute board game should. The Isle of Cats stands out from the leagues of casual kitty cat games by being an early contender for game of the year.
The Elegant Fusion of Two Fan-Favorite Games
The Isle of Cats does this by weaving two well-loved board game experiences together. Each round of Isle of Cats starts with a card draft, similar to games like Bunny Kingdom, 7 Wonders, Sushi Go! or many other games. In The Isle of Cats’ draft, each player inspects a hand of 7 cards, and decides which 2 to keep to play later in the round. While they pass the remaining cards to the next player, the previous player passes theirs, creating a circular fire brigade of cards. Players pick another 2, and pass, and another 2, and pass, and keep the last card they’re given.
The other part of The Isle of Cats that people love so much is very reminiscent of Tetris, using polyominos in the same way as Patchwork, Barenpark, and A Feast for Odin. This is where the game’s cats come in – a giant cloth sack full of adorable, fantastical cardboard cats. The cards that players drafted in the first half of the round help players chase and capture Tetris-shaped cat tiles. Players then find a place for each cat on their ship board, cramming kitties into each nook and cranny to score the most points.
Cats come in a variety of colors, and grouping cats of similar colors into “families” is one of the biggest sources of victory points. But if Tetris-ing cats into compact compartments isn’t your strong suit, the game also has “lesson” cards. These are drafted during the first part of the round, and provide alternate sources of victory points.
The satisfaction of organizing and packing cats onto your ship, and the balance of opportunistic tactics versus long-term planning, makes The Isle of Cats a game as packed full of fun as the cats in your ship.
Just as Much Game as You Like
While there are many games that have something in common with The Isle of Cats, this one is unique. There are many cat games, and many drafting games, and many polyomino games. A lot of these types of games tend to be light, breezy games. It’s nice when the game is easy to teach and learn, this makes them accessible. But it’s nice to have a meatier, more satisfying game. A game that can be replayed over and over, and always have new strategic secrets to reveal.
There are heavy drafting games, like Terraforming Mars. There are also heavy polyomino games, like A Feast for Odin. The Isle of Cats has the depth and replayability that heavier games have, and combines these features into one gorgeous and cuddly package.
But you’re not committed to playing The Isle of Cats only one way. For those who want a lighter, breezier game, The Isle of Cats comes with a one-page set of Family Rules. These rules cut out the draft and focuses on the Tetris part of the game, making it a cakewalk to teach non-gamer friends. On top of that, the game comes with a solo variant for those who like to challenge themselves.
A Strategy Game for Cat Lovers and Everyone Else
The Isle of Cats checks all the boxes. Theme? Check. Rescuing adorable cats from a doomed island sounds amazingly fun. Mechanics? Check. Expertly mixing two tried-and-true styles of tabletop game is a surefire hit. Accessibility? Check. The Family Rules allow everyone to enjoy this box of wonder. Depth and replayability? Check. Planning ahead and reading your opponents’ boards are critical to victory, and changing objectives keep the game fresh.
Designed by Frank West, whose previous hit was the epic City of Kings, The Isle of Cats proves to be the strategy game that cat lovers will also love, and can share with their friends and family. Check out The Isle of Cats on BoardGameGeek to watch reviewers such as Tom Vasel and Rahdo rave over it, or just check out all the pics of players’ cats sitting in the game’s box!