Cat Lady has been hitting the tables of many for years, and understandably so. It has exceeded so many expectations from many and has also released 2 expansions to complement the game. The game’s maker, Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), is coming out with their new game Dog Lover soon, which looks to be a spin-off card game similar to Cat Lady, although I don’t know anything else about the game besides the art looking similar to each other. AEG is a top publisher in the industry right now and has shown that its current new releases are all above average games, including Cascadia, another game I recently reviewed. Cat Lady is a card drafting set collection game that is enjoyed by kids as young as my 4 year old, who absolutely loves the game, up to adults. From my experience, even more experienced board gaming adults enjoy the game, and in this review I will explain why.
What’s In the Box?
- 102 game cards
- 13 stray cat cards
- 6 victory point tokens
- 1 cat token
- 60 food cubes (20 red, 20 blue, 15 white, 5 purple)
- 1 rulebook
How’s it Play?
After setup, players take turns in a clockwise direction. There is a 3×3 grid of 9 cards placed out for all players to draft cards from. On a turn, a player will select 3 cards either vertically in a column or horizontally in a row. All columns or rows are acceptable to choose from except for the one that has the cat token. This will leave 5 possible choices for each player on their turn.
After taking the 3 cards, the cat token is moved to be placed in that column or row and 3 new cards are placed out to refill their empty spots. There are a good variety of cards that each do different things to grant points. I will go over each type of card, but you should know they each have their place within a strategy. However, you can’t do everything in this game, so you will need to decide which type of cards to go after to do well.
When taking a cat card, it will be placed in front of you. Cat cards have the possibility to score the points listed on its card, but only if you have the food that’s also listed on by the end of the game. Some cat cards will give straight points while others will give points for a condition, which you can work on to score additional points. In addition, each cat has at least one color assigned to it, though there may be more than one. If you can’t tell by the color of the cat pictured on the card, the top left lists its color. B = black O = orange and W= white.
These are needed to feed your cats. There are 3 types of food: chicken, tuna, and milk. There is also a 4th card that is a wild card that can be used for any of the 3 needed foods. When taking a food card, you will place it in the discard pile and take the number of cubes listed on the card of the same type. Red is chicken, blue is tuna, and white is milk, with purples being wild. Food is good to have while you’re playing, but keep in mind, the player with the most unused food at the end of the game will lose 2 points.
These cards are collected and at the end of the game the player with the most costumes gets 6 points. If you don’t have at least one, you will lose 2 points.
These will form a collection in front of you. At the end of the game, if you have 1 you will lose 2 points, if you have 2 or 3 you will get an extra point for each cat that you feed, and if you have 4 or more, you will get extra points for each cat you feed. If you don’t take any, nothing negative happens.
These form a collection in front of you and you want to get sets of different toys. For the number of different toys in a set, you will score the stated amount of points. There are 5 different toys possible with the most points being 12 when getting all 5 toys. If you pick up the same toy card during the game, it will just form a new set.
These will go into your hand until your have a a pair and decide to use them during your turn. During your turn, you may discard 2 of them to either find a stray cat or gain 2 points. There are 3 stray cats placed out at the beginning of the game, each with a more strategic way to score points if that cat is fed by the end of the game. There are only 3 stray cats ever in a game. If you do not want a story, maybe because you have too many cats you still need to feed, you can instead take a 2 point token and discard the 2 lost cat cards.
These are arguably the most powerful cards in the game. These cards are placed in front of you until you decide to use it sometime during your turn. When you use it, you will discard it to move the cat token to another location. This can either help you get the 3 new cards that were most recently placed out, or can make harder for another player to get what they want by blocking them with the cat token. These cards are nice to have for when 3 perfect new cards are flipped out on your turn.
Players will continue taking turns until the deck is empty and the 3×3 grid can no longer be replenished to 9 cards. At that time players will count up how many points they have. And remember, the player with the most unused food gets minus 2 points. Of course, the player with the most points wins the game.
I finally get to join in and confirm that this game is great! I don’t really even like real life cats myself, so what I like so much about this game is all in the gameplay. In addition, the theme of the cats also connects with the cards and how they score and how the theme overlaps with the mechanics in the game.
Cat Lady is super easy to understand. On our first game, our 4 year old was on my team and the next game we decided to see if he could play by himself. He knew exactly how to pick 3 cards in a row or column and would tell us which ones he wanted right when it became his turn. He also was excellent at filling in the empty slots with new cards after another player had taken their cards from the field. The gameplay is simple and easy to understand but there are layers of strategy that can be used for players who want a little more in a game. This is exactly why I like it, because while I still get tough choices, I get to play the game with my kids and we all have fun.
Each card having its own point system is a great feature. Some cards you might not want because they might only score you 1 or 2 points where another card is much needed because it will feed a cat to score you 6 points or so. Gaining cats and feeding them is the main system to get points in the game, but its not the only way, and you can win the game without any cats if things happen just the right way. But you most likely will want some cats while participating in some of the other point systems as well.
There really is no one main strategy in the game. Each time you play, the cards come out differently so you can’t count on getting certain things or certain cards each time you play. And since each game is so different, you will need to adapt to the way cards come out to best score the most points. Like in some games, cats can all come out in the beginning of the game, which makes it hard to get food for those cats later on because a lot of people are competing for food at that point. In another game, food might all come out at the beginning and you will then be searching for cats to use the food for.
Other small things in the game like spray bottles, catnip, or costumes can be very worth while to invest in, but you also could do just fine without them. Nevertheless, they all have perks that helps you get more points if you play them right.
Ultimately, I feel like Cat Lady is good enough to be is everyone’s game collection. I’m also excited to see what Dog Lover does. As mentioned earlier, it’s AEG’s new set collection game and it comes out in 2022. In the meantime, Cat Lady has been getting to the table all the time with my kids always wanting to play it, and I’m OK with that as I like the gameplay and layers of strategy within the game that I can also enjoy the game as well. They might like it for the theme and ease of rules, and I like it for the gameplay and layers of strategy, yet still isn’t by any means a heavy or medium heavy game, but it has mechanics that makes you think.
You can grab Cat Lady on Alderac Online Store today!
Images and Review Copy Courtesy of Alderac Entertainment Group
Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!