Game Buzz: The Isle of Cats

In case you’re just joining us, this is a blog about board games. It is not a blog about movies, and I am not discussing a potential sequel to Wes Anderson’s 2018 film Isle of Dogs. This post is about a board game called

image by BGG user TheCityofKings

The Isle of Cats is a 1-4 game from designer Frank West, published by his company, The City of Games. It was Kickstarted last summer, and is reaching backers now, so I thought this might be a good time to take a look at it. The general idea is that you’re trying to rescue as many felines as you can from The Isle of Cats before evil arrives in the form of Lord Vesh.

Like a lot of games these days, this game has a lot of polyomino pieces. There’s also a big ship for each player where you’ll be trying to fit the cats, as well as lots of cards for objectives and discoveries. At the start of the game, you’ll put Vesh’s boat at space 5 of the day tracker on the island board. You’ll have supplies of treasure tiles, oshax (which are special cat tiles), cat tokens, fish tokens, and basket tokens. There’s a bag into which you’ll put all blue, green, orange, red, and purple cat tiles, as well as the rare treasure tiles. Each player gets a ship, a basket, and a colored cat token.

image by BGG user TheCityofKings

A game of The Isle of Cats takes place over the course of five days. At the start of each round, you will populate the fields with cats. There are two fields, one to the right of the island, and one to the left. The start player will draw two tiles per player in the game for each field. If any treasure tiles come out, they are placed with the common treasures in the supply. The day will then progress over a series of phases:

PHASE ONE – FISHING: Each player simply takes 20 fish from the supply. This is added to any fish you have left over from previous rounds.

PHASE TWO – EXPLORE: Each player is dealt seven cards from the discovery deck. Player look at these, choose two to keep, and pass the rest to their left. This continues until everyone has kept seven cards. After this, players look at these seven cards, and decide what they want to pay for. They cost fish, and you’ll discard any cards you didn’t pay for. These cards can include lessons, baskets, boots, Oshax, or treasure. There are also anytime cards that can be played, well, anytime.

PHASE THREE – READ LESSONS: This is a fancy way to say “play objective cards.” If there are any that you have paid for that are public, you put them face up so everyone can see. Any that are just for you are played face down next to your boat. Lessons are extra ways to score points at the end of the game.

PHASE FOUR – RESCUE CATS: In this phase, everyone chooses which rescue cards to play. You can sit on some until future turns. Once everyone has chosen, you reveal. In turn order (determined by number of boots on cards), players take turns rescuing one cat until everyone has passed or both fields are empty. To rescue a cat, you must have a basket and fish. Cats in the left field need 3 fish, cats on the right need five. Baskets could be permanent, meaning you have a tile that you flip over so you can use it next turn, or temporary, which means they come from cards and are one-time uses.

All cats you recuse go immediately to your boat. The first tile can be placed anywhere, but all subsequent tiles must be placed adjacent to an already placed tile. There are 7 different rooms on the ship, as well as 19 rats and 5 treasure maps. Rooms lose you points if not completely filled with cats, and rats lose you points if not covered by cats. Treasure maps gain you treasure if they are covered by a cat of the same color.

PHASE FIVE – RARE FINDS: When the cat rescue phase is over, players take turns playing one Oshax or treasure card from their hand. Oshax cards allow you to take a special cat for your boat. These cats are not any color, but when you place them, you decide what color they should be, marking them as such. Treasures are likewise claimed and placed on your boat.

At the end of the round, any unclaimed cats are removed from the game. Unclaimed treasures remain available. The day tracker advances one space and players refresh their permanent baskets before starting a new day. After the fifth day, there’s a final scoring to see who wins.


image by BGG user TheCityofKings

So that’s The Isle of Cats. I’m not really a pet person overall, even though we own two dachshunds, but I think my temperament is more suited to cats than dogs. They keep to themselves, they aren’t as needy as dogs, they move in impossible ways. But, my wife is allergic, so I’ll never really find that out. Still, I think this game looks very interesting. I especially like the idea of using cats on the polyominoes themselves as I can see cats twisting in all those ways. There seem to be a lot of good decisions to be made here, from the card draft, to the paying for those cards, to the placement of tiles, to the attempt to manipulate scoring in your favor. I’ve been watching this since the Kickstarter campaign, and am looking forward to hearing more about what people think.

So feline on up and check out this game that will whisker you away on a puzzle adventure. Take a paws and try to cat-ch this furmidable and clawver game that looks purrty and should be mewsic to your ears. No kitten.

OK, that’s it for another post. Thanks for reading!

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