Our next game in the A to Z game-shelf play-through was a recent acquisition: Cat Lady.
Cat Lady is a quick-playing card drafting/set collection/resource management cat-themed game. Each player is collecting cats (as any good cat lady would do), toys, catnip, and costumes. However, for each cat you have, you need to feed them their preferred food by the end of the game, or they’ll be unhappy with you.
Cards are laid out in a 3×3 square, and each turn the active player drafts either a row or column, except where the cat meeple blocks them. Once they’ve chosen their cards, they move the cat meeple to the row or column they just drafted, preventing the next player from drafting the newly-dealt cards in that row or column.
The food cards drafted are traded for cubes representing the various food types (blue for tuna, red for chicken, white for milk, and purple for wild food). All other cards move to the player’s play area.
The cats score according to points on the card – either straight points or special scoring, like a point for each black cat fed by the end of the game – but only if they are fed at the end of the game. Toys score for sets of unique cards. Catnip scores extra points for each fed cat, but only if you have at least 2 – just one catnip will subtract points! Costumes score points for the player with the most, negative points if a player has none, and nothing for everyone in between.
The game ends when there are not enough cards to refill the 3×3 drafting square. If you’ve removed the right number of cards for your player-count, everyone should have equal turns.
There are two other special cards – lost cat posters and spray bottles. A pair of lost cat posters can be turned in for either a stray cat – 3 special cats that are available each game (from a pool of about a dozen?) – or for 2 victory points. A single lost cat poster does nothing. The spray bottle allows the player to move the cat meeple at any point during their turn – so they can draft the just-dealt cards, or move the cat to try an prevent the next player from getting a particular row or column. The spray bottle and lost cat posters are worth nothing at the end of the game.
Cat Lady ends up being a bit of a “point potpourri” game, where different players get their points from different types of cards, especially in games with more than 2 players. Most of our games have been relatively close, so that the 2-point bonuses from lost cat posters or the 2-point penalties from not feeding cats or having the most left-over food can make a big difference.
I enjoy the drafting mechanism – it can pose a challenge since you often have to take cards you don’t really want, or that aren’t the best for the other cards you have, in order to get the one or two you really need.
I often ignore the costumes in favor of collecting and feeding more cats (including grabbing lost cat posters to get the stray cats). In fact, usually the other items I pick up are in a quest to feed the cats that I’ve already collected. Andrew, on the other hand, seems to go for the costumes and toys. I don’t think either is the “right” strategy – it just depends on what’s available the first few rounds of the game on your turn. And I like that – the game forces you to adapt your strategy.
If it’s not clear, I love this game. I’ve only had it for a couple of months, but have gotten in 9 games already. I love the art and theme. It’s quick-playing, so makes a great filler game. It’s easy to explain, so makes a great game for less-experienced players. And, it’s fun!
How is it as a 2-player game? The game has cards to remove for 2 or 3 players, but otherwise it’s the same game for 2, 3, and 4 players. It works very well at all player counts, and I’d definitely pull it out for just 2 players.
How about the art and component quality? The components are okay – the cards are a decent weight, and the wooden cubes are, well, wooden cubes. The best component, though, has to be the cat meeple. And I love the art – the cats are very cute, as are the toys and costumes.
Will this stay in my collection? Yes! I love the theme and enjoy the game. It works at a lot of levels – multiple player-counts, as a filler game, or as a game for less-experienced gamers.