Cat Box was originally introduced in English thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The premise is simple enough for players to quickly begin playing, but the strategy behind placing cards on the table becomes more evident as gameplay proceeds. It’s a light, filler game that has simple and advanced game modes to accommodate a wide-range of ages and players.
Essentially, each player is a different colored cat, (or the one dog available), and the goal is to get as many of your cats (or empty boxes if you’re the dog) onto the table. To receive additional points, you’ll try to connect as many of your color in a row by the end of the game. However, it’s in your best interest to avoid letting the other players know which color you are, as they may block your strategy.
The cards are double-sided, but only the side facing you may be played face up on the table. Also, another player can choose to blindly take a card from your hand to play on their turn. At the end of a turn, the player who is now missing a card draws up to the standard number of cards (this varies per number of players).
Each card has 4 images on it separated into quadrants. A card with 4 cats on it may only cover another card by 1 quadrant. However, a card played that has one or more empty box on it can cover 1 or 2 quadrants of the car underneath. This is the basic strategy to disrupt your opponent’s chains of consecutive colored cats and to also build chains of your own.
If you’re looking for a more advanced game, you can choose to utilize the wooden tokens available. Each player gets a set of 5 colored tokens with different symbols on them: Cat Paw, Cat in a Box, Toy Mouse, Yummy Fish, and Stacking. These tokens allow you to complete additional actions on your turn.
Cat Paw allows you to play a second Cat Box card, Toy Mouse lets you take one uncovered Cat Box card from the play area and immediately place it another position, Yummy Fish allows the player to save a card from their hand or another player’s hand for later, Cat in a Box lets the player reserve a quadrant in the play area and no one may play a card on any of its eight surrounding quadrants until that player’s next turn, and Stacking lets you cover up to 4 quadrants of a card in the play area, but not more than 3 cats.
Personally, I don’t feel that the advanced ruleset is much more difficult than the standard unless you’re teaching the game to non-hobbyists or children, and is worth always using otherwise. It keeps the game interesting and is more exciting than just simply placing a card down on each turn. Once all cards have been played, each player gets 1 point for every cat of their color (or empty box if a player is the dog), and then each player’s longest chain of consecutive cats gains 1 point for every cat in the chain. The highest point total wins.
The quality of the cards and tokens are nice for such a small package and inexpensive price point. If you’re just looking to play a quick game or teach a non-hobbyist a new game, it’s a great place to start. The double-sided cards, tokens, and the fact that you can choose to play a card from someone else’s hand keeps the game fresh for longer than it would if it were just a standard card-laying game.
Overall, if a light game is on the menu, I’d definitely check this one out. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial to play between heavier games, you may want to skip this one. The gameplay matches the artwork style pretty well, so there’s nothing too new or surprising, but it’s still fun and I’d recommend it.