Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Cat Rescue

Game: Cat Rescue

Publisher: Sunrise Tornado Game Studio

Designer: Ta-Te Wu

Year: 2018



You are, of course, a cat lover with a very big heart. You are motivated to get cats off the streets and into permanent adoption homes, using your small but perfectly formed foster home as a stop-gap where necessary. Unfortunately your foster homes are not as big as your heart, so you need to be careful not to over commit to taking in these cute little kittens.

Cat Rescue is a spatial cooperative card game which reminds me of traditional sliding puzzles. Together, you are trying to create card patterns on the table and manipulate card movement to get as many cats adopted as possible from the deck of cat cards.



Gameplay

To start a game of Cat Rescue you will shuffle up the deck of cats before dealing out a 4 cards into a 2x2 square in the center of the table. You will then place cubes to mark out the space of your 4x4 grid that you will be playing in, then deal two cats face up to each player as a starting hand. On each of your turns you will add a cat to the central shelter area, pushing along other cats and, hopefully, making cats adoptable. The cat you add will either come from your foster home (hand) or you can draw a random card from the streets (deck).

Your goal is to make cats adoptable by matching 3 in a row, whenever 3 of 1 type of cat are in a straight line then the center card will flip over as that cat is prepared for adoption! Being prepared isn't enough though, you'll need to push that cat outside of the boundaries of the shelter in order to get it adopted and score the most points. To make things complicated you have a delivery card which always indicated the last card you added to the shelter, and which way you pushed it. In the next turn you cannot push that cat, and you cannot push any cat in the same direction! In addition if you play a cat from your hand, the next player must take a card from the deck, this can get dangerous as any cats pushed out of the shelter when not ready to be adopted will end up going back to your hand, and if your hand ever contains 3 cats then you finish the game prematurely.

The game ends when you have 3 cats in your hand, or when there are no cards left in the street deck. At this point you score 2 points for every cat that you successfully adopted, and an additional 1 points for each cat that was ready to be adopted in the shelter. There isn't technically a win or lose condition to the game, but instead 4 scoring brackets covering intervals of 10 points, trying to get the 30+ points required to get the top ranking is much harder than you'd expect!

When a cat is flipped over it is ready to be adopted, of course to do that you'll need to get it out of the shelter, and in to a loving home!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Before I start talking about what I think of the gameplay, I first want to celebrate the games appropriate size. Cat Rescue is a small game, both in physical size and game length, but the requirement for a 4x4 grid would result in many publishers adding a board. Instead Cat rescue gives you 4 cubes to mark out your playing area, and as a result doesn't come in a shelf stealing box, but instead comes in a small packed that fits in your pocket. I very much hope that they don't change this for the full release as portable cooperative games are great for holidays or long train journeys.

The art in Cat Rescue is absolutely adorable, if you like cute kittens then that alone might be worth picking it up. I would have liked a couple more poses to the cats, but the restriction to one pose per colour was likely chosen to keep cards easy to read at a glance. Which, to be fair, they certainly are. Each card is one of 4 colours, but also features a different shape in the corners and a different breed of cat.

The game itself isn't overly complex, you could easily teach it within 5 minutes, and have your first game done within 15. But for such a simple ruleset the game itself can be fiendishly hard, making one move can set you up for success/failure in 4 turns time, you need to be good at planning ahead if you really want to be good at Cat Rescue. Not being able to push in the same direction twice in a row does make for a clever puzzle mechanic, though during gameplay it can be a little irritating to constantly have to remember to move and flip over the token that serves as a reminder. But thats a pretty minor complaint in the greater scale of things. The biggest issue Cat Rescue will have is one of replayability, while it is a solid puzzle game it is only 1 puzzle, and what variation there is likely won't last you for that long.

The components form the pre-release copy, please note that these are subject to change, but as it stands are already of high enough quality to be a finished product.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Cat Rescue was a really nice surprise. Kickstarter can often seem to be full of cat themed games, many of which appear to be more of a gimmick than well-designed games. When we opened up Cat Rescue, we were happy to find that it was a cooperative game and a puzzle game - two things that we really enjoy. The game is simply a very clever spatial puzzle. You need to think a few moves ahead to do well, so that you can get a chain of cats adopted at the same time or make more than one cat adoptable in a single move.

I'm also really happy that Cat Rescue tried hard to be a small game, which means it will be a great portable game for travel. The 4x4 grid is key to maintain in the game, but instead of a board which would've been the logical solution, the 4 cubes are super simple and not exactly visually impressive, but make a brilliant compact solution. Although the components in our preview copy are unlikely to be final, I really hope the game remains as portable and that the art on the main cat cards isn't changed too significantly as it's already really cute and distinctive with both the colour and cat type giving you a great visual reference.

With every game of Cat Rescue we've improved our score and are currently close to succeeding at the highest level. We're still motivated to do better, although I'm not sure if we'll be as motivated to play the game once we've achieved the top level.

Cat Rescue is a great 10-15 minute game that should be enjoyable for almost anyone, from children, to families, to gamers and non-gamers and I'm looking forward to taking the game on travels with me and introducing it to new people.
Sliding this green cat in here will result in the middle cat flipping thanks to the multi-coloured cat on the end.
The Good
  • Cat Rescue is a challenging logic puzzle that keeps you coming back to achieve the top level of success.
  • Cat Rescue is super portable due to some clever design choices.
  • The art design is simple, but cute and effective.
The Bad
  • There is no win or lose condition in this cooperative game, only a score assessment which we are not a big fan of for cooperative gaming.
  • Like many cooperative games, you need to be mindful of one player taking over.
The Verdict
7.5/10 Cat Rescue is a great 10-15 minute cooperative game. Behind the cute design is a surprisingly challenging puzzle game.

Cat Rescue was a preview copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective. It is currently live on Kickstarter.

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