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 31 March 2020

Purrfect Tessellations:- The Isle of Cats

Game: The Isle of Cats

Publisher: The City of Games

Designer: Frank West

Year: 2019

The Isle of Cats puts you in the shoes of benevolent sea-captains seeking to rescue the indigenous feline population of an island before a less benevolent pirate comes along. Just like your standard cat, these creatures are frustratingly capricious, so you'll need to weave baskets and fish up treats to tempt them aboard your ship. Once aboard their fear of water presumably keeps them in place! If you happen to find some treasure along the way, and your new feline friends deal with your rat problem, well all the better!

Each round each player will be given 20 fish which represents their morning catch. The central island will be surrounded by a number of cats in two locations before players draft a hand of 7 cards each. From your drafted hand of 7 cards, you can spend fish to buy the cards, or simply discard them if they aren't worth the cost. Cards come in a variety of types: Green cards contain boots and baskets which help you be the first player to collect cats and improve how many cats you can catch respectively. Blue cards are lessons which give end game scoring and can either be personal, or public. Gold cards grant you treasures which can be used to fill awkward gaps on your boat, bigger treasures are also worth points. Finally purple cards tend to reward you with Oshax, this elusive breed is not only larger than most other cats, but is very adaptive, being able to behave like any other colour of cat.

Once cards are bought, players will choose the number of green cards to commit to the round. Every complete basket they add is one more cat they can take home, and playing a pair of damaged baskets also lets you collect a kitty. If you don't have any green cards, don't fret, everyone has one free basket every turn. Players will then take turns rescuing one cat at a time. Cats come in a variety of colours and shapes, both of which are vitally important. You can only place a cat next to another cat on your ship and you want to fill as many rooms as possible and cover up rats. However, you also need to worry about colour. Each colour represents a breed of cats and groups of at least 3 touching cats of the same breed count as a family. You'll get end game points based on the sizes of your families, the bigger the better. You'll also gain free treasure if you place the correct breed of cat on the coloured maps on your boat. At the end of the game points are rewarded for largest families, lessons completed and large treasures found, and the points are lost for incomplete rooms and rats showing on your boat. 
Cats famously enjoy lying around in strange, almost tetromino style, poses
The Isle of Cats is not a particularly complex game, and while perhaps it's a touch too difficult to label it as an entry level game (even with the family mode available) it's certainly on the lighter end of the spectrum. But that's not to say that it has no bite! Trying to wrangle the best cats as required by your hidden private objectives is challenging to say the least. Unfortunately in a two player game challenging can easily turn to impossible. With less cats/treasures drawn each round and less cards being drafted some lessons can become impossible simply through luck of the draw. It's a minor frustration and only applicable at low player counts, but it has certainly come up during our games. 

Lessons can be private or public, but either way you'll want to do them to get as many bonus points as possible.
Take a moment to appreciate exactly how beautiful this game is. The large, detailed ship player boards contrast their dull brown with the bright greens, purples and reds of the rescued cats. The cats are all lounging about in strange, but noticeably cat like positions. The tetromino shapes you are placing feel a lot less forced if you've ever watched a cat relaxing. The table presence alone makes this game an easy sell, and the theme, well who doesn't love cats?

Overall The Isle of Cats is a great light game. While the box size is noticeably huge for the game's length and weight, the game makes up for this by having a wealth of content. A huge number of cards, cardboard cats and tokens, large player boards and a fantastic art design. The Isle of Cats is a game which decided not to try and do too much, but instead do what it does well. Combining the tactical play of drafting with the ever popular tetris-style tile laying creates an fantastic experience for all levels of gamers.


The Isle of Cats was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £45.00 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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