Roll and write games are very popular nowadays, and although there’s no shortage of new ones being released, none but Cat Café feature adorable kittens.
Cat Café, designed by Giung Kim and Juhwa Lee, is very appropriately published by Alley Cat Games (in participation with Korean publisher, Mandoo Games). It accommodates 2-4 players and takes about 30 minutes to play.
In Cat Café, you play as a patron of a cat café with the goal of petting as many cats as possible. In order to accomplish this, you attract cats to your corner by adoring a cat tower with toys, treats, and places for the cats to rest. This will earn you victory points and the player who has earned the most victory points wins the game.
How to Play Cat Café
The game is played with one more die than the number of player.
All of the dice are rolled. Beginning with the starting player, the dice are drafted, one per player and moving clockwise.
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Once all of the players have selected dice, one will remain. This die is communal and accessible to all.
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Players then simultaneously mark items on one of the hexagonal cells of the cat towers depicted on their player sheet. They may choose any column (cat tower), but the row and item depend on the values of their dice pool.
One die value, either the one that the player drafted or the communal die, will correspond to the row number and one to the cat item that they will draw in the tower. It does not matter which die is used for which.
You may modify die values +1/-1 by spending any available cat paws on the right side of the player sheet. You may spend more than one cat paw at a time, as long as they are available to the player.
Cat Items and Relevant Scoring
Every cat item you place has a special ability and a way of scoring points. Let’s take a look, starting in reverse order:
Six-Pip Die: Mouse Toy
For every mouse toy in a chain (connected hexes), the player will score either 2, 6, 12, or 20-points. There can be multiple chains and one mouse toy by itself is worth nothing.
Five-Pip Die: Cusion
The score of each cushion is equal to its row number.
Four-Pip Die: Food Bowl
Scores one point for each different item it touches.
Three-Pip Die: Butterfly Toy
Are worth 3-points each and earns you two cat paws to modify dice values.
Two-Pip Die: Ball of Yarn
The player with most balls of yarn or is tied for the most balls of yarn in a column receives 8-points. Otherwise, the player receives 3-points.
One-Pip Die: Cat House
The cat house is the most complicated cat-item. As previously mentioned above, if you are the first to complete a column and you have a cat house present in that tower, you earn the higher victory point value above it. If you don’t have a cat house in the column, you must take the lower value.
When you write a cat house into one of the columns, you select one of the cats depicted at the bottom of the player sheet and score 2-points for each of the corresponding items you’ve drawn anywhere on your sheet at that time.
Once you’ve selected this cat, it cannot be selected again.
Since you want to maximize points with the cat houses, it behooves you to wait till later in the game when you have a greater number of the corresponding items present on your player sheet.
End Game Condition
A game of Cat Café ends once a player has completed three cat towers. When game end is triggered, the players finish out the round and then calculate their scores.
Overall, Cat Café is a very fun roll and write. It’s not as puzzley as games like Ganz Schön Clever, but it’s also a bit more interactive and inviting.
The lack of complex comboing (again, I’m thinking of Ganz Schön Clever since I consider it the gold standard for roll and writes) permits greater transparency amongst players. In addition to contemplating your own strategic needs during the dice draft, you also need to consider what your opponent will do on their turn. For example, you may be a race to complete a particular car tower and claim the greater victory point value or prevent your your opponent from scoring a large chain of mouse toys. You are somewhat able to manipulate the options of other players by influencing the communal die value when drafting dice. The interactivity in Cat Café is refreshing aspect that I wasn’t expecting from the game.
The theme and art of Cat Café is much more inviting than the more abstract roll and writes on the market. Pretty much everyone I suggested Cat Café to was excited to play a game involving cats. This theme, paired with its low complexity and short playtime, make it an instant hit as a filler for all varieties of board gamers.
I have two very minor gripes with the game:
The first is the lack of solo mode and the limit of four players. Roll and writes have become ubiquitous with accommodating both solo players and very large player counts. Cat Café is not suited for either.
The second issue is a minor component issue. The cat images on the player sheets seem fuzzy to me. This is likely due to a combination of art style and paper choice, and not a quality issue. It certainly has no impact on your ability to play the game and will go unnoticed by most.
Update: Alley Cat Games indicated to me that this is likely an issue with my personal copy and not widespread.
Otherwise the components are nice. The sheets are easy to write on with pencil, and I’m a sucker for wooden dice like the ones included in the game. They have such a great feel to them.
If you’re looking for a fun filler, an inviting roll and write, or a cat-themed game, then look no further than Cat Café. You won’t be disappointed.