Collect cats and keep them well-fed and well-cared for in order to win at this adorable and light-hearted game.
Our household recently went from two cats to three, and if you could see the hoops I jump through to try to find them all food, toys, and treats that they love…you might think of me as a crazy cat lady. Sometimes *I* think of myself as a crazy cat lady, mostly because these particular cats are enough to drive anyone crazy.
But the truth is, I — and the rest of the people who live in our house — have a bit of a fondness for cats. So when I first heard that there was a game called Cat Lady, where the goal was to collect and care for cats, I knew I’d want to to give it a try. It turns out that Cat Lady is a light and fun family game that combines aspects of card drafting and set collection with a dose of cute art and humor to make it one of our favorite quick card games.
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Cat Lady was designed and illustrated by Josh Wood and is published by AEG. It is for 2-4 players age 8 and up (the box says 14 and up, but that has more to do with toy safety guidelines in Europe than with gameplay, trust me). A game of Cat Lady plays in about 15-30 minutes.
In Cat Lady, players compete as cat ladies…or well, cat people, who collect a community of cats and do their best to keep those cats fed, entertained, and loved. Players do this by collecting cards from a grid, trying to get the right combination of cards in order to keep everything in balance. Points are scored in a variety of ways — from feeding cats to having collections of cat toys to having the most cat costumes. When the deck runs out, points are totaled and the player with the most points is the winner.
Setup for a game of Cat Lady is fairly simple. The main deck is adjusted to have the right number of cards, depending on how many players you have, and then shuffled. The top 9 cards are then dealt to the table in a face-up 3×3 grid. The deck of “stray cat cards” is also shuffled and the top three are placed in a row to the side of the grid. Cubes representing cat food are placed within reach of players. The first player will be the player with the most cats (probably me!), and the player to their right takes the wooden cat token and puts it next to any one of the rows or columns in the 3×3 grid.
Players will now take turns choosing an entire row of the grid OR an entire column of the grid, and placing all three of those cards into their hand. The only limitation is that the player can not choose the row or column that the cat token is guarding. (You know how cats are — they like to sit right on your computer keyboard when you’re trying to type, or take over your pillow when it’s time for bed. It’s just how they are — in the way.)
Once the player takes their cards, they move the cat token to guard the row or column they just took cards from, then they refill that row or column with cards from the deck.
Play then proceeds clockwise around the table.
There are seven basic types of cards in Cat Lady and all are handled a bit differently. Once you learn them, the text on the bottom of each card will remind you how they are used and/or how they score.
- Food cards. Food cards will have chicken, tuna, milk, or “wild” food. As soon as a player collects a food card, they discard it and take cubes from the supply (cube colors each correspond to a type of food). Throughout the game, food will be placed on cat cards to “feed them,” but be careful — the person at the end of the game with the most leftover food will lose 2 points.
- Cat cards. When a player collects a cat card, they place it face up in front of them. Cats all require certain types of food, as shown on the bottom of the card. They are also worth points at the end of the game, if they have been fed. Un—fed cats will be worth negative 2 points each at the end of the game.
- Catnip. (Keep in hand.) Catnip will score you points, but only if you’ve collected at least 2 catnip cards over the course of the game. Collect only one and you’ll lose 2 points.
- Toys. (Keep in hand.) Players will score points for the sets of unique toys that they collect during the game. A set of 2 unique toys will be worth 3 points, 3 unique toys will be worth 5 points, etc. You are allowed to have multiple sets.
- Costumes. (Keep in hand.) At the end of the game, the player with the most costumes gains 6 points. But be sure to collect at least one costume — if you don’t, you’ll lose 2 points.
- Spray bottles. (Keep until spending.) If you have a spray bottle card, you may “spend” it in order to move the cat token out of your way. Just put it by a different row or column and you are free to collect the cards he was blocking.
- Lost Cat cards. (Keep until trading in.) If you collect two Lost Cat cards, you may turn them in during your turn to attract one of the three stray cats that are available. These stray cats must be fed, but they also provide new ways to score points. You may also trade 2 Lost Cat cards for a 2-point token, giving you more points at the end of the game.
Play continues until an empty row or column cannot be filled because the deck has been depleted. All players can freely re-arrange their food cubes to make sure their cats are fed as well as possible.
Points are now totaled from fed cats, toys, catnip, costumes, and point tokens. Points are subtracted, as necessary, depending on costumes, catnip, leftover food and unfed cats. The player with the most points wins.
Components and Art
The art in Cat Lady is, simply, adorable. If you have any affinity for cats, you’ll surely appreciate the cute felines that grace the cards. The wooden cat token sits perfectly poised, reminiscent of the way our own cats block our paths or plant themselves on the laundry we just folded.
Cat Lady is compact, fitting in a small box that seems to find its way on all our vacations.
The Game Experience
Cat Lady is one of those games that is just plain enjoyable to play. After you’ve played it a few times, it becomes the kind of game that you can play while chatting or even watching TV. Simple and straightforward, it’s also a game that is easy to teach others.
We find ourselves smiling at the art, and at the humor in the names of some of the cats (LeVar Purrton and Pablo Picatso?). We imagine that our real-life cats would not be happy if they had to wear the “Fancy Suit” costume on the card we just picked up. We feel some mild tension when the person right before us takes the row with the chicken that we really needed for one of our cats. We wonder if we’ll be able to get another catnip before the cards run out, so we don’t lose those 2 points. And we look down in admiration — and maybe a bit of pride — at our collection of well-fed kitties.
Cat Lady does give players the opportunity to be a little mean to each other, if only by taking another player’s much-needed cards. But to be honest, we’re usually so busy just trying to get the things we need, that that never crosses our minds.
There’s certainly some luck in Cat Lady, but the game is long enough to give you a chance to work around a bad grid of cards or two, yet short enough to not be too frustrated if things just don’t work out.
What We Love Most about Cat Lady
We love the art and the names of the cats — they never fail to make us smile.
We love how quick it plays and how comfortable we were with the game after just a play or two. The text on the cards that remind us how they play/score is just perfect, too.
We love that it makes us feel better about our (only) three cats in real-life…when we collect a cattery of seven or more kitties during a game.
If you are looking for a light family card game, with the tension of making sure you get a good balance of cards and a fleet of well-fed cats by the end of the game, Cat Lady is one you should consider. The first game takes a bit of effort as you familiarize yourself with the different types of cards as well as the drafting system, but after that, you’ll settle right into it and be able to be able to enjoy it for the simple and light-hearted fun that it is.
Cat Lady is staying in our collection — and going on our vacations — because it’s perfect to pull out almost any evening. You just need a table, and some people who love — or at least tolerate — cats.
Cat Lady is available on Amazon.com and at local hobby game stores.