This review is based on a preview copy provided by its creator for the Board Game Exposure group I am a reviewer for. The game is currently on Kickstarter and you can see opinions of the same game from other members on this facebook group.
First things first. I’m a dog person. I have two dogs, Maddie and Gypsy and I love them to bits. I have no animosity towards cats, I just prefer dogs. That being said, I’ve had lots of nice times playing with cats and patting them and in Cat Rescue I get to make sure those kitties have a home to look after them. I’m sure my cat friends would be glad to know my brother and I did quite well rescuing cats first time out, but before we get to our feline rescuing heroics, let’s have a look at the game itself.
Good things in small packages
When I agreed to take on Cat Rescue for review I have to admit I didn’t have high hopes for it. A small, very small, game in a little bag ala Love Letter. I hadn’t even clicked what kind of game it is. Inside the velveteen bag are a few counters, though a couple had gone missing in transit (now found) but don’t worry they are not really essential, and a bunch of cards representing some future feline friends.
Essentially what you have in this little bag is a rather neat coop puzzle. Your aim, being the benevolent cat loving people you are, it’s ok I won’t judge you, is to rescue as many kitties as you can from the shelter, the central area of play. Starting with 4 kitties in a square in the middle of a 4×4 grid, the tokens are for marking the corners of this area, you will bring new kitties to the shelter in the hopes of some of them eventually being adopted.
How do kitties get adopted? Glad you asked. In this particular shelter what you need to do is get your cats to walk in a row, something that is notoriously difficult to achieve. Cats come to the shelter from two places, a foster home (poor rejected kitties) or from the street, and for some reason whenever I was playing it I couldn’t stop thinking of rough tough street gangs made up of cats perhaps with a musical number or two, but I digress.
When you play a cat, be it from the street or from a home, then it gets put beside a cat already in the shelter, I guess they like friends. You then shove the cat horizontally or vertically and push every other cat in that row in the same direction. Casting your eye over a shelter of mewing cats you see if there are 3 or more cats of the same colour. If you have a row or column of 3 or 4 then the middle 1 or 2 cats gets turned face down, indicating those particular felines are ready for adoption. Kudos.
Those stubborn cats aren’t quite out the door yet though. In order to score the face down cards as points you have to shove them outside of the confines of the Shelter, the 4×4 grid, which requires more herding of cats! A wrinkle in this puzzle is that if a face up card is pushed out of the shelter it has to go into a foster home, and well the homes can only take so many cats: if any player has 3 cats in their home then the game ends.
Not a Furball in sight
The blocks the game presents are hidden beneath it’s gentle surface and provides for a pretty entertaining coop puzzle in a very small package and one that surprised me with how much I liked it. I would say that I am not a great fan of the points based goal in this particular coop and would prefer a more definitive you rescued x cats here is how you did mechanic, but that is a minor quibble in what is a pretty attractive overall package.
Cat Rescue is a game that reminded me a lot of the sliding puzzles I loved as a kid but puts a spin on it with the coop element. Sure it will probably suffer from some quarterbacking if you let but if you are after a quick playing, thinky coop that will appeal to wide audience and will literally fit in your back pocket nothing else really comes to mind. It’s currently on kickstarter, fully funded, and has only a few days left to go so you have plenty of opportunity to get in on this game with stretch goals on top.
I’ll get my coat.