Published on July 14th, 2016 | by Colin0
Cardcore Gamer: Here, Kitty, Kitty! Review
But the cat came back the very next day…
Why hello there! I do apologise for my abrupt absence, but about a fortnight after my last post I underwent a significant upgrade to Dad 2.0 (2.2 if you count our cats, but more on them later) and have been rather occupied with raising an extra child, working more hours, and pursuit of unconscious oblivion for at least 3 hours out of every 24.
Today’s review is brought to you courtesy of Fireside Games, who have thrown their
cat hat into the ring in the form of Here, Kitty, Kitty!, a game of cardplay and cat acquisition. Can this be the One True Cat-Game about which I have previously mews mused, or is it the pile of something vile into which I put my naked toes at about 4am yesterday morning, thank you very much, Missy? Time to take the small, plastic spade of investigative diligence and scoop the poop of truth from the litter box of questionable metaphor!
Here, Kitty, Kitty! is a game for two to six players. Actually, it’s a game for three to six players. Well, it’s more like a game for three to five players, with a minor variant for six players and another for two, which the rulebook includes, but doesn’t recommend. From that opening statement it is clear we are into cat-mind-games territory already. Thankfully, the gameplay is as easy as 1, 2, cat…no, really, it is; you and (let’s just say ‘some’ other players) spend two actions per turn to lure cats from the central ‘neighbourhood’ pool onto your respective ‘property’ player boards, or play cards for a variety of game effects, scoring greater amounts of points the further toward the house the cats move. Bonus points are awarded for collecting particular quantities and colours of cat, and whoever has the most points when the deck runs out, wins.
At this point, you could be forgiven for hearing the jangling alarm bell triptych of ‘cute theme’, ‘short, light filler game’, and ‘nice components ‘, and writing Here, Kitty, Kitty! off as a drop in the bucket of pretty-but-empty card games, and I must admit I was guilty of the exact same thoughts. Happily, a closer look at the game’s fluffy underbelly reveals a welcome level of care and thought, and an understanding of what can only be called ‘the cat experience’. First and foremost, the game knows what it is and what it wants to do; it plays short and snappy, with clear actions and card effects, and a level of ‘Take THAT!’ interaction which feels fair and meaningful, rather than arbitrary and mean. With only a single card deck and a hand of three cards per turn, there’s no room for weak cards, resulting in no ‘bad hands’ and even if you don’t want to play cards, you can still move cats as an action, so no turns are wasted by a default discard-and-draw. There are random Instant Card ‘events’, but they mostly act to limit the leaders and boost those players who are lagging behind. The movement of the cats within properties and around the table feels very natural for indecisive, wandering moggies, and neither too chaotic, nor random.
Here, Kitty, Kitty! claws itself further up in its scoring. Many games would have stopped with the 0/3/5 points for the yard/porch/house positioning of cats, but the four additional scoring conditions bring an unexpected tactical, even mildly strategic edge to the gameplay. You have to pay attention to your goals, the state of the other players’ boards, and the long-term effect cards, such as Foster Kittens, which, if used carelessly, can affect the colour balance of the cats in your house and lose you a hefty 10 points – If you don’t pay attention then you will miss out on valuable end-game bonuses.
Another trick up the cat’s pyjama sleeves lies in the game’s art, which is both varied – all but a few cards have unique illustrations – and colourful. The player boards are all graphically distinct, clearly zoned, and marked with the relevant points values, and the beautifully sculpted cat figures, which are cast in three different poses, stylistically match the card art exactly. It’s cartoony, graphically sharp, and appealing without being too corny. It has to be noted though, that some of the cat pawns have the sprue attachment stubs in a very uncomfortable place that I can’t wholeheartedly believe is accidental…
Finally, and in some ways of most importance, is that the designer of this game clearly both loves, and more importantly understands cats; not just the cute, fluffy, big-eyed side of cats, but the dead-bird-on-the-mat, tripped-out-on-catnip, 3am yowling, hairball-erupting side. The cards are, in the most part, appropriately themed to their mechanics, and playing the game drew laughs and knowing looks from all the cat owners in the group. Here, Kitty, Kitty! is a family game, sure, but it knows its felines, and represents them in a fond and not overly saccharine way.
I’ve banged on for quite a while about what is really a simple, short game, but I feel that it deserves recognition for the work and care that has gone into making it the best that it can be. It’s not without its flaws – the aforementioned 2 and 6 player games are weak, there’s a pointless, Fluxx-ish ‘pass a card to the right’ event, and the card stock feels flimsy for a game that seems aimed at families and younger players – but it should not be dismissed as merely a kid’s game, or a gimmick. Here, Kitty, Kitty! may not reinvent the wheel, but it is a solid entry in the family/filler game bracket, avoiding the usual genre pitfalls of dictated turns, game length and shallowness with a deft paw.
Disclosure: Here, Kitty, Kitty! was kindly supplied by Fireside Games for the purpose of this review.