What's Eric Playing? #137: Cat Tower
I love both dexterity games and games with weird themes (hence Ice Cool), so you can imagine that I might be interested in Cat Tower, a game about stacking up cats as high as you can get. In this, your cat-stacking can be compli-cat-ed by your opponents as well as your own bad placements and strategy in a reverse-Jenga sort-of-business.
Will you be able to cat-apult yourself to success? Or will it be your opponents who manage a purr-fect game?
As you might guess, this is a pretty easy game to set up. There’s gonna be a Space Cat, who goes in the center:
Give the other players 7 Cat cards:
And set the Catty Fatty cards aside, for now:
You’ll also notice some tokens — put them near the Catty Fatty cards, but turn this side down:
Finally, choose a player to go first and give them the die:
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start!
The game is played over a series of player turns, ending when one player has completely run out of cats.
On your turn, you’ll roll the die and follow its instructions:
- One Cat: Place one cat on the tower, perpendicular to the previous cat.
- Two Cats: Place two cats on the tower, one after the other, as though you were taking two consecutive One Cat actions.
- Fish: Place a cat upside-down on the tower.
- Kitty Paw: Give another player one of your cats. They must place that cat on the tower, and they take the consequences if they knock the tower over.
- Catty Fatty: Take a Catty Fatty card and a token. Flip the token over and add it to the tower. The tokens are particularly interesting, as they usually determine what the next player’s turn will be:
Here’s a brief rundown:
- Kitty Paw: The next player gives another player one of their cats to place on the tower for them. They essentially just act as though they rolled a Kitty Paw action on their turn.
- Catty Fatty: Similar to Kitty Paw, the next player resolves their turn as though they had rolled a Catty Fatty.
- All Cats Are Equal: The next player takes all cats from all players that aren’t on the tower and redistributes them equally, starting with them. If there are extras that can’t be distributed equally, just deal them out starting with the current player.
- Skip: The next player skips their turn. Useful if the tower is super tall.
- Reverse: The player order reverses.
- Cat Belly: Similar to Kitty Paw and Catty Fatty, the next player places a cat on the tower upside-down.
If, at any point on your turn, you knock the tower over, you immediately take two cat cards. Add them to your stash. If you were particularly unlucky and there was a Catty Fatty token on the tower that you knocked over, you take three cats, total.
Play continues until one player is out of cats, at which point, they win!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
No real differences, here. Might mean that it’s harder to stack the tower on your individual turn as the player count increases, but that’s about it.
It’s a dexterity game, but lemme see what I can come up with.
- Daring players may feel inclined to be … strategic with their cat placements. You don’t have to place the cat cards in the center of the tower, but you run the risk of it toppling on you. Just be careful.
- Generally, you want to make the player with the fewest cats the target of all Kitty Paws. That keeps them from winning.
- Rolling Two Cats is either pretty great or pretty bad. It’s great if the tower is short, because you get rid of more cats. If the tower’s already tall, it’s … a bit more of a problem.
Yeah there’s not a whole lot, here. Happens.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- The theme is great. Who doesn’t want to stack cats?
- The art is also great. It’s super cute, vibrant, and a lot of fun. The whole thing is really awesome.
- It’s a solid gift. It’s fun, easy to transport, and you’ll get a lot of laughs out of playing it. Plus, it’s a nice alternative to, say, Jenga.
- Very easy to learn. There’s some nuance to the rules, but the basic workings of “roll the die, add a cat to the tower” is pretty straightforward. It’d probably be a good family game, as well.
- Under the current rules, if you roll a Kitty Paw with only one cat left in your pile, you automatically win. You choose another player to put it on the tower for you and they take the consequences if they mess up, so you’re out of cats. That’s a bit annoying, so we’ve just house-ruled that you still need to place your own cat to win.
- I’m not sure if the lack of permanence with the cards is intentional or not. The cards gradually shift back from their bent state, causing the tower to gradually shift around. It makes the game more difficult, but I’m not sure if that’s on purpose, so it’s a bit frustrating.
- Dice stickers stress me out a bit. I just hate being misaligned and then having to live with the fact that I can’t put stickers correctly on anything.
- I have experienced very few things in my life more painful than having to bend all the Cat Tower cards to get the game started. I’m not going to say that I cried while I was doing it, but it was incredibly physically uncomfortable to bend creases into all the cards. I still have the occasional nightmare.
- Needs house-ruled fairly aggressively. What happens if the tower falls once someone has placed a cat and some time has passed? Does that incentivize another player to take as long as possible before rolling the die? What if the tower falls once the die is rolled? Should you clear the tower completely if anything falls off? We’ve house-ruled a bunch of this, but I’d love to hear what your house rules are.
OVERALL: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I like Cat Tower! There are some weird idiosyncrasies to the game and a few things that make me scratch my head, but I find that those don’t meaningfully detract from the fun of just stacking up some cats, having them fall over, and then repeating the process until someone wins. I generally am a pretty big fan of dexterity games as well (given my known love of Ice Cool), so all-around I’d say that I have a lot of fun with this. I’d recommend giving it a try!