Beyond the Box Cover: Isle of Cats
Let’s dig into a game that I’ve only gotten to place once, so I don’t want to do a full review yet. But I do have some initial thoughts on the game. What worked well, what maybe didn’t work quite as well, and what I want to play around with in future games. Just to give a bit of an idea, Isle of Cats is a drafting game with polyomino placement and set collection. And I’m talking about it now because there is an expansion for it on Kickstarter.
What Didn’t I Like
So, I have one thing that I want to see how it works more consistently. When I played it was only at two players. I feel like two player play was just fine. Mainly because of the card drafting piece. When you draft, you pick two cards, pass your hand, pick two cards, pass your hand, pick two cards. That means you end up drafting 4 cards. You can manipulate a little bit what the other person gets but you don’t have much variety.
Playing two player I’d almost want to create a dummy hand of six cards or so. That would just make the drafting at two players feel more dynamic. Mainly I felt like I didn’t see enough cards. You are always going to end up being “stuck” with the last two cards. But if someone had a great hand or two great cards, you just don’t see quite enough. I think that with more players, this will be less of a problem.
What I Liked
Now, while I did complain about the card selection in the drafting, I do like the drafting quite well. And some of that is because of how it works. You draft eight total cards, but you don’t have to keep all eight of them. In fact, you likely won’t. So even if you are not getting ideal cards one round, you don’t have to keep them all and clutter up your hand. Mainly because you pay for those cards with fish, but you also need fish to entice cats into baskets to get them on your boat.
This creates a really nice tension. Do I potentially get less cats one turn because I want to keep more cards? Or do I have a lot of baskets available so I want to keep a lot of fish around to get a lot of cats in a round. It’s a meaningful choice that can really affect scoring in a lot of ways.
And scoring itself, I feel like, is a lot of fun. Because this is kind of a point salad type of game. By point salad, I mean that basically anything you do gives you points. If you put down a global scoring card, probably you’re doing that because it gives you points. Private scoring, more points. Cats of a color next to each other, more points. Rare treasures, more points. Covering up rooms, more points. You can see, there are ton of different point options in there. So while the cards or cats might not line up perfectly with your strategy, you doing everything for points.
What I Want To Try
Firstly, I want to play this game with more people. I am curious to find out if the drafting might just be a little all over the place or if more people helps make the drafting feel more even. I keep on talking about this, it doesn’t ruin the game for me by any stretch of the imagination. There are enough other things to do that work well, but it is something that I wan to mess around with more.
I also feel like there are strategies that I want to try as well. I went fairly heavily into collecting cats. That scored me a fair number of points, but private objectives weren’t one thing that I did much. Again, I didn’t have that many come up for me to draft. How might that change strategy, or could I push even more for cats?
This is a fun game, I oddly enough get some simple Blood Rage vibes from it. Not that it’s area control, but just that it’s a drafting game that has so much going on with it besides drafting. I think that it’ll end up in that rotation for when I want to play a heavier drafting game but don’t want to go all the way to Blood Rage, or maybe I don’t have the right group for Blood Rage. Isle of Cats is obviously a much cuter theme and going to be more enjoyable for more people.
But I am still backing more stuff on Kickstarter, getting more ships, and even a cool looking Isle of Cats roll and write. And if the game sounds interesting, maybe consider backing it as well. Normally I wouldn’t talk too much about a big box, but checkout that big box in the Kickstarter. It isn’t needed, but the set-up of the game can be a bit slow. The insert in the big box is supposed to help make getting it to the table faster, and I feel like that’ll be nice.
Do you like Isle of Cats?