I bet many of you can recognize at least one of these (or could name even more games like that). Polyomino puzzlers, inspired by Tetris have been gaining popularity among board game creators.
We’ve already sewn patchwork quilts, planned gardens, prepared a feast for a nordic god etc. Sadly: none of the games had polyominoes shaped as cats. Well, Cottage Garden had cat tokens but that’s not enough. Now: finally all cat and puzzle lovers can feel satisfied as the latest game by Frank West merges both of these wonderful things together.
The Story of Isle of Cats
The story is there, but honestly most people will ignore it – The Isle of Cats feels abstract at heart. Having some background doesn’t hurt the game though. I like that authors bothered to add it.
The story takes place on the mysterious Isle of Cats, where a certain evil individual wants to do evil things with the poor felines. As an adventurer who has just arrived on the island you have two goals: learn about the place’s ancient knowledge and… rescue as many furry friends as possible.
The cats look mythical and colorful – with purple or green furs, horns and thorned tails, which makes the theme much more fantasy-like, and a thing of its own.
To The Rescue
The gameplay was created with 1-4 players in mind, but it’s also possible to expand it with more components (+£20) and play with up to 6 people together. Every player gets his own ship board to place the cat polyominoes on.
The game lasts for 5 rounds, each representing a day spent on the Isle of Cats. Days are divided into 5 phases: fishing, exploration, reading the lessons, rescuing felines and playing rare treasure polyominoes.
Lesson cards give additional ways of scoring points (e.g. 1 point per treasure or a filled set of rows). Discovery cards can give you special items, like baskets for transporting cats or resources. Fish are vital for getting new cards and motivating cats to travel with you. Successfully rescued animals have to be located on your board – Patchwork style. Placing cats from the same families near each other gives bonuses, so it’s important to fill your board carefully.
At the end of the game you count the points for cats, cat families, lessons and treasures placed on your board. Empty spaces and visible mice “award” negative points (1 for each).
For the less euro-savvy and younger players there’s also a “Family” version of the rules available in the manual. It’s not as complicated as the original, plays faster but has less depth. There’s also a full-blown solo mode, where you play against an automated character who happens to be… your own sister.
The core box including every stretch goal meeple and upgrade is priced at £50. If you want to play with 5 or 6 players you can get the slightly bigger box for £70. Shipping is planned for March 2020.