Game: Cat Cafe
Designer: Lee Ju-Hwa
Published: Alley Cat Games
Players: 2-4 Players
Playtime: 15-30 Minutes
Play Type: Roll and Write
You are the owner of a cat cafe and seeking to make a haven for the kitties who visit. The best way to do this is by creating cat towers that entice cats to relax and play!
Cat Cafe is a light roll and write game with dice drafting elements. During game play, players will engage in a series of rounds that each have three phases. Those phases are dice drafting, marking items and checking to see if cat towers have been completed.
Each round, the first player will roll dice equal to the number of players plus one. That player will select one die from the pool, and then each other player will grab one die as well. There should be one die left over, this die will become the community die, which will become important during the marking items phase.
During the marking items phase, players will use their die and the community die to place an item on a cat tower. One of the die will be used to determine placement of the item, the other die will determine the type of item placed. There are six items that might be placed on a cat tower. They are cat houses, balls of yarn, butterfly toys, food bowls, cushions and mouse toys. They each score points differently.
- Cat Houses- On your score pad, choose a cat that has not been scored. Gain two points per item in your cat towers that is the cat’s preferred item. Once that cat is scored, it may not be scored again. The cat house is also important for completing cat towers, as they are necessary to score the higher completion bonus.
- Ball of Yarn- During the end of the game, players will compare each of their cat towers. For every tower that a player has the most yarn balls, the player will score eight points. If a player has a ball of yarn in a cat tower, but not the most for that particular tower, the player will instead score 3 points.
- Butterfly Toy- Immediately gives players two paw prints, which allow players to adjust a die value by adding or subtracting one from the current number. Also, butterfly toys give players three points each at the end of the game.
- Food Bowls- Players receive one point for each different adjacent item.
- Cushions- Scores points equal to the floor number it was drawn on.
- Mouse Toys- These score more points for having a chain of connected mice. Players may have multiple chains, with each having a maximum value of twenty points each.
Once players have marked their items, they continue on to checking their cat towers. If a cat tower is complete, players must check if their tower has a cat house on it. If it does, and they are the first player to complete that tower, they circle the higher number on the top of the cat tower. All other players who have not completed the tower at that time, draw an X over the higher number, indicating that it has already been completed. If the player does not have a cat tower, they circle the lower number. If there is an X already over the cat tower, players will instead circle the lower number when completing a tower. When a player has completed three cat towers, the game ends and players score their cat towers.
Cat Cafe includes very few components, only having four pencils, five dice and the scoring pads. Despite having very few components, I think the design that went into those components was wonderful. I especially like that the pencils include erasers. This is especially important in roll and writes, but often something that gets overlooked.
As far as the score pad itself, it was very clearly laid out. The symbols are easy to follow, and there is a built in player aid to help new players grasp the game. I also like that the symbols, while thematic, are not too difficult to draw.
- Easy to Teach
- Quick Filler
- Light Strategy
- Great Gateway Game
- Strong Visuals/ Symbols
- Family Friendly
- Low Player Count
- Limited Use
- Luck Based
Cat Cafe is an adorable addition to the roll and write family. The game feels really thematic, and I love that the game gives two options for symbols to draw. While I always prefer to draw the items themselves, my less artistic friends can choose to draw the first letter of the item instead. I feel like the symbols chosen for the items really add to the theme of the game, which is both unique and family friendly.
The game play itself is very simple, and could easily be taught to an older child. The theme and mechanics will easily appeal to families. It is great for younger children because the scoring pad has a player aid included in the game itself which reminds players which die face does which action. This visual reminder is very helpful when working with kids who are just learning how to play games. Additionally, the three distinct phases help keep the pacing of the game easy to follow.
As far as mechanics go, I liked the dice drafting mechanic because it created some additional strategy to the game. It also added indirect player interaction, which kept the game from feeling like multiplayer solitaire. However, that mechanic ensured that the game could only be played at lower player counts. This was somewhat disappointing to me, because many of the other roll and writes available play with such high player counts. I love using roll and writes in the classroom, and due to the lower player count, I don’t see myself being able to implement Cat Cafe in the classroom as easily.
While I love that Cat Cafe is easily transported due to its small size, I do worry that I will run out of scoring sheets in it fairly quickly. It is a really quick game, and there are only 50 score sheets included in the game. With four players, that is only 12 games that could be played. I highly suggest laminating a few sheets, so that they can be used with dry erase. While 12 plays may seem relatively few, it is important to note that the game only costs around $15 USD. The low cost helps offset my concerns, though I hope that Alley Cat Games will sell additional score pads for after players run out.
In addition to the physical size of the box, I love that the game has such a small table footprint. It is the kind of game that can be put in a bag, and played during downtime almost anywhere. The game takes up very little space on the table, and all the materials needed are included in the box. Personally, I see this being how Cat Cafe is played for me, as it is light enough to quickly pick up and play.
The game play is fairly simple and because of the roll and write nature it has a lot of luck based elements. It wasn’t the kind of game I wanted to play over and over again right away because the game felt too focused on the luck of which dice you had access to even with the paw prints allowing for the occasional adjustments. With the limited spaces to place items, I didn’t feel the depth of strategy that I feel in other similar roll and writes. However, it does tend to play in a shorter time, thus using it as a quick time filler or a way to open a game night would be ideal. I do worry that with the market currently saturated with roll and writes, that Cat Cafe will not have enough replayability to make it to our table as often as I would like.
Overall, Cat Cafe is a cute addition to your collection if you are a fan of roll and writes. It has a low price point, and makes for a great on the go game. While it was not my favorite roll and write on the market currently, I still see us getting plenty of plays out of it because of the cute theme and simplicity of rules. I would suggest Cat Cafe to players who enjoy cat themed games like Cat Tower, Kitty Paw, or Cat Lady. Additionally, if you enjoy roll and writes like On Tour, Welcome To, or Railroad Ink, you may want to check out Cat Cafe. Unlike the other roll and writes listed, Cat Cafe features a dice drafting mechanic, making it different enough to add to your collection if you have any of the games listed above. I would also suggest checking out Cat Cafe if you are relatively new to gaming, or trying to introduce gaming to your family for the first time. The game play flows really well, and it is really easy to teach and learn. It makes for a great gateway game into the hobby, especially for cat lovers!