The Isle of Cats board game 2019

The Isle of Cats board game review

Just stuff your ship with cats. Lots of cats.

The Isle of Cats board game 2019 cover
Release date
Jan 2019
Gender
Family, Strategy, Fantasy
Players
1-4
Playtime
60-90 min.
Difficulty
Medium
Age
8+
Publisher
The City of Games
Our Score
8.3
Your rating2 Votes
8.5
8.3
Magical

Rescue cats! From the Isle of Cats! I wonder, do they want to be rescued? Probably…More precisely, fill your ship with cats! Save as many cats as you can together with your partner. Did someone save more cats? No matter, we still saved a bunch of cats…from their Paradise Isle. They would certainly be happy here, but a bad bad boy villain named Vesh Darkhand (from the board game “The City of Kings“) is arriving and will do bad stuff to them. So you must save them!

This is a card drafting game, and a polyomino like (Tetris type) game, where you pass cards to neighboring players to prioritize which cards to keep, as well as moving weird, funny, cute, and angry cats onto each player’s ship tile. I wonder how you fit the fat ones! I hope your ship is not going to sink.

Heads up – this is one of the better board games of 2019!

Review details

The review will be covered in the following structure:

  1. Fun
  2. Replay value
  3. Art & parts
  4. Game price

Feel free to read the review details, or just scroll down to the review summary.

Fun

First of all, I got to say, this is a fun game. The theme is very appealing, and the game mechanics, strategies feel pretty smooth as well.

Those cat tiles are great. They are all differently formed, and it is always fun to solve the puzzle of fitting the right cats. The winning conditions stimulate you to collect as many cats of the same family as you can. As game progresses, this becomes an increasing competition.

The Isle of Cats (2019) – component examples.
Image credit: Noble Knight Games

Players aim to gain turn priorities over each other to collect the intended cats. There is also a bunch of mouse at the ship. Try to cover those mice with cats to score fewer point penalties.

If the cats keep slipping you, no worries, there are some alternative strategies you can take on to increase your likelihood of a comeback. Players also collect rare treasures & learn lessons. Yea, you are not going to avoid studying. Not in the Isle of Cats.

Basically, anything you find or obtain must be placed on the player’s ship, meaning cats & treasures. The first tile can be placed anywhere you want. The rest tiles must be placed adjacent to the tiles already placed.

The game is played over 5 rounds (days), where players gather fish, draw cards (discoveries), which are drawn similarly like in 7 Wonders, by passing cards to your neighbors, until everyone collect 7 cards.

There are numerous types of cards, you can get. Rescue cards indicate the cat type you can save, the speed values, indicating your turn priority in comparison to your opponents. This gives great opportunities to snatch those cats in front of other players’ faces. You can also draw some additional card types, such as baskets to collect more cats, lessons that bring additional victory point scoring rules

When everyone has collected 7 cards, players then pay the fish for the cards they want to keep. Finally, you go use your discovery, rescue cards & fish to lure those cats to safety and collect them onto your ship.

All in all, the game is super fun. Some players have dual opinions for that, as there are different game modes that perform slightly differently, which is elaborated in more detail in the Replay Value section.

The Isle of Cats (2019) – game-play.
Image credit: Noble Knight Games

Replay value

I would say the replay value of the game looks strong in general. The round mechanics are a little repetitive, but the game progression is often different.

I really enjoy seeing that there are 3 game modes offered to players. The family mode, solo mode, and regular mode.

The family mode is a simplified version of the game where there are no fish costs, where you have 2 lesson cards that indicate how you can score more victory points. This is a newbie’s friendly mode that is still pretty interesting. The advanced players would certainly want to swap to the regular mode once they learn that one.

The solo mode was evaluated surprisingly positively, as you are playing against the game itself, which also feels pretty intense and not that easy to beat. Many players claim that it is actually a more difficult mode. So I recommend the Isle of Cats to solo board game fans.

The regular mode is okay, but certainly not for everyone. It takes quite some time for new players, especially that are new to board gaming to catch all the points to play the game correctly. Not to mention the actual performance. In some cases new players would simply try to puzzle your ship with no or very little empty spaces, thinking that this will win you the game, and scoring poorly due to that.

So in my opinion it definitely requires some time investment if you want to experience The Isle of Cats at the fullest. But it also provides the large opportunities to grow, increase your level of gameplay, and transition trough those game modes.

Finally, in my opinion, the main positive aspect of The Isle of Cats is a variety of actions, goals & a combination of modes – the value of what that brings to players altogether. It literally appeals most of the board gamer segments – from beginners to advanced players, from families, children to friends & parties. Everyone finds parts of the game they love, which makes them come back to it.

Art & parts

The art is stunning. I really love it. The ship tiles are amazing. Fun fact, they are also different, so placing cats requires different strategies based on the ship tile you get. The cards look nice as well.

I am a little doubtful about colorblindness aspects of the game, but it seems that the cat families can be distinguished by their tail design in addition to colors. Also, there are summary cards available that ease up the gameplay for players with color blindness. For now I assume the colorblindness rating is B (Playable), due to the fact that you need to focus & pay additional attention to study those components in order to differentiate them.

The Isle of Cats colorblindness rating: B (Playable).

I will update the colorblindness rating as soon as I get the game to my collection.

Price

I must say when I researched the game price, I expected it to be a little higher. There is no large board, most of the components are tiles, cards & tokens. Given the amount & quality of components, I suppose the price is fair. And given the quality of the game, I would conclude that the price is definitely worth it.

The Isle of Cats board game review
Final remark
One of the best board games of 2019 in my opinion. Very attractive theme & art. Draw cards, place cat tiles onto your ship like a puzzle/Tetris. Gameplay mechanics seem to be interesting, creating lots of strategy variations. Different game modes are nice, though for some players solo or regular mode feels too difficult, while family mode too easy.
Fun
8.2
Replay Value
7.7
Art & Parts
9.1
Price
8.2
Your rating2 Votes
8.5
Positives
Well made production - from art to game-play
Strategic depth
3 Different game modes allow most of the players to find their loved variation.
Negatives
Regular mode contains a lot more depth, for some - a little too much.
Lots of thinking that sometimes lead to downtime and too long plays.
8.3
Magical

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