I usually wait until I have played a game in all forms before I give it a review, however I felt that it was necessary to do an early one for Isle of Cats, particularly from a family perspective.
When Isle of Cats came through my door it was one of the more recent hotness games and I was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. Even more so though it caught the attention of my kids, with them wanting to get it to the table as soon as possible.
The Problem with Kids
Gaming with kids can be difficult, for reference mine are 8 and 11. Even with just a few years of difference there is a massive difference in psychological development, attention span and personal preference. My youngest absolutely loves Rival Restaurants and Santorini, where my oldest would definitely prefer something that is more interactive and probably quicker so that she can get back to what she wants to be doing.
So gaming as a family can be a little difficult at times and I often try to steadily balance between likes and dislikes which usually ends up games like Kingdomino, Codenames or King Of Tokyo. But by some absolute miracle, Isle of Cats has hit that perfect middle ground for us.
Disclaimer – Isle of Cats has a more in-depth and strategic mode, I am currently writing on the Family Rules. The copy of the The Isle of Cats is the reviewer’s own.
This is a tile laying game, and is pretty simple at it’s core. What I love is that there is a 2 page sheet in the box for the Family mode – no reading the full instructions and then determining what needs to be added or subtracted from the game. I can’t stress how good this is, especially when kids see a box they are interested in there is often a brief moment before their willingness to play slips away.
Play is simple and revolves around players taking turns to choose cats that they will rescue and place on their ships. There are some simple placement rules and several ‘rooms’ or sections to fill. Each player also receives 2 individual player goal cards, which they work towards throughout the game.
One of the things that seems to get to kids is when there is a runaway leader, or in Kingdomino when you take a tile that can’t be placed. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case here with The Isle of Cats, there is enough space on the board for players to be able to place cats through most of the game. This was especially good for the younger one as she was able to focus on getting her same-coloured families together, or focussing on maximising her goal cards.
The Isle of Cats isn’t a simple game with no strategy, but with the Family rules it is a simple game. Simple in that the non-essential, extra or confusing rules are removed and play is therefore quick and fun, without the need for rules referencing.
There is one change that I made – the rule of non-completion of rooms taking 5 points off for each room. For the age that I am playing at, as well as for new players to tactile/visual problem solving it seemed a little too arbitrary. Each player was losing 20+ points each game and I figured if I want them to remain involved then I will go easy on them for the first few games.
Even without playing the full version yet, I can highly recommend The Isle of Cats for family play. It is one of those very rare games that are just as appealing to adults as it is to the kids. As mentioned above, it also fits such a great niche for family play and seems to make everyone happy. Be sure to pick this one up if your kids love to play and want to graduate from games like Kingdomino.