- Author: Ta-Te Wu
- Publisher: Sunrise Tornado Game Studio
- Players: 1-6
- Age: 10+
- Time: 20 minutes
- Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design (TBD)
Cat Sudoku is a game that I hadn’t initially paid attention to because I thought that I had had enough cat games in my life for one year – and after initially writing this one off as YACGFK (yet another cat game for Karen), I found myself seeing multiple comments online about it saying that it was a great roll and write using a bit of Sudoku reasoning. And, of course, as I love both of those things, I found myself wanted to play it more and more… so when the opportunity arose, I requested a copy of the game, and I am really glad that I did.
In Cat Sudoku, each player gets a sudoku puzzle sheet (four different options in the box) – players choose which season they would like to play and each gets the same sheet. One player tears off the top portion of their sheet which will serve as the wildcard sheet for this game. A starting player is chosen and there is a special first round where the four dice are rolled, and all players write the rolled numbers down in any of the starting spaces. Then, the rest of the game follows an identical pattern.
The active player takes the dice and the wild counter and then rolls the four dice. After reviewing the roll, the active player chooses a wild for this turn if possible. There are two rows on the sheet, one for a single die and one for 2+ dice. If the number chosen is seen on only one die, you can cross the matching space in the single die row; if it is seen on 2+ dice, you must cross off the space in the 2+ dice row. At the right end of the wild sheet, there are three spaces which do not have a die value pre-printed on the column header. You can fill in one of these spaces with the number you want to use if there isn’t an available space left. If there is not an available space for you to choose based on your die roll, then there is no wild this round. In our group, we have taken to placing the wild dice on top of the wild counter paper to make it easy to remember which dice are wild.
Players now use the numbers rolled (substituting any number for the wild dice) and write them in on their personal sudoku sheet. You should try to stick to regular sudoku rules (i.e. not repeating a number in a specific column or row), but ultimately, there is no restriction. You’ll just pay for all of your transgressions at the end of the game. Note that there are some rows or columns that are broken up into multiple sections; in this case, you are allowed to repeat a number is separate sections. Once you have placed your numbers, the game wants you to make a quick check of your board to make sure that you’ve filled in the right number of spaces (i.e. always a multiple of four at the end of each round). If you have screwed up, there is a special space on the score sheet for you to mark this down – and then you’ll have to get in line by the end of the next round. The dice pass to the next player clockwise and the process is repeated until the board is filled.
At the end of the game, you are supposed to pass your board to a neighbor for grading (scoring). In the end, the player with the most points wins. Each player starts with 100 points (i.e. a perfect score), and you have points subtracted for each error:
For each time that you marked too many or to few squares: -3 points
Duplicate numbers: scan your board for each time you wrote the same number more than once in a segment. Circle all the occurences. Then score -2 points for each circle.
Diagonals: Now check for identical numbers that are diagonally adjacent. Lose 2/5/10 points for a 2/3/4 consecutive numbers in a diagonal.
The player with the most points left at the end wins. There is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
This is a tough puzzle game, even on the simplest sheet, it’s hard (well, nearly impossible) to score a perfect sheet – you just have to do the best you can. It’s amazing how many times I have made a dumb mistake and placed an identical number in the same segment, only to have it found at the end of the game by the score-checker!
I would definitely recommend that players score their own sheet and then pass it to an opponent for a double check. It’s easy to miss the errors sometimes, and having multiple players check the scores is a good thing.
As you move through the harder sheets, the game becomes more difficult. First, you could have rows that are 7 or 8 spaces long. Thus, you are assured of having to take penalties. Also, as the difficulty increases, there are more spaces on each sheet to fill in. The wild counter doesn’t change, and this means that you will have more turns at the end of the game without wild dice; and this means that you will surely have to take more penalties.
The game is essentially simultaneous solitaire, though I guess the fact that the active player gets to choose the wild number brings a minimal bit of indirect interaction into the game, but my mind can trick itself into thinking that on those turns, the wild was just randomly generated. In any event, I like this sort of game – where I can puzzle on my own, and chat with my gaming friends who happen to be working on the same puzzles.
I have yet to score a perfect 100, and I think there is probably little chance – those rolls at the end of the game without wild dice always muck up my plans! But it’s a fun challenge to try to do it perfectly. One other thing that this game is perfect for is a patented James Nathan Mashup. I can definitely see us playing all four sheets together using the same roll each turn, filling in four numbers per sheet – and then there will be a neat ending three rolls where Spring ends on one, then Summer and Autumn on the next, and then on the final roll, we will only have Winter to fill in.
If you like Sudoku or logic-type puzzles, this game is one to look up. If you like cat games, this is at the top of that heap as well. And I should mention that there are four super cute cat stickers included in my box in case that might sway you towards the game too…
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor