- Designer: Benjamin Leung
- Publisher: Homosapiens Lab
- Players: 2-6
- Age: 5+
- Time: 15-20mins
- Played with review copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design (TBD)
I never know what to expect when I get a box from TBD – and in my most recent shipment, two games suitable for the younger crowd arrived – Cat’s Tsukiji and The Three Little Wolves. Normally, I have a hard time getting some of the more kid oriented games to the table, but I have been lucky enough to spend some time with my nephews (age 7 or 8 – would you believe I actually can’t remember?!) and they were the perfect audience for some of these games.
As you may know, Tsukiji is one of the most famous fish markets in Tokyo, and as the publisher says:
“Welcome to the most famous fish market in the cat’s world, Tsukiji Market! You and your fellow kitten chefs are competing to get the freshest fish for your restaurant. The competition is so intense that you can’t get what you want without stretching your paws all the way to the most delicious fish at a lightning speed. So, spot on the fish, raise your paws, and grab them for the win!
Cat’s Tsukiji is a speed game like no other because you will put on the cutest game component in the world — the cloth cat paws! You can choose the finger cloth of your favorite cat pattern, how cute is that! Each round, a number of fish cards will be displayed on the table. On the count of three, all players simultaneously point their “paws” at the fish card they want. If you are the sole player to point at a card, you get it for a set-collection scoring. However, if any other player(s) point at the same card as you do, none of you get the fish!“
In this game, players take on the role of kittens, and each gets a soft knitted cat’s paw to place on their index finger. Not to burst your bubble, but you really don’t need the cat’s paw for gameplay, but they are darn cute, and I guess maybe it would save a smashed finger every now and then…
So, this is a really nice introductory set collection game that adds in a bit of a speed element. There is a fish deck of 50 cards, split up into 6 varieties of fish: tuna, flounder, saury (aka mackerel), pufferfish, eel and salmon. In each round, N+1 cards are dealt face up to the table, and everyone is given a second to look at the selection. Then, in unison, players have a countdown and all slap their cat’s paw down on a card – we count “1, 2, 3” and slap a card as we say the number 3.
If only one person slapped a particular card, they collect that card and put it in front of them. If multiple people slapped the same card, no one gets the card, and it is instead placed in the discard pile. The non-chosen cards generally stay on the table, however, the unselected card which is closest to the discard pile is moved into the discard pile. Now check to see if any player has at least 2 sets of 3+ cards. If so, there is an intermediate scoring. Otherwise, deal out another N+1 cards and repeat. If the draw pile is exhausted, shuffle the discards to form a new deck.
In the intermediate scoring, each player checks to see how many points they have scored. The value for having 3+ of any type of fish is printed on both the cards themselves as well as the player aid card. (Note that you score only once for 3+ of a type; even if you have 6 cards of a fish type, you will still only score once for that type). All players now discard all the cards in front of them. If at least one player has 6VP or more, the game ends in favor of the player with the most points.
Once players are comfortable with the rules, there is an optional expansion included in the box – the Squid expansion. There are 4 numbered squid cards that are shuffled into the deck. Whenever you collect a Squid card, you not only keep it for scoring but you also steal a fish card from any of your opponents and add it to your own scoring area. If multiple squid cards are collected on the same round, they are resolved in ascending numerical order. Note that the squid have a set value of 0 points, but you still track them as they could trigger a scoring if a player can make a set of three or more of them.
My thoughts on the game
Cat’s Tsukiji turned out to be a nice introductory set collection game for some youngster’s that I know. They are both really dog people, but they still got a lot of joy and giggles about putting on cat’s paws onto their fingers. Though it seems silly to me, the dang paws are really a positive draw for a lot of possible gamers.
Setting the game up is easy, and the only challenging bit is figuring out how to set up the market cards so that all players can reach all the cards without elbowing someone in the face. Oh, and fighting over the cats paws if more than one person really really wants the single orange one that came in the box…
It did take us a few rounds to get into a nice rhythm with the smashing of cat’s paws – similar the issues in Rock-Paper-Scissors when you have to debate whether you throw on 3 or on the beat just after 3. Once we settled on our system, things worked swimmingly. You just have to make sure that everyone is committed to instantly picking a card at the right time; if there is any delay, it’s easy to make a midflight change to drop your paw on an unchosen card.
Early on, there is a little bit of chicken… Everyone knows that the higher value cards will lead to more points, and thus, they are more desirable – but obviously, if you tie for it, then one gets it. So, do you still go for it to get the best card? Or do you go for a lower scoring card that may have a slightly higher chance of acquisition? But if you do that, then you’re leaving the better card for your opponent…
Later in the round, there is a bit of defensive play that can come into play. If you know someone might need a card to finish a set, but you are close to your own set, you might choose the card your opponent needs (assuring that the opponent can’t get it) and wait until you might have a chance to pick up a card that you need in a later round. Of course, your opponents will probably be doing the same thing to you at that point. The game turns into a bit of a tactical battle which sometimes is only broken when everybody has a different card that they want and no one acts as the spoiler.
Cat’s Tsukiji has turned out to be a nice entry level game, and I plan to gift it to either my niece or my nephews when we’re done with it here. It is a bit gimmicky for my group of all adults, but it will work well with kids, and I’d like to find a good home for the game.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor