Can you collect the most cans to be crowned the craziest cat lady of all?
Android & iOS
# of Players
Cat Lady is a card drafting, set collection game from Nomad Games. The game pits one to four players against each other in a battle to collect and feed as many cats as possible, earning various bonuses throughout in an attempt to become the craziest cat lady around. Games are played until the card deck is depleted, at that point cats are fed and the game ends, this usually takes less than five minutes.
Cat Lady is played around a 3x3 grid of cards. On each turn, a player selects a single row or column and receives all three of those cards. The cards come in a few different types, but the primary cards are cats and cat food. Each cat you collect is worth a certain amount of points once you fully feed it, the food requirements and points are displayed on the cat card. Food comes in three types (chicken, tuna, and milk) and can be a single serving or double, there is also a wild card which can act as any type of food. Collect cats and collect the food they want to eat, earning points for fed cats. Pretty simple concept to start.
Of course, there are twists. For starters, and unfed cat you end up with loses you points, poor kitty! There are also a slew of different bonuses in play. Costumes and toys are the most simple, they provide scaling bonuses based on the amount you have. Toys are scored based on the number of each type you have, where costumes provide a big bonus to whoever has the most, and a penalty if you end the game with none. Catnip scales with how many catnip cards you have at the end of the game. The largest bonus comes for having four catnip cards, and that provides two points per each fed cat. Beware, as having only one catnip does not please the kitties and you will lose two points.
The final two twists are sprays and strays. In the game, the row or column that was most recently collected will be off limits for the next player to grab. This can be worked around by using a spray to move the “off limits” marker elsewhere. Sprays show up and are collected like any other card. Strays are a set of cats that sit across the top of the board. The game contains a handful of these, three are used in each game. Once you collect two “Lost Cat” cards, you can bring a stray into your hand. Each stray is a little different, but they will provide help or points once fed.
That’s a wrap on the Cat Lady rules. Collect cats, feed them, and work for various bonuses along the way. At the end of the game you get one last chance to feed any of your cats, you can move food between cats as well as use any unassigned food you have, and then the final points are tallied. You can assign food at any point during the game as well, I tend to do that to help me track what I need and where I stand, but it is not necessary.
Maybe the thing Cat Lady pulls off best is giving the feeling of “I can’t do everything I want to” in such a short package. Much heavier games often lean on this mechanic, but it’s great to see in such a light game. There are so many bonuses in play that you will inevitably not be able to act on all of your strategies during a given game. You will have games where you take the catnip penalty because you were never able to grab more than one catnip. This isn’t to say everything is a strategic battle, the way the cards show up and are grabbed lead to plenty of luck of the draw in this game, but I do enjoy the small amounts of tension the game provides through some of the scoring/penalty mechanisms.
Cat Lady is a light, fun game. The “pick a row or column” mechanic is incredibly simple but works really well. The bonus points will feel familiar to those who have card drafting experience, they make sense and add more elements to consider while playing. There isn’t a ton of depth, but the tactical nature of the game is a lot of fun.
Barrier to Entry
Cat Lady is a simple game once learned, but does have a handful of moving parts between the various bonuses the game provides. The game comes with a tutorial to help teach new players. The tutorial is broken into three parts and they are really well done. The first simply introduces you to to the game. Learning about cats, food, and how to acquire cards and score the basic points. The next adds in toys, costumes, and catnip while the last tutorial introduces sprays and strays. Each tutorial lasts the length of a full game and does a very good job of spending a good amount of time teaching each new aspect of the game. It would have been very easy for this app to skimp on the tutorial given how light of a game this is, but it’s great to see they did not, the tutorial is thorough and fully prepares players to start playing the game. The only downside here is that there are no text rules to use as reference should you need it, you will have to go back to the tutorials if you find yourself confused about a rule detail. The scoring details are on the cards themselves, however, so the need for a rule lookup is probably minimal.
Look and Feel
Cat Lady looks and plays great. The artwork is cute all around, very easy on the eyes with a great color palette selection and of course the cartoon cats, food, toys, etc… are a pleasing backdrop to stare at while playing. The theme is obviously a tad goofy and it is carried over well into the app. The app itself is super responsive, everything runs smoothly.
Controls on Cat Lady are equally well done. You simply swipe the row or column of cards you want and they are yours. Most things are click to choose, with drag-and-drop used to feed the cats in your hand. There are really no complaints in this area. There is no undo button, but it wouldn’t be appropriate as the only thing you might undo is what cards you select, but adding a confirm button to that action would slow things down so much, I don’t think the trade off would be worth it.
Cat Lady does not feature online multiplayer. The game does allow up to four local players to have a pass-and-play game.
If there’s one huge red flag in this app it is the “Sign in with Facebook” button that hits you front and center (well, lower-center, anyway) when you first load the app. That’s such a dated way to do things, it was disappointing to see. What you get by signing in with Facebook is access to the global leaderboards and a challenge mode. Leaderboards appear to be only based on scores from challenge mode. Challenge mode itself is a bit of a mystery as it isn’t explained anywhere. When you start a challenge mode game it looks like any other game against one AI player, so I’m not sure what makes it different.
Cat Lady can be played against three different AI levels; Easy, Medium, and Hard. You can mix-and-match AIs in a given game. Honestly, I fully expected to be able to smoke the easy AI on my first try, but I didn’t. It was close, but I lost. Then, a few games later, I was still losing. I’m impressed, so many apps use “easy” as if you were playing against an actual cat, making the easy level useless and unplayable after you have learned the game (and sometimes before). Cat Lady has no freebies. Of course you will refine your techniques and start smoking the easy AI soon enough, but kudos to Little Timmy (one of the names for easy AI) for putting up a respectable fight. After a dozen or three games I can now beat hard AI, but certainly not every time. So much of Cat Lady comes down to what cards are available so it is tough to get a great feel for the AI, but from my experience, the AI will beat you if you do dumb things and they will also beat you if the cards fall their way. In a game so random, that’s all you can ask for.
Cat Lady features a host of achievements you can unlock by accomplishing various tasks while playing. These range from simply completing the tutorials to more specific tasks like collecting 60 white cats. Progress for each is tracked in a nice looking, scroll-able screen in your Cat Lady house, a very nice visual touch.
The Wrap Up
Cat Lady is one of those apps that is really tough to slap a score on. The things it tries to do, it does extremely well, but I also can’t help thinking about the things it doesn’t try to do.
For the latter, online play is the big missing feature. It is strange to get games without online play, especially a game that comes from big names in both the digital and physical board game world. Other downsides really start and end with the Facebook integration. Of course, you don’t actually gain much by logging in, so those without Facebook or who simply don’t want to link the two can safely ignore that giant button on the home screen and still get plenty of enjoyment out of the app.
The positives of this game start with how great the digital implementation is. As they did with Love Letter, Nomad Games knocked this one out of the park. It’s super smooth, responsive, and looks great. There is a fantastic level of polish and detail in Cat Lady. The game itself is quite a lot of fun. It’s not a brain burner by any means, but it is great for a quick, tactical play. The app offers a bunch of achievements to chase if that interests you, a nice bonus.
Cat Lady is recommended as a super quick playing solo game or a fun, easy to learn pass-and-play.