Cat Lady is a card game for 2-4 players that gently pokes fun at cat ownership, from catnip addiction to cats’ dislike of wearing adorable costumes. It’s a very simple game to learn and teach, although it is a bit tricky to keep track of all the scoring conditions that are scattered throughout the rulebook. Here’s how to play:
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Ripley the cat, and this is Pippin the cat. And this is a game called Cat Lady, a set-collecting card game for 2 to 4 players which, inexplicably, doesn’t have a solo player mode. Let us show you how to play!
You and your friends play cat lovers collecting, feeding, and entertaining a variety of adorable kitties. You earn points at the end of the game by collecting cats, feeding them the foods they like, entertaining them with toys and catnip, and dressing them up in costumes… because cats LOVE that. The cats are named after famous felines, like Nikola Tesla’s childhood pet Macak, or cat-lovers like TS Eliot, who wrote a series of poems about cats that were the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.
On your turn, you take a row or column of 3 cards into your hand. You can’t take cards that are blocked by the cat token, so these cards are ok to take, but these cards aren’t. After taking your cards, reposition the cat token to block the row or column you just took, and replenish the cards. Fill them in left to right, top to bottom, to avoid any accusations of shenanigans.
Any cats you collect go out in front of you. Any food cards you take – chicken, tuna, and milk – get discarded and converted to chicken, tuna, and milk tokens. Some cards give you double food tokens, and some give you wild purple food, for people who like to feed their cats – i dunno – Pop Tarts?
Each cat you collect likes to eat certain foods. Fail to feed your cats, or have too much food left over at the end of the game, and you lose points.
Keep cat costumes, toys, and catnip cards in your hand until the game is over.
At any time during your turn, you can exchange two Lost Cat cards for one of these stray cats. Each game only has 3 strays – the cards don’t get replenished when the stray cats are collected. Stray cats offer valuable bonuses. Instead of taking a stray cat, you can exchange your two Lost Cat cards for a token worth 2 points. You can play as many Lost Cat cards on your turn as you like.
You can also play a Spray Bottle at any point during your turn to move the cat token. If you use the Spray Bottle before taking your cards, you move the cat, allowing you to take the cards it was blocking. Then you move the cat back to block the row or column you just took from, as usual. If you play a Spray Bottle after taking your cards, you can move the cat to block a row or column for the next player. You can play multiple Spray Bottles on your turn.
A game of Cat Lady ends when the police discover your body in your apartment after the neighbours complain about a funny smell, and the rookie cop throws up in the corner because most of your face has been chewed off, probably by LeVar Purrton.
That, or there aren’t enough fresh cards to replenish the tableau.
At the end of the game, each fully-fed cat gains you the victory points listed on the left side of the card. Each underfed cat makes you lose 2VP, regardless of the points on the card. A cat is either fed or not fed – cats can’t eat only some of their food or only half of your face, so they’ll lose you points. This cat wants 2 chicken, and you’ve only got 1 chicken. So the cat doesn’t eat any chicken, and this food token counts as surplus.
The player with the most leftover food loses 2 points.
If a cat is unfed, its special abilities don’t trigger.
Cats are either black, orange, white, or a combination. Some cats give you bonus points for collecting other cats of a certain colour, because those cats are… racist.
The player with the most costumes gets 6 points. If there’s a tie, the tied players split the 6 points evenly. If you don’t have any costumes, you lose 2 points. If you have too many costumes, your cats lose every shred of their dignity.
If you have 4 or more catnip cards, you get 2 points for every fully fed cat. 2 or 3 catnip cards will get you 1 point per fully fed cat. If you only have one catnip card, you lose 2 points, because your cats are totally jonesing for it. (“I need it, man!!”) If you have zero catnip and you never got your cats hooked on that junk to begin with, you don’t lose any points.
Each set of unique toys gets you more and more points. A set with 1 unique toy gets you 1 point, then 2 toys for 3 points, 3 for 5, 4 for 8, and 5 for 12. The toys stack in sets, so this set would earn you 8 points. This set would earn you 5 points (even though there are some repeats from the first set), and this one gets you a single point.
Whichever cat lady earns the most points wins the game, but ultimately loses at life.
To set up the game, shuffle the stray cat cards and deal out 3 to the table. If you’re playing with 3 players, chuck out all the cards with a 4 in the corner. In a 2-player game, chuck out the 3+ and 4 cards. In both cases, get rid of 2 additional cards at random.
Shuffle the deck and deal 9 cards to the table.
Whichever player has the most cats in real life is the starting player.
The player sitting counter-clockwise from the starting player decides which row or column to block with the cat token. Play begins with the start player and continues clockwise, and ends when LeVar Purrton meows down on your delicious lips.
And now, you’re ready to play Cat Lady.
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Get your own copy of Cat Lady
Cat Lady is the perfect game to fill in the cracks between longer sessions, or something to bust out when you don’t have a lot of time to play. To add it to your own collection, use the Amazon link below, and i’ll receive a small commission!