Cat in the Box is one of those games that as you’re explaining how to play it’s incredibly confusing, but the moment you actually start playing, it’s really simple and easy to understand. It just takes a single round of playing to really get what is going on.
Cat in the Box is a tricks game that scales based on the number of players that are taking part. Each player gets a bunch of counters as well as a color card. This color card is set up with a counter on each color. You will also get to put a counter in the middle space on your counter, as a bet on how many points you are going to score this round. If you get this number correct without going bust in the game, you get a bonus.
Then, each player is dealt a bunch of colorless but numbered cards based on how many players are in the game and players carefully discard one each. In the middle of the table there is a shared board with corresponding numbers on it, as well as four different lines of colors to match the sides of your color card. On your turn, you will take one of your number cards and place it down on one of the four sides of your color card. This will indicate what color your card is, allowing you to put a token on the board on that same number.
This then continues around until everyone has placed a card. If you do not want to place a card in the colored row indicated by the first player that round or you do not have the numbers left in that row, you can place it in another row, but will need to take your token off of that colored side of your color card and will no longer be able to use that color in the future. Placing anything in the red row of the board actually trumps all other rows, so if someone does a high number in yellow, then the next player does a lower number in yellow, and if you do any number in red, you automatically win that round unless someone does a higher red number.
The end of the round happens once everyone has placed down their card in Cat in the Box, and then whoever has the highest card in the colored row that the starting player started with, wins the trick, unless red was played, in which case that person wins the trick — trick meaning round.
The winner collects the cards that have been played and then gets to go first in the next round. Cat in the Box is as simple as declaring what color you have and making sure you do not eliminate your use of colors too early, if you are the person who breaks the game by not having a card to play, you will end up with negative points during the scoring phase of the game. If you did not break the game and did guess the right number of tricks you ended with, you get a bonus for every single counter you have in a row either horizontally or vertically.
Cat in the Box is a game that is designed to scale well and benefits from having more players play the game. There is always one more of each number that can be played, so you do need to watch what other players are doing and make sure that you do not go bust by strategically placing different cards.
I found the idea of getting to make up the color of your cards to be interesting, and the counters used on your colored tracker in front of you to be a genius way to easily see where people are in their game. It’s a very well made game that has had a lot of thought put behind it!
You can purchase Cat in the Box on Amazon.