It only takes a short amount of time spent within the world of tabletop gaming to realise its many treats come in wide and varied flavours.
I recently spent some time as a penguin, skating, largely out of control, around an ice clad school in search of fish. I’ve brought the towering city of Tokyo to its knees in the guise of the all-conquering, Kraken. I’ve been a knight, a werewolf, a survivor, a victim, heck, I’ve even been involved with some exploding kittens. But, I can honestly say I never expected to say the following line, so here goes…I’ve also recently been betting on how long a cat in a box has been dead.
And in all honesty, had I known such a thing would prove so ridiculously fun, I’d have been seeking out dead cats a long, long time ago.
Dead Cat may seem a little on the odd side in terms of a title for a game. But, given its complete moniker – Dead Cat: A Quantum Physics Card Game, we add a little light to the otherwise seemingly dark nature of this little game’s subject matter, and believe me, when you crack open the box and dive into the action, that light becomes utterly blindingly brilliant!
The foundations of this delightful game are built upon the Shrodinger’s Cat paradox (hence the quantum physics byline of the title), wherein a cat is imagined to be inside a closed box with a radioactive source and a flask of poison. If radioactivity is detected within the box, the flask shatters and the poison kills the cat. The theory behind this states that after a certain length of time the cat is both alive and dead until such time that the box is opened and the cat becomes either dead or alive…yeah, my brain hurts too.
From my own opinion, that of someone who really isn’t truly grasping the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment, the best thing to come out of it is this superb quick fire card game from, He Does Not Throw Dice.
What we get is a game that is quick to learn, easy to teach, but near impossible to put down.
The idea is that from the deck of cards, which holds sixteen alive cat cards, and four dead cat cards, Schrodinger’s Box is formed. A certain number of cards are removed from play at random before each shuffle based upon the number of players at the table. In our case this was four players, which translated to four cards being ejected. The remaining cards are placed face down in the centre of the table. Each player has a die which at the start of the game shows the number one. This is the betting die. On their go a player may do one of two things; they may peek inside the box by taking the top card, having a sneaky look, place it in a discard pile, and then change their bet on the die, or, they can call, ‘Dead Cat!’ Basically if at any point during play a player spots a dead cat card they can make the call, importantly, they don’t have to make the call right away, they can instead bring a little bluffing to proceedings to keep everyone on their toes. As soon as Dead Cat is called, the discard pile is turned over one card at a time from the last card placed until the dead cat card appears. Whoever has a die with the number closest to the card count that reached the deceased kitty wins one point. Points are depicted via little black blocks. The first player to reach three points wins, and then, you all decide you simply have to play another round. At least that’s how it works for us.
In reality it’s pretty easy to explain the mechanics of the gameplay, however, it’s far more difficult to express just how wonderful this game really is.
Dead Cat is not only a simple yet ingenious little card game, rife with bluffing and fiendishly clever tactics (that in my case rarely work), it’s also a wonderfully elegant game. There are relatively few components at play, but everything seems to come together to create pure magic. The artwork alone is more than worth the entrance fee, with genuinely beautifully depicted feline friends, but the real joy, as it should be, comes from the fluid and slick gameplay and the opportunity for some back and forth between players. I’m a big fan of games that allow room for players to laugh and chat together in the spaces between the action, and Dead Cat, certainly does that with aplomb.
Normally I’d nitpick now and highlight any issues. But to be honest there aren’t really any that have become apparent with this game. It delivers the experience I believe it sets out to. Playing with the game is a joy, and it’s also one that demands further attention once you do. In fact, in that respect it’s very much in tune with its feline theme.
Perhaps it’s almost too simple to offer genuine longevity? I suppose only time will tell on that front, but at this moment I can only envisage plenty of time at the table for Dead Cat nestled nicely in-between those meatier games as a very neat filler.
One for the kids?
I actually thought Dead Cat might prove too challenging for my youngest. The box points towards a 12+ age range. However, having enjoyed a healthy number of plays, I can safely say that the appeal of Dead Cat reaches further than its creators, Elisa and Luca, probably ever envisioned.
Our time bluffing and counter bluffing, laughing and gazing at cats, was enjoyed by myself, my sixteen-year-old son, my eleven-year-old daughter, and, wait for it, my six-year-old son. I can happily report that the game has proved a real smash hit in our household.
Thanks to the speed of play and streamlined nature of the rules, attention never waned. The focus became about not only planning strategy, but also trying to read the face of others at the table after they peek into the box. This led to some brilliantly funny moments, and when all said and done, isn’t that the whole reason we play in the first place, to embrace those special little moments with family and friends that keep us smiling long after the game is back on the shelf?
Quotes from the kids
Holly (11) said, “It was good fun, I just wish it was a bit longer! I really enjoyed playing it.”
Dylan (16) added, “It’s really good, really easy to get the hang of and something anyone can play.”
Dead Cat is currently going great guns on Kickstarter. It has reached the funding goal with eleven days still to run. It would have been a real shame had this one gone under the radar, because snuggled cosy within the little box is an absolute gem of a game, a thoughtful, elegant, beautiful game. Oh, and a dead cat.
You can find and support the game on Kickstarter here.
Dead Cat will cost you only £12 for a boxed copy of the game. It plays 2 to 4 players, and an average game lasts 10 to 15 minutes.
We owe a huge thanks to, He Does Not Throw Dice, for providing us with a prototype copy for review purposes. Huge thanks folks!
Dead Cat offers considerably more than the sum of its parts. Inside the box is a sleek, beautifully designed and deliciously fun game that has something for everyone in the family.