Some gaming nights demand a deep and complex strategy game. Other times, you want to role-play a thrilling fantasy adventure. But sometimes, you’re just looking for a casual, quick game. Depending on your group, it can be wise to have a few options in your back pocket for game themes that virtually anyone can enjoy – like cats! Believe it or not, there’s a plethora of fun games about felines out there, and most offer rules and gameplay that are welcoming to families or new players, but still have enough fun concepts to appeal to veteran gamers. 

Snag one of these titles for an inexpensive and charming side trek into the world of cats. 

Purrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail
Publisher: IDW Games

The dastardly Furriarty is up to no good, and it’s up to Purrlock Holmes and the investigators at Scotland Pound to capture the felonious feline. Purrlock Holmes is a game of deduction for two to five players, in which everyone is working together to prevent Furriarty’s escape, while simultaneously competing to be the most astute detective. Every player has a case, represented by a card that includes both a suspect and a time of day, but that card is placed upright and facing away from them, so you can’t see it; it’s your job to guess that card. Play other cards with suspects and hours on them, and the other players are obligated to tell you if you have a lead (by guessing the correct suspect or a correct or adjacent hour of the crime) or a dead end (your suspect is wrong, and your hour is off). When you’re ready to make your guess, you come one step closer to capturing Furriarty, represented by a token that flees along a prescribed path at the end of every turn. The card art (filled with suspects like the Goose, the Rat, or the Toad) and components (paw print tokens and sturdy cardboard player boards) are top notch, and the constant mystery of trying to figure out your current investigation demands you think critically and take chances. Purrlock Holmes plays in about 30 minutes, and offers a delightful mash-up of Victorian crime and cute animals. 

Here, Kitty, Kitty!
Publisher: Fireside Games

This delightful, family-friendly game is all about collecting cats. A horde of cute plastic cats has invaded the neighborhood at the center of the table, and each player has a game board representing their home. Win by luring the most cats into your home – first into the yard, then the porch, and eventually into the cozy environs of the house interior. Grab cats from the center of the table, or steal them from your opponents’ homes. A deck of cards adds complexity and increased options on your turn. Play an alarm system card to keep your opponents from catnapping your precious felines. Deploy a cardboard box to lure additional cats onto the porch. Enact the Unexpected Blessing card to discover that one of your cats was pregnant all along, and now you have additional kittens! Here, Kitty, Kitty! is cleverly designed, and the physical plastic cats add color and excitement to the table. While some reading is required, older kids in particular tend to be delighted by the constant give and take of cats moving between the neighborhood and houses. 

Exploding Kittens
Publisher: Exploding Kittens (self-published)

Launched via a highly successful Kickstarter, Exploding Kittens has gained popularity for its absurdist humor, silly card art, and smart gameplay. The game is all about avoiding one of the exploding kitten cards that is hidden away in the draw deck. Your personal hand of cards gives you tools to avoid that grim fate. One card might let your all-seeing goat wizard look ahead to subsequent cards in the deck, which might give you the info you need to play a bunnyraptor and escape without having to draw a card. Hairy Potato Cats, Bear-O-Dactyls, and Electromagnetic Pomeranian Storms lurk in the deck, promising ever-more insanity. If your hand doesn’t give you the tools to avoid the exploding kitten, you’re eliminated from the game; you won’t have long to wait, as a full round of play takes all of about 15 minutes. Exploding Kittens is goofy, laugh-inducing, and weird, and a perfect option for groups looking for a good warm-up game before a longer evening of other weightier games. 

You Gotta Be Kitten Me!
Publisher: Stone Blade Entertainment

This simple party card game is quick to learn and easy to play, but it mostly gets laughs because of the adorable pictures of kittens (and sometimes puppies) that appear on the card faces – each of which has a ridiculous colored accessory added to the picture, like a bow tie, hat, or glasses. After every player gets a hand of cards, players take turns bidding on how many of certain colors or accessories appear on all the cards currently in play, such as “Three hats!” The next player must up the bid, or challenge it by shouting “You gotta be kitten me!” At that point, all players show their hands, and a tally is taken to see if the current bid is met; the loser of the round gives a card away to the winner, until only one player has cards. The trick, of course, is to use your own hand to inform your guess. But to be honest, that’s not enough info to make an especially informed decision. Instead, take You Gotta Be Kitten Me! at face value – a fast-playing game about cute animal pictures – and I think you’ll have a fine time. 

The Cat Game
Publisher: Spin Master

This recent release combines the cuteness of cat photos with the classic gameplay of Pictionary. Two competing teams each have a designated drawer. The drawing player has an erasable pad and a selection of nearly 18 cat stickers that can be placed on the pad (at least one must be used in each picture). The drawing player then pulls a card with three category options – fLICKS, PURRsons & PURRfessions, and CAT-tivities – and must draw one of the designated words, with the help of the cat stickers. Your word could be Harry Potter or Han Solo. Taking a Shower or Back to the Future. But always with cats added to the image. Teams then compete to figure out the word in question. The Cat Game certainly doesn’t go for crazy originality in its design concept, but the familiar structure, cute cat pictures, and brisk play sessions could make it a good fit for many groups. The Cat Game is currently exclusive to Target stores.

Catan
Publisher: Asmodee

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Great game, though!

If there’s a concept or theme that gets you excited, there’s a good bet that there’s a board or card game that has you covered, whether it’s cats, pirates, romance, cowboys, or any number of other ideas. You can peruse any number of additional tabletop gaming recommendations by clicking on the Top of the Table banner below. If you’d like some personalized recommendations, drop me a line via e-mail or Twitter through the links below, and I’ll do my best to guide you and your group to a fun evening of gaming.