Cat’s Tsukiji Game Review — Meeple Mountain

If you love cats, then Cat’s Tsukiji from Homosapiens Lab might just tickle your whiskers.

There are a whole slew of cat games that have flooded the market in recent years, so you might be over that, but have you played one where you are the cat? Or perhaps I can whet your appetite with some fish instead? Are your kids fans of sushi or sashimi? Then, this might tickle their whiskers too!

Overview

Cat’s Tsukiji is a real time, set collection game for a clowder of 2 to 4 cats. Players take on the role of cats who are pawing at the freshest fish that has come to the Tsukiji market in Tokyo, Japan. In this game, the felines will have to see who is the fastest to get the most valuable fish since only the alpha cat who has had its first fill wins the game.

Set Up

The game is simple to set up. All the cards are shuffled to form a face down draw pile and the Market of fish is set out within reach of all players, equal to all the players and one more. A three player game will have four cards in play and a four player game would have five cards and so on. Players put on their cute little Cat Paw finger socks and they are ready to play!

Now you can be a kitty cat too!

Game Play

The objective of the game is to be the first cat with the most valuable collection of fish. Rounds are very quick and play like this: at the start, on the count of 3, players lay their Cat Paws simultaneously on their choice of fish cards on the market to lay claim. The catch here is that if more than one player is fighting over the same card, then no one gets it and the card is discarded. But if, after scanning the table to gauge what opponents are about to pounce on, they are the only player to call dibs on a card, then they get to keep the fish. The market is reset and refreshed for the next round.

The game is played in multiple rounds. When a player has collected 2 sets of three cards for different kinds of fish, the round ends and is scored. Players gain points indicated on the cards only if they have complete sets of different fish. Completed sets are worth the points indicated on the bottom right corner of the card. So a set of 3 salmon cards will yield 2 points, a set of 3 saury will yield 1 point, etc. Incomplete sets gain no points. The game ends when someone has accumulated a total of 6 points at the end of the last round and the cat with the most victory points wins!

Fastest fingers win.

Final Thoughts

The age range listed on the box indicates five years and older and plays for 20 minutes. In reality, the playtime is roughly half of that with most games ending in 10 minutes or less. The cute artwork, theme and straightforward game play appeals very much to the young kittens at the table, but there’s something here for the cats too.

When you open the box, the first thing that stands out is that the box space is mostly taken up by six different cat-like finger socks that were just waiting to be put on. My kids and I were so amewsed by how realistic they were when we used the finger socks in the game. It is one of those components that make a game so much more visually richer and satisfying than the actual game plays. The first thing out of our 5 year old’s mouth when she saw them was, “This game is purrfect!”

Actual fish at the now defunct Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

In going with the theme, each card has a cute depiction of one of the six fish; There is Saury, Flounder, Fugu, Eel, Salmon, Tuna and Squid. The scores on these fish also reflect a somewhat true demand and supply of these types in the market. I pawbably don’t know my fish as well as I should. So, as a family, we have not spent much time discussing fish species. Yet, I am pretty sure that, when my five year old looked at a black and white outline of a fish, she was only able to correctly identify it because we were playing this game a few days before!

In game play, even the kids were able to point out how alike it was to Go Nuts For Donuts, which is another family favorite of ours. Both games utilize real time set collection as their main mechanic. In both games, if two or more players selected the same card, it was discarded.

Now, when I think about games as a parent, I’m keenly aware of what social interaction they bring to the table. I could see that despite its simplicity, Cat’s Tsukiji gave my kids the opportunity to think through their opponents’ goals and strategize a plan. For example, should they try to swipe a fish from the market that no one wanted or go head to head with an opponent for a highly sought after fish that might stand to gain them nothing? Players are not supposed to collude together in a game like this but I decided that house rules would apply so that they could work with each other to come to an amenable compromise on both sides.

The Cat and Fish theme is cute and it represents something people find it worth fighting for. It works with my cat crazy kittens. It is a simple game to play, they might learn to recognize some fish along the way, and it got them working toward a compromise. As a parent, I think that combination is pawsitively purrfect and definitely worth the catfight.

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