I’ve observed an interesting trend in the past couple of months in some of the games I’ve been sent to review: cats! Here are three games (and one puzzle) that feature cute kitties–and some interesting gameplay: Tem-Purr-A, Kitty Paw, Cat Tower, and Cat Stax. The first three are all from Taiwanese game designers, and it’s been interesting to see some more games from Asia hitting the US, because they often have a different feel to them than the European and American games I’ve played. (If that’s not enough cats for you, Dave Banks just posted a review of yet another cat-themed game: Here, Kitty Kitty!)
Tem-Purr-A is a new title designed by Kuraki Mura and published by Iello Games that was a big hit at GameStorm recently. You and your fellow players are all cats at an eating contest, so of course your goal is to eat as much as possible without keeling over from indigestion.
At a glance: Tem-Purr-A is for 3 to 7 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It retails for $14.99. It’s family-friendly and I think is fine for kids even younger than 8, though younger kids may need a little help with the strategy.
- 72 Dish cards
- 17 Action cards
- 6 Indigestion cards
- 15 Indigestion tokens
- 1 Play Direction token
There are six different Dish cards, numbered 2 to 7, each picturing a different Japanese cuisine. I suppose I should note, for the squeamish, that the foods include pufferfish and octopus. There are three types of Action cards, easily recognized by their bright yellow background (and lack of number). And the Indigestion cards are also readily identifiable: a fat cat passed out, with a green cat ghost rising from its very full tummy.
The artwork is terrific, and just about everyone I’ve played this with has really loved it. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with adorable cats and food.
The Indigestion tokens are simple cardboard disks with the ghost on them, and the Play Direction token is a double-sided cardboard token that just has clockwise arrows on one side and counter-clockwise arrows on the other.
How to Play
The goal of the game is to have the fewest Indigestion tokens when the game ends, which happens when any player has collected 3 Indigestion tokens.
Setup is simple: Shuffle the Dish and Action cards together and deal everyone 5 cards. Set the Play Direction token on clockwise. Shuffle 1 Indigestion card into the deck, and then set it in the center of the table as a draw pile. Pick a random player to begin.
The first player will start by playing a Dish card to the table, thus “serving” the first dish. Play continues clockwise, and each player must do one of the following:
- Serve a Dish: play a matching card from you hand to the stack, passing along even more food to the next player.
- Eat a Mouthful: Draw as many cards as the total sum of the Dish cards in the stack (and discard the stack). Then reveal those cards–if you reveal any Indigestion cards, you take an Indigestion token and the round ends. Either way, you add all the non-Indigestion cards to your hand. If you didn’t get Indigestion, you play a card from your hand to start a new stack.
- Play an Action Card: You may only play Action cards on top of a dish. “+1” just adds one to the total. The Reverse card reverses the order of play–flip the Play Direction token to indicate this. The Pointing card lets you choose the next player.
- Skip a Dish: Discard the whole stack and start a new one. You must have two identical Dish cards to do this–one goes in the discard, and one starts the new stack.
(Note to those who have played with me: we used the wrong “Eat a Mouthful” rules at first. We were revealing cards one at a time until an Indigestion card came up, which meant that sometimes you got only a few cards or none at all before getting a token. The actual rules state that you draw all of the cards first, and then reveal to see if you got any Indigestion cards. You keep all the rest, and Indigestion cards will only cause you to draw 1 token no matter how many cards showed up.)
When a player gets Indigestion, the discard pile is shuffled back into the deck, and that player will start the next round by offering the first dish. Also, that player may decide whether to add another Indigestion card to the deck. Everyone keeps their hands of cards for the next round.
The game ends as soon as somebody has gotten 3 Indigestion tokens. The player with the fewest tokens wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player with the most cards.
Tem-Purr-A plays really quickly and is a riot. We found it best to name the dish you were offering to your neighbor, and offer excuses whenever you turned down a dish to pass it along to somebody else. The numbers add up really quickly: it only takes a few platters of sushi (the 7 card) before it feels like you’re going to draw the entire deck.
Of course, if you have the right cards, you can always pass it off, whether that’s by adding to the pile or swapping it out for a new dish. But if you keep playing cards instead of drawing, you’ll eventually run out of cards–forcing you to eat whatever is put in front of you. Plus, you’re not going to win any eating contests by keeping your mouth shut.
I’m really not sure why adding an Indigestion card to the deck is optional, really. When I played with my kids, they never wanted to add them in, which made the game last longer because there weren’t as many chances to get Indigestion. However, at GameStorm I just made it mandatory, and everyone liked the way that it escalated the game, particularly when a lot of people managed to eat successfully. You knew that there were a whole bunch of Indigestion cards shuffled into a smaller and smaller deck, to the point where you had to think twice about eating watermelon (the 2 card) because you were afraid of getting Indigestion so easily.
Tem-Purr-A is definitely a new favorite for me. It won’t scratch my itch for a deep strategy game, but I love the way the press-your-luck aspect fits the eating contest theme. I think it’ll make a very nice appetizer to start off a game night, or a dessert at the end. Look for it at your local game store or order a copy from Amazon.