Welcome to Contains Small Parts! This new series will focus on gaming with kids. My 4 year old son Lucas is being introduced to the world of all things Nerd. Of late, he’s shown a keen interest in board games, just like his father! Like any responsible parent, I’m going to flip this interest into content for our website. For our first article, Lucas and I played IDW’s new game Slap Cat!
Cats are cute, fluffy curmudgeons that we all love. Heck, the internet is practically built on a foundation of our adoration for digital cat content. No one loves cats more than my son. He’s deathly afraid of dogs for absolutely no reason at all, but he unconditionally loves cats.
Slap Cat! tasks players as mad scientists with building the cutest, silliest, or ugliest cats they can for points.
Concept and Rules
Slap Cat! is a pretty simple game that takes place over the course of three rounds, with each round consisting of two phases. Players begin by shuffling the stack of cards and then dividing them up into roughly equal stacks for each player.
The first phase of each round is the Slap Phase. During this phase, players simultaneously draw a card from each of their decks and place them quickly in the center of the area. Players then slap their hand down on whatever card they want to take. Players do this until each player has a hand of 8 cards.
The second phase of the game is the Construction Phase. This is where each player selects a card of their choosing and places it face down in the center of the play area. Once again, players reveal their cards after a countdown.
Many cards don’t simply reveal pretty kitties. Many of them have actions that need to be resolved in order of importance. Players can swap cards, cancel swaps with a Paws In! Card, draw more cards, or donate a card to another player. Once the actions have been resolved, players begin building their own cats in their build area.
The round ends when every player is out of cards. Points are awarded for completed cats only. Each cat part (head, middle, and tail) has a star rating at the bottom of each card. Points are scored using the lowest star number for each connection.
For example, the above cat would score two points because the middle piece is only worth one measly star. Each one of those connections is worth a point each, making the score two. The below cat would score a 8 because it gets a 1 point deduction for the ratty cat toy (and it’s worth even more if you play with the variant scoring options).
Hooray for Pug-butt!
Play continues as described above for two more rounds. The person with the highest score at the end of round 3 wins. If there’s a tie, players need to look at the cats they constructed in the last round. The player who has played the most pieces of a single color (most purebred) cat wins. If there’s still a tie thereafter, the player who slaps the Draw pile first wins.
Slap Cat! Gameplay
Lucas and I played four sessions of Slap Cat! together. We actually both split the difference, with each player winning a pair. The first session was a little rough, as one could probably imagine, but later sessions were more fun as we both got the rules down pat. Even still, there were a few times I found myself going back to the rules for a more clarification as situations arose.
Lucas and I played the two-player variant, which allows for hands of 10 cards instead of 8, removes the Paws In! Cards, and allows for players to draw two cards instead of one during the Slap Phase. The latter means that each player gets to use both hands to slap two cards from the middle instead of just one. Having to slap-choose your two cards certainly added a little more chaos to the proceedings!
Lucas was not happy with the tie mechanic until it helped him win our third game. We tied our second game, but I legitimately had a purebred cat, so that won it easily for me. I mean, most kids hate losing (especially after not getting in a nap that day), but I gotta say that my purebred cat was absolutely luxurious. He won the third game by slapping the deck because neither of us had any matching cards. He’s cool with tying now.
There was a lot of hand holding on my part as the parent helping Lucas make game decisions like what kind of cat to build and what the symbols on the cards did. This was to be expected, and I assume it will get better as we play more. The rules are simple enough for someone a couple of years older than my own son, but it’s still totally playable at his age.
For each of these game review articles going forward, I would like to suggest some house rules to make play interesting, more fluid, and potentially easier for younger kiddos. Some games can be a bit dense or complicated for little guys and gals. Bending the rules here or there can certainly make the game more interesting for the little ones and less stressful for the adults!
- Hands Back, Then Slap – Slap Cat’s gameplay is intended to be fast and loose, which totally fits the game, but my son is always a little more cautious. He tended to default to slapping whatever cards he drew from his pile. By our third game, I suggested that we slap our cards down, but then take five seconds to put our hands by our side to see what was laid out, and then we would slap what we wanted. This tended to get him to try cards outside of his own deck.
- Build-A-Cat: In a pinch, one could remove the Slap Phase by having each player draw ten cards and constructing the most ridiculously awesome cat that they can from their hand. Score accordingly once a cat is constructed, with all the bonuses and deductions available too. Though slapping the table is kind of fun, this might be a good way to reinforce the scoring rules early on without the added insanity of scrambling to slap the table. Once they get a feel for the scoring, they’ll also know better which cards to slap to build the best cat when you reintroduced the Slap Phase.
Lucas is always good for a quote. Here’s what he had to say about the game. I sat down with Lucas a day after playing our fourth game to see what he thought about the game.
Me: So, buddy, what was your favorite part of playing Slap Cat?
Lucas: Hmmm. Me taking your tails on swaps. That’s pretty funny. (edited to add: little booger was talented at this)
Me: Why is that funny?
Lucas: Cause that’s so funny. You didn’t have any tails. Your cats had no butts.
Me: That was pretty funny. I couldn’t score those cats.
Lucas: You lost.
Me: Thanks for reminding me of that. What else was cool about Slap Cat?
Lucas: Making silly cats is pretty awesome. They were spanky. And you get to do funny things to you.
Me: Would you play this game if it were about dogs?
Lucas: Dad, I’m a cat person. You have to accept that.
Slap Cat! Ring Pop Rating
Slap Cat! is a fun game for all the cat lovers out there. With its easy to learn mechanics, interactive play, and replay potential, Slap Cat gives families a chance to get moving while having fun. Even dog-loving families will have fun. Probably.
Lucas, like many of his peers, loves Ring Pops. As our final word on each game, Lucas and I will give the game a rating based out of five Ring Pops.
Lucas: ????? out of 5? (based on “spanky cats” and silly play)
Dad: ???? out of 5 ? (based on fun play, but slightly tougher rules for young kids)
Slap Snag yourself a copy of Slap Cat! here!
Disclosure: IDW Games provided Nerds on Earth with a copy of Slap Cat! in exchange for an honest review.