Roux Dat #51: Way Too Many Cats, Cartographers Heroes: Undercity, & Steam Park: Play Dirty expansion

Hey board gamers, excitement is building for our upcoming regional convention, Southern Board Game Fest 2022! We have a host of events happening at the two-day festival this year including 40+ play-to-win games, a huge but curated library, hot games to play, live streaming with our friends from I Heart Board Games, and of course, free teach-and-plays of some of the hottest games around!

We stopped by Anubis Game & Hobby, one of the sponsors of SoBo, for their weekly board game night, and saw a small but enthusiastic group buzzing about the convention. Looks like we are back on track for a great regional convention. Get your tix for the festival and help “bring meeple together”!

But enough blather, let’s get right to the games we played! Our thanks to Weird Giraffe Games and Thunderworks Games for sending us review / preview copies.

Ou Sont Les Chats?

Jay and I asked the Chat Krewe on Twitch the age old question the other night: Just How Many Are Too Many Cats while playing the game on our Twitch Tuesdays night. I was surprised at how many different answers we got! This question related to our gameplay of Carla Kopp’s newest game coming out on Kickstarter next week, Way Too Many Cats.

Jay and I love Weird Giraffe Games and their catalog. Their games appeal to people who like small(er) box games with a lot of gameplay. Way Too Many Cats jumps on the drafting and spatial scoring wagon that we have seen with a lot of other games lately (think Calico or Vinyl, for example.) In Way Too Many Cats, players run competing cat adoption agencies, and draft cat cards plus kitten and toy tokens that can help them score.

What looks like at first a relatively simple game of drafting and placing tiles becomes much more thinky with the addition of multiple ways to score. You can score for sets of kittens, but watch out, any kitten that doesn’t have a home in a set scores negative points. You can score for placement of cats in the agency, but be careful, you can block yourself into negative points with the wrong placement. There’s end game scoring galore, too.

ROUX DAT SAYS: If you are a fan of spatial puzzle games like Ingenious, Azul, Vinyl or Calico, you should check out Way Too Many Cats when it hits Kickstarter. It’s a thinky challenge that plays quickly like all Weird Giraffe Games offerings, and has quirky, fun art that sets the tone fo the game. Note: We played a prototype version with the rules still being slightly tweaked. That’s one of the things I like about Kickstarter – I’m expecting Carla and her team to be responsive to backers checking out the gameplay and the art.

No Basements Near Bayous

We love randowriters of all shapes and sizes here in the Gumbo, and the flip-and-write variety is one of our top ways to play. Metro-X has the best pencils in the business, and Welcome To… is a game I love playing on BGA or in person any time. I was underwhelmed at first with Cartographers, even though I liked the theme, but when the designers added the Heroes expansion to it, I was hooked.

The folks at Thunderworks Games sent us the three new map packs for Cartographers Heroes, and we had a chance to break out the Undercity map pack right away. Oh wow. Maybe we should not have started Dave out on this map because it is really tricky! (You can check out our playthrough right here.)

Players are still Royal Cartographers, but this time we are charged with exploring and mapping the Undercity, a giant cave that we can dive into through a gate. The elevator pitch is that over the course of four seasons, we need to match up the ever growing map with the terrain features that each season scores – like scoring one point for each forest marked off along the edges of the map. If you haven’t played Heroes, monsters can come out each round to wreck your map (your neighbor decides where they geaux on your map) but heroes can come out to destroy the monsters.

The twist in the Undercity map pack is that the map is broken up into two distinct parts separated by the “floor” of the castle, and parties must start at the gate that interlinks the two sections of the map. The top part is pretty small, while the large part is expansive, so it feels like it should be wide open, but each section you add must connect back to the main gate somehow. That makes for some juicy delicious decisions as you plan out where to place new terrain features.

ROUX DAT SAYS: The Cartographers system is so much better in my opinion with the Heroes elements, and the addition of these new map packs is going to continue to breathe life into the game. Undercity is not for the faint-hearted, however; if you are looking for a real puzzly challenge, pick up a copy of Undercity! But if this is your first experience with Cartographers, you might want to ease into this map pack with a few other plays of other maps first.

Play Dirty With Me

For the most part, real time games and I don’t get along very well. My hands sweat, I get anxious about the results and the time remaining, and especially if it’s team based, I get frustrated if I’m not pulling my weight.

But for some reason, if a game features just little bursts of real time action, I’m in much better shape. Take Steam Park, for instance. When it came out, this game about managing theme parks geared toward robots (see what I did there?) shot up to our most played that summer. My family adored it — and my wife and daughter got really good at it!

The combination of a theme that really appeals to me, a tile laying / city building vibe, and that element of chaos that comes with real time dice rolling sang to me. (You can check out me and Jordan Hopper from the No Cube Zone chatting about Steam Park on Gumbo Live!) Every once in a while we revisit the robot theme park universe, so at Anubis, I was happy to play the Play Dirty expansion with Sarah, David, Jeremy and Anita.

Play Dirty introduced a few new twists that I noticed right away: new stands with new powers, enough components to play with five players, and additional buildings that can be used to expand your current rides. (We did not play with the espionage dice or the new characters.)

This was Jeremy’s first play, so I was enjoying chatting about the rules and the artwork with Jeremy during our play. Steam Park players know that there is a little bit of downtime in each round after the frenetic dice rolling, when savvy players completely plan out their turn, sliding their dice around the board in chunks like they were the tools for a foreteller’s bowl. Jeremy and I were finishing the prep for our turns fairly quickly (which maybe explains our final scores!), and dishing on the look of the game, the home rules our group has come up with to ease the pain of bad card draws, and the strategy behind each of the stands in the game.

I liked the additional elements we threw in, although I did not take advantage of the building extensions. The “stingy” robomeeples were especially fun. Throwing them in and pulling them out allows you to put a “wild” robot in your theme park, meaning they will match and stay on any of the rides no matter the color. But, they only earn you $2 instead of $3, so you don’t want a “stingy” heavy park.

Roux Dat says: I have the Steam Park: Robots expansion, which added a tiny expansion plus some molded robots. I enjoyed the stingy robots enough to want to pick up the Play Dirty expansion. The stands and building extensions were less juicy, in all honesty, so I think I would only pick this up on sale or in a trade. I’m happy with the Steam Park game with the Robots expansion that I have now, but I’m glad I got to try at least some of the modules in the Play Dirty expansion.

THE WRAP UP:

So, that’s it for our first impressions and post-game quarterbacking of three great games. Roux Dat will be back with more commentary and reviews about the games we are playing. Is there a game that you would like to suggest for the next Roux Dat? Send me a tweet @boardgamegumbo or leave a comment here and let’s chat about it.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!! 

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