Cat in the Box Gen Con preview — Clever as a cat and cute as a kitten

If Cat in the Box and five people inhabit a closed room, then, supposedly, the people in the room are playing and not playing Cat in the Box. Both options exist simultaneously until the room is opened and verified. That’s Schrodinger’s Cat, in a box, Cat in the Box. Don’t worry, the rules are just as easy to understand. Not really, actually yes, well, almost.

Welcome to Cat in the Box, little kitten! Where a poison pellet awaits and may or may not kill you! Wait… that’s the other one. Welcome to Cat in the Box! A quantum trick taking game for 2-5 players, from Bézier Games. In nerdy card game jargon, “trick taking” means everyone plays a series of tricks. A “trick” is when everyone plays a single card from their hand before determining the winning card, and thus the winner of the trick. This trick taking game is perfectly normal. Like most trick taking games, there are four suits, in this case colors, and players must follow suit. If someone leads a trick with green, then the following players must play a green card if they have any. The highest card played matching the led color wins, unless red is played, in which case red wins, because red is trump and always wins. Perfectly normal.

Oh, I did forget to mention one thing. All the cards are black. I forgot to mention several things actually. Sorry, my mind just hasn’t been the same since the implosion… In a full five player game, the entire deck of cards consists of 1 through 9 with five cards of each. All black, remember? Well, not really, they are simultaneously red, blue, yellow, and green, but yes, they are black. To help keep track of all these possibilities, a handy chart lies center on the table. This chart has four rows, one for each color, and nine columns, one for each number. “Why are there only four rows if there are five of each number in the deck,” you ask? Wooaahhhhh, careful now. Remember what happened the last time we caused a paradox? Oh right, that hasn’t happened yet.

First the cards are shuffled together, then distributed to each player evenly. Each player chooses one card to remove from their hand and set aside for the round. Each player also bets whether they will win exactly one, two, or three tricks. To start the round, the first player, Sam, plays a blue 3. What’s that? “How is it blue if the cards are all black?” Because Sam said it was blue, now stop interrupting! Sam then places his token on the blue 3 of the chart. Now that we know where the blue 3 is, none of the cards can also be a blue 3, lest we cause another pesky paradox. Thus, no player can play another blue 3 for the rest of the round. The area filled on the chart indicates so.

The next three players then follow suit and each play a blue card, marking the chart with their tokens accordingly. But the fifth player, Jason, he’s a testy one, decides he does not have any blue cards in his hand at all, and plays a red 1. Jason wins the trick, but because he declared he holds no blues, he can no longer play a blue for the rest of the round. As the winner of the first trick, Jason leads the next one. Play continues this way, trick after trick, as the chart of possibilities narrows until everyone has one card remaining. Then they score the round!

Each trick won earns one point! Players also score bonus points if they won their bet at the beginning of the round. Bonus points are calculated based on the tokens on the chart. If Sam earned the bonus scoring and the largest orthogonal cluster of his tokens on the chart is four, Sam earns four bonus points. And that’s Cat in the Box! Huh? “What about paradoxes?” Oh those are terrible. Players who cause a paradox immediately end the round and receive a negative point for each trick they won! Here, I’ll show you! During each round, if a player ever cannot play any card in their hand, they cause a paradox and the universe implo…

If Cat in the Box and five people inhabit a closed room…

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