Island of Cats is one of the most popular polyomino games. The Kittens & Beasts expansion is now available from Skellig Games. In addition to the two eponymous game elements, you will also encounter events in this expansion. The modules of the expansion are suitable for both classic and family mode. The solo mode can also be expanded with "Kittens & Beasts". The test shows how worthwhile this extension is.
In our review too island of cats the game received a top rating. Skellig Games is now bringing along Kittens & Beasts an expansion to the "great furball puzzle". If the big cats from the core game weren't cute enough for you, there are now baby kittens. In order not to be completely overwhelmed by the cuteness of the little kittens, there are also the beasts looking for friendship. The third module that the extension offers are events that run at the beginning of each day. All modules can be combined as desired. Except for the events module, all modules are also compatible with family mode. However, this was not tested for this review.
The difficulty of the solo mode is not changed much by the modules. Only the event module increases the difficulty here.
Nimble kittens, big beasts
If you use the extension, you can freely decide how many and which modules you use. They all work on their own or in any combination with each other. No matter which module(s) you choose, the adjustments and additions to the game structure can be made quickly. The rules of the individual modules are also easy to understand. The tiles with kittens, beasts and events all have their own pouch, so that concealed drawing is perfectly possible. There are also wooden figures as beasts and king rats. Score markers, the kitten board, and the semi-permanent tiles are all made of sturdy cardboard and are of the same excellent quality as the base game components. In order to be able to record all points that can be achieved with the expansion, there is also an updated scoring block.
The kitten module
If you choose the kitten module, place the kitten board under the base game island board. Four kittens are placed there, which are randomly drawn from the kitten bag.
During the game, in the cat rescue phase, there is an opportunity to rescue kittens. This option is only available to the starting player each round. On any turn this round, the person who played the most boots can save up to two kittens with one basket. Saving just a single kitten costs two fish. With two kittens, the cost is five fish. Kittens and cats should not be rescued in the same basket. When placing the kittens, the same rules apply as for the big cats. The kittens are just smaller. Kittens are treated like cats in every way on the boat. The kitten module does not change anything for the final scoring.
The beast module
The beasts module contains significantly larger polyominoes with the beasts. These are in the red beast bag. Three or four cat colors are printed on the beasts at different corners. If you manage to add families of the corresponding color to the printed cats and thus form "friendships", you receive five points at the end of the game. In order to keep track of which friendships desired by the beasts have already been fulfilled, you place a wooden beast figure on the connection between beast and family after a friendship has been fulfilled.
The beasts only come into play on the first day. Instead of the cats, depending on the number of people, a certain number of beasts are randomly drawn from the bag and placed on the right side of the island. The cost is five fish, as for the cats on the right. Any beasts still in play at the end of the first day are removed from the game. On all following days there are only cats on both sides. The placement rules are the same as for cats.
The event module
The events module brings tiles that are right between the kittens and the beasts in size. However, these are not placed on the boat, but are placed on the day track on the island board during assembly. On the first and last day, the event tiles are placed action side up. Points side up on days two, three and four. The promotion page offers a bonus, gives a penalty or changes the rules that day. On days where events are point-side up, points are awarded for the corresponding condition at the start of that day. These points come in the form of point markers.
Some event tiles give the players king rats. These are placed according to the usual placement rules and count as "tiles" and as rats. In the end, they count three minus points. If you want to remove them, you have to feed a neighboring cat with a fish, which then takes care of the king rat. Other event tokens can give players semi-permanent tokens. These are either a basket or four boots. If you receive such a tile, you can choose one of the two options. In the cat rescue phase, any number of semi-permanent tiles can then be played with the green cards, which are then discarded at the end of the day.
In the final scoring, all your collected point markers are added up and the negative points for king rats are deducted.
Number of players: 1 to 4
Age: from 8 years
Playing time: 30 to 90 minutes
Long-term motivation: very good
Genre: Kenner game (with family game variant)
Core mechanisms: drafting, set collection, tile-laying
Author: Frank West
Illustrations: Dragolisco, Frank West
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Cost: 30 Euro
Anyone who likes the island of cats and longs for a bit of fresh air can go without hesitation Kittens & Beasts to grab. The first two modules fit perfectly thematically. The events are more of a purely playful addition without really being thematic. Maybe this would have worked better with a different presentation than the small plates, but that's not really annoying either. At least the events give some guidance on which strategies to pursue on each day. The rulebook follows the same concept as that of the base game. The modules are thematically integrated in extra boxes. The presentation of the rules of the individual modules is, as usual, very good.
There is nothing wrong with the game material either. Tiles and wooden figures have the same excellent quality as in the basic game. Here, however, there is again a small criticism of the events. Since the game has so far managed without large symbolism, the iconography on the small tiles is not really intuitive. In the card format, one could perhaps have included some story here, as well as formulating the effects of the events with text.
The kitten module integrates the most into the game. The fun factor is greatest here. The added focus on the boots brings a new dynamic to the rescue phase and filling in small gaps is made easier by the kittens. Families can also be built up faster with the kittens, which is also an advantage in the beasts module. The integration of the beast module feels a bit unsatisfactory. The limited availability of the beasts for the first round means that when playing with this module you have to postpone the actual rescue of the cats on the first day if you want to have a beast or two on your own boat. Once they are on the boat, the colors of the cat families required for the friendships offer a decision-making aid when rescuing the cats and kittens.
The event module looks the most superimposed but also offers the most variety. The effects of the individual tiles are very well chosen. The negative effects are not so "hard" that they can completely block a tactic, but ensure that you have to have some flexibility. The different scoring conditions in each round are another option for securing points and are both a decision aid and an additional option that requires some thought.
The excellent solo mode of the base game is hardly changed. The kitten and beast modules add little to the complexity. With the beasts, it depends somewhat on the order of the solo colors whether it is worth fulfilling the friendships. The sister gets 9 points for a three color beast and 12 points for a four color beast. So it creates a high incentive to take care of the friendships if you took a beast in the first round.
The solo mode becomes noticeably more difficult with the events. It takes a lot of focus on the events on a day to day basis if you don't want your sister to get a big advantage here. When playing the events solo, the rules recommend skipping one or two of the extended solo lessons if you normally play with them. You should also follow this recommendation, as the difficulty is kept at a comparable level.
In a subjective ranking of the modules, the kitten module takes first place. The event module follows in second place, followed by the beast module. The combination of all modules works excellently. The two modules in the title of the expansion go particularly well together.
This extension is not a "must-have". The basic game itself is partly responsible for this, since it simply offers so much variability. What the extension brings with it works very well. The small additions to the game keep everything that was good from the base game and add good things to it.
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Last updated on 8.03.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API