Pros: Easy to assemble, colorful, unique, durable, fun for pretend play.
Cons: Not much strategy or learning value.
We're very into boardgames at our house. There are a lot of things our little boy likes to do alone with his dad(playing cars, playing video games, making videos together, etc) and there are a lot of things he likes to do with me (cooking, reading, learning activities, coloring and drawing) but for some reason there's not a lot that all three of us together seem to get into. However, we've discovered that we all enjoy boardgames. So, once a week, the three of us try to schedule family game night. Last week, I took my son to the book/toy store where I work and let him pick a new game, and he chose Ravensburger's Cat & Mouse
What You Get
~Plastic game "board"
~4 plastic, weighted, weebly-wobbly mice in 4 colors.
~A large, hollow, plastic Mighty Max the cat
~3 plastic ladders
~one red, 6-sided die with 1, 2, or 3 dots on each side.
~17 pieces of cheese
~6 round black adhesive "feet" for the bottom of the "board"
Looking at this box from the outside, I thought it might be a project to assemble. Fortunately, I was wrong. Assembly of this game is simple. The "board" is a large wedge of plastic yellow cheese standing on an orange plastic round plate. On the plate, surrounding the cheese, are 9 spaces printed on a thick orange paper. The wedge of cheese has 4 round dents in the top of it (for the mice to sit in), a whole in the center, and 6 holes around the bottom (for the mice to slide out of). There are also 3 plastic ladders attached for the mice to "climb" up. On the bottom of the "board" are six round rubber feet that enable it to sit on a table top without sliding around.
Looking at the box, I thought this thing might be a project to assemble. I thought I was for sure going to have to assemble this big old piece of cheese. Fortunately, that is not the case. They made the box tall enough that the cheese comes already attached to the board. The only assembly to be done is attaching the plastic ladders (my 6-year-old actually did it with no trouble) and then sticking the rubber feet on the bottom. Super easy. And, the best thing is, everything stays together once done. You only have to attach the feet and the ladders once.
How to Play
You can play this game with 2 to 4 players. To start, each player chooses one mouse as his game piece. Color choices are orange, lavender, blue, and green. Each player then places their mouse on top of the large wedge of cheese in one of the indents. The 17 wedges of plastic cheese are set aside. The instructions then tell you to place Mighty Max on any of the 9 spaces you wish. Then each player takes a turn to send his mouse falling through the hole in the center. He will will come out any of the 6 holes around the bottom of the cheese and the space he lands on is that player's starting space.
During each turn, the player rolls the die, then moves that number of spaces. Each space on the board has a picture on it that tells you what to do.
If you land on a mouse hugging one piece of cheese you get to take 1 piece of cheese. If you land on a mouse holding 2 pieces of cheese you get to take 2 pieces of cheese. If you land on a mouse running away you have been frightened by Mighty Max and you lose a piece of cheese. If you land on a ladder picture, you immediately take your mouse up the ladder, send him through the hole, and then do whatever the space you land on tells you to do. If you land on the picture of Mighty Max chasing a mouse you get to move Mighty Max to any space on the board you wish.
On each turn, after you finish moving your own mouse, you move Mighty Max forward one space (all moves are made in a clockwise direction). If you have landed on the Mighty Max space and moved him wherever you want to on the board, that counts as your one Mighty Max move and ends your turn.
If you land on the space Mighty Max is already occupying, nothing happens. If Mighty Max lands on you, you lose one piece of cheese.
Winning the Game
The first player to end a turn still in possession of 5 pieces of cheese wins the game.
With no reading required, and minimal counting and strategy, this game is good for preschoolers. It's listed for age 4 to 8. The most difficult thing for really young players to remember is that after they have moved they need to move the cat forward one space. Otherwise, this game is super easy, and I think my 6 year old is going to get bored quickly. He's already grasped the limits of the strategy in this game, which is in choosing the spot to put Mighty Max on when you occasionally land on the picture of Mighty Max. As a game, I think it's great for the preschool set who may be challenged by the small amount of strategy. 7 and 8 year olds will probably be totally bored.
This game is super colorful, and the play pieces are really fun. The game play is pretty unique, although not very challenging. My son really loves this game simply because it's more like a toy than a game. The four little mice, cat, and pieces of cheese have good play value beyond the game itself, and it's all well-made and durable. I wish I'd purchased it earlier to get more out of it, but overall, it has met my expectations.
The idea of being able to start the game off with the cat on any space didn't appeal to us. I quickly altered the rules to this game and we decided that Mighty Max should always start on the space with his picture on it.
It's also worth noting that Mighty Max is big and hollow. He is in fact big enough and hollow enough to completely cover a mouse whose space he lands on. This can be fun, but disruptive as when you do this you suddenly don't know where your piece is. So, we quickly banned this as a house rule.
If you think your little one will enjoy this game as a toy, definitely get it as it's not too expensive and the game is fun. However, buy it when your child is about 4 years old. Don't wait until he's 6 or 7.