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Be a scaredy but clever cat this Halloween in BOOoop.

I fell in love with the abstract strategy game boop. when I first played it at the Treehouse Game Café (https://www.treehousesheffield.com) in Sheffield. I scoured the halls at this year's UKGE trying to get my paws on a copy but alas came home with empty mitts. I couldn't contain my excitement when I found out that Smirk & Dagger Games (www.smirkanddagger.com/) were releasing a limited edition Halloween version called BOOoop., which also featured extra game play. I wasn't expecting my copy to arrive before Halloween, but was beyond delighted when it did!


So you're now probably wondering what BOOop. is all about. For a start it is about KITTIES! (Yes if it wasn't for the hubby being allergic to cats, I would be one of those crazy cat ladies...). Read on to learn more!


The BOOoop. game box lid stood upright in the background, with the bottom part of the box with the cat meeples inside at front left. There is also the rulebook and quilted board.

Players: 2

Ages: 10+

Game Time: 25 minutes

Gameplay

In both boop. and BOOoop by Scott Brady, the 'board' is a six-by-six quilt style stitched fabric grid that is placed on the upside down box bottom to represent the bed frame. Each player begins with eight kitten meeples and one ghost cat meeple.

You and your opponent take it in turns to place a piece onto the bed in any open space available. When a kitten enters the board it goes "boop", which is to say that it pushes every other kitten next to it one space away (yes it is encouraged to say "boop" or "meow" every time this happens...), this sometimes means that you push a piece off the board entirely. Kittens are graduated into Cats every time you line up three pieces in a row either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. If you ever line up three Cats in a row you win. You also win if you have all eight of your cats on the bed at the end of a turn, which is a great feat indeed!

All the booping means it's actually harder than you might think to line up three pieces in a row. When any two pieces are already in a line another piece placed into that line cannot push those other pieces (of course they can be booped from other directions). This means that setting up a line of two and defending against it is an important strategy, as is breaking up or blocking your opponent's line of two.


Once you have adult Cats in your pool you may choose to play either a Cat or a Kitten on your turn. Cats work the same way as Kittens, except that they cannot be booped by kittens, although Cats can boop both Cats and Kittens.



The added flavour in BOOoop. is that each player has their own Ghost Cat in their pool. These cats do not occupy spaces, but instead are placed on and moved along the stitching between spaces. A player can optionally place their Ghost Cat on the board at the end of their turn. When it is first placed at the edge of the board it is considered to have just appeared. In subsequent turns, it moves automatically forward one 'stich' towards the opposite side of the bed. The Ghost Cat cannot turn, change direction or be removed once placed and is returned to a player's pool once it reaches the end.

When a Ghost Cat moves it boops Kittens and Cats of any colour one space away, except for diagonally. The extra fun part is that when a Ghost Cat would otherwise be unable to boop a piece because there is another piece or pieces directly behind, the Ghost Cat says "boo!" and scares that piece over the top of the blocking piece(s) to the next open space of the board, or off the bed completing if there are no spaces.

I was surprised at just how 'thinky' the game can be at times. In a sense it feels like a less complicated, more light-hearted game of chess. The box states 25 minute game time, I found that sometimes with bad choices it can be over in a matter of minutes, whereas in some playthroughs it took around 45 minutes.

Strategy wise, I found that it can be quite important to hold back Cats at times to maintain the ability to boop other pieces off the board, including your own, as otherwise you can find that it is impossible to stop your opponent in their path to victory.

In the early part of each game, I find that there is a tendency for each of you to try and boop off as many of your opponent's pieces as possible, because fewer Cats/Kittens mean less chance of getting three in a row. Then mid game you often find yourself weighing up whether it's worth the trade off of letting your opponent end up graduating Kittens from the resultant board state of you graduating Kittens and them being removed from the bed. The end game requires a lot of strategic and forward thinking, which is the bit I can struggle with, hence me only ever winning one game so far across boop. and BOOop against the hubby who is a master of strategy in games as a whole. Whilst I have lost 90% of games, I was still having fun, and I did find that it does get easier (albeit not easy) the more you play and that your strategic thinking improves.

The Ghost Cat is a fun addition to the basic gameplay of the original boop., and also requires thinking ahead. I found that at times it harms you more than it helps you, indeed in one game my Ghost Cat helped to secure the hubby's victory. You don't have to include it when you play, and can just play as if you are playing the original version.

The rulebook itself is easy to read and well laid out, with illustrated examples. You can quickly go from reading it to actually playing. The recommended 10+ age range feels about right. The theme makes it very family friendly, and players younger than ten could probably still enjoy it teaming up with an adult, making the decisions together.


Production

I love the production quality. The pumpkin orange quilted game 'board' with the fish bone, cat paw print and jack-o'lantern design is super cute and a nice touch. It could have perhaps been enhanced by having alternating colours a bit like a chess board, or even a mixed pattern like a patchwork quilt. It's great that you use the game box to represent the bed and that the edging of the box reflects this, complete with touches of a cats from the game such as a cat sticking its head out and a cat tail, because most of the time a game box just gets in the way and has only the purpose of storing the components. The box itself is sturdy and is well thought-out with the spaces for storing the cat meeples in such a way that they won't bump around. The wooden Cat, Ghost Cat and Kitten meeples are high quality and the cartoon designs are adorable. There are the Witchy Purple (black cat) meeples and purple Ghost Cat for one player and the Pumpkiny Orange (white cat) meeples and Orange ghost cat for the other player.


Conclusion

​So let's break it down for you in our key areas:

Replayability

Personally I found the game highly addictive. Whilst it is thinky it still feels fairly light hearted because of the theme. It's usually fairly fast to play, so you can just get a quick game in if you want, or multiple games if you want to try for a best of three etcetera, as it is very quick to reset. Players that aren't as good at strategising may get a little frustrated against those who are great at thinking turns ahead.


Production Value

High quality components, only positives here!


Theme

Kitties! Adorable little felines! You can keep it as a game to break out every October, or if you are like me it is something you will enjoy it all year round. There's always the option of buying the original boop. if Halloween isn't for you.


Complexity

Simultaneously simple yet strategic. Easy to learn, hard to master. Great as a filler game.


Rules

Easy to understand and get stuck straight in from your first read through.


Uniqueness

Lining up components in a row isn't a unique game mechanic (Connect 4, Noughts and Crosses etcetera), and there is even a game called Gekitai also from Scott Brady that has exactly the same rules. However, boop. and BOOoop. together are unique in combining those rules with the cat theme, which is more family friendly and prettier to look at! For people who already have boop. the Ghost Cat doesn't massively change the gameplay, and if you don't already have boop. you can buy BOOoop. and play it like the original, assuming you are not a completionist who wants to buy both (the temptation is real).


Value

The RRP is £34.99 , which is perhaps a little high but I feel that the replayability and adorable theme make it feel value for money.


A D6 die face showing five pips, each pip the head of the Diary Of A Lincoln Geek mascot Ink the Imp

BOOoop. is a fabulously cute yet strategic game that is suitable for people of a variety of level of board gaming experience, from families and newbie gamers looking to get into the hobby, to more veteran gamers who enjoy forward thinking. At an average game time of around 25 minutes it works nicely as filler game, and as it is quick to set up it is easy to play games back to back if you fall in love with it and fancy having a session instead. Whilst it's purrfect for me (especially for Halloween), I appreciate that it may not be for everyone, as players who are less adept in forward planning may struggle against experienced gamers.


Your resident Word-nerd

Sueyzanne


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