Rat-a-Tat Cat

Monty and Ann Stambler

Publisher: Gamewright

Wait…there is a rat? I have to admit, I didn’t even notice. (Photo credits: Tom Madden@BGG)

Rat-a-Tat Cat (RATC) is a kids game from Gamewright. Period. There are some games that are fun for adults even if kids aren’t playing: this is not that game. RATC is fun to play with kids but will have limited value outside of family play. Still, a good family game is a worth its weight in gold. So, how does RATC compare to other games in its category?

This 1995 game is pretty simple and straightforward. We have the deluxe Anniversary edition that comes in a tin and as I understand, it also comes with a gimmick. Four cards are dealt to each player face down in a row. Cards have values ranging from 0 to 9 in addition to 4 special cards. You are allowed to peek at two of the four cards that are at both ends of the row. The other two cards in the middle will remain a mystery. On your turn, you draw a card and decide if the card should replace one of your face down cards in the row. The card that is replaced will be discarded face up in the middle. Any card that is replaced will be placed faced down and low value cards are good while high value cards are bad. At any point in time after your turn, if you think you have the lowest total value from all 4 cards, you can declare “Rat-a-Tat Cat” and every player will have one more round before the game ends. All cards are flipped over with the player having the lowest sum for all cards being declared the winner.

The game is spiced up with the 4 special cards that are triggered when you draw from the deck. Special cards in your row of 4 cards is worth nothing and if you have a special card at the end of the game, they are randomly replaced with another card from the draw deck. So, special cards in your row are bad. You want to get rid of them. “Swap” allows you to exchange one card with another opponent, face down sight unseen. So, you don’t know what you are getting. “Draw 2” allows you to….draw 2 cards back to back and decide which ones you want to keep or discard. If you accept the first card, then you cannot draw the second one. “Peek” allows you to look at one of the cards in your row while “Super Peek” allows you to use special tinted glasses to look at all the cards on the table. Behind the backs of each card is an inscription which shows the value of the card. The inscription can only be seen with the glasses. Some folks think the inscription can be deciphered based on the pattern. I actually think the inscription is pretty well hidden unless you stare hard. For crying out loud, it is a kid’s game. You really shouldn’t be trying to break the game. The tinted glasses are definitely a gimmick and allows a player to have a strong advantage once they know all the cards on the table.

That said, I am not sure the Anniversary edition is all that great. The “Super peek” card is useful but unbalances the game because it is too powerful. Moreover, the inscriptions of the back of each card is small and you need to lean over and squint in order to make out the values. You also need some good lighting to see well through the tinted lenses. Overall, I find myself too lazy to look at other cards and we just house-ruled that you can only see one set of cards. Most people will pick their own set to look at. However, if you really dislike Super peek, it is very easy to just modify that power. I think the easiest would be to allow someone to look at all 4 cards in your own row.

Games are quick and usually ends after 10 minutes, if even. Sometimes, with a good set of cards, one can even take a risk and call out Rat-a-Tat cat before a single hand is played. It’s a risk for sure, but with two low cards, you have a chance of winning. That’s usually seen as a flaw for most games, but for kids, you can’t be too serious.

Overall, Rat-a-Tat cat is a take it or leave it game. It’s ok for kids but for adults, you can just move along. Look at kid’s corner for further comments.

Initial impressions: Not for me (adults); Average (family)

Kid’s Corner

5 years and 5 months: My kid is asking for it right now but that’s because it is still fresh. I suspect this will wear thin soon. The game play is ok but I must say, RATC allow kids to pick up a few new skills that aren’t easily found in other games. First, there is the memory component which is nothing new. Obviously, we need to remember the cards we have seen and also remember which cards have been swapped. My kid can remember if she chooses to focus, but her attention span sometimes wane and she forgets. I have seen her concentrate and play well but there are other times when she is bored and loses track. So, I suppose learning to concentrate is also something kids can pick up with RATC. The memory component though, is nothing new. There are plenty of other games out there that feature a strong memory mechanism. I highly recommend you check out Memoarr!

Now, the other skill I am more intrigued about is bluffing. Some parents may cringe at the thought of teaching kids to bluff. Not me. I think it is perfectly acceptable during game play. In RATC, there is a strong bluffing component. Part of the bluff is to keep a straight face when you get a good card. However, sometimes, you can mess up an opponent when you keep a mediocre card. You obviously have to keep a straightface while doing so. For the first few plays when my kid got a low value card, her delight was obvious. When I swapped out her card, she was disappointed. I had to tell her how to keep a straight face or bluff. After that, it was quite hilarious to see her go the opposite direction when she would cringe purposefully only when her cards are good to try to throw us off. I then stole it again and she was puzzled. I recommend this game only if you want to teach kids to bluff with a straight face. It is not as easy as it looks and I think it’s worth a few funny moments. It’s interesting that bluffing, which I am sure we will see more of when she hits her teenage years, is such a complex social skill and is a learned behavior. Kids are naive until life teaches them otherwise. I am curious to see how quickly she learns to bluff efficiently. I might be making a monster out of her…..

For this alone, I recommend RATC. However, I don’t think the game has much else to offer and won’t have that much lasting power.

One comment

  1. We started playing this game when my kids were 5 and 9. They are now 23 and 27 and we still love playing (now with boyfriends) along with 5 Crowns and Weeds. It’s definitely a game we’ve grown up with, caards are very soft now but we still love it. Need to get my own set so I can play with friends and not just my kids.

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