The Isle of Cats

The Isle of Cats: A Guide to Strategy and Gameplay Tips, with Rules


The Isle of Cats is a competitive, card-drafting, polyomino (fun word) cat-placement board game for 1-4 players. It’s about rescuing cats from an island before a villain named Vesh arrives. The game combines strategy with a bit of luck and is set in a colorful world. Players are citizens of Squalls End on a rescue mission to The Isle of Cats and must save as many cats as possible before Vesh arrives. The game was created by Frank West and published by The City of Games. “If you love cats, why not save them?” wasn’t the official slogan of the game, so I hear, but I do indeed wish it was.

The Isle of Cats has a rich background, set in a fantasy world where cats inhabit an island and each cat is represented by a unique tile that players must place on their boat. The game has a strong following due to its engaging gameplay, beautiful art, and the charming theme of rescuing cats.

Quick Tip for The Isle of Cats

Always keep an eye on your boat’s layout. Filling rooms and completing lessons can score big points!

Rules for playing The Isle of Cats

The Isle of Cats has a set of rules that guide gameplay. Each player has a boat, and the goal is to rescue cats by placing them on your boat. The game is played over five rounds, each with several phases. Players draft cards that allow them to rescue cats, find treasures, and discover Oshax (a special type of cat), as well as lessons that give them unique scoring opportunities.

Each round, players start by exploring, which involves drawing and drafting cards. They then move on to the Read Lessons phase, where they can play lesson cards. Next is the Rescue Cats phase, where players use fish to entice cats onto their boats. After rescuing cats, players can play any anytime cards, followed by the Rare Finds phase, where they can play treasure and Oshax cards. The round ends with the End of Round phase, where players feed their cats and prepare for the next round.

Scoring happens at the end of the game. Players get points for families of cats, filled rooms, treasures, lessons, and Oshax. They lose points for rats and unfilled rooms. The player with the most points wins.

Equipment and Setup for The Isle of Cats

To play The Isle of Cats, you need the game box which includes a variety of components. Each player gets a boat board, and there are cat tiles, treasure tiles, Oshax tiles, fish tokens, and lesson cards. There are also discovery cards, which are used during the game to rescue cats and find treasures.

Setting up the game involves giving each player a boat board and fish tokens. The cat tiles are placed face down and shuffled to form the island. Discovery cards are shuffled to form a deck, and each player is dealt a starting hand. The rest of the components are placed within easy reach of all players.

How to Play The Isle of Cats and Game Mechanics

  1. Setup: Prepare the game as described in the Equipment and Setup section.
  2. Gameplay: Players take turns according to the phases of each round: Explore, Read Lessons, Rescue Cats, Anytime Cards, Rare Finds, and End of Round.
  3. End of the Game: After five rounds, the game ends and players score points based on their boat’s layout and lessons.

How to Win at The Isle of Cats

To win at The Isle of Cats, players need to focus on several strategies. Beginners should concentrate on filling their boat and completing lessons. Intermediate players can start to look for synergies between cards and cat families. Advanced players will plan their moves from the start, aiming to maximize points through complex lessons and strategic placement of cats and treasures.

Best Strategies for playing The Isle of Cats game

Winning at The Isle of Cats often involves a balance between rescuing cats and completing lessons. Players should aim to fill their boats efficiently, blocking rats and filling rooms. It’s also important to keep an eye on other players’ boats and the cats they are rescuing to anticipate their moves and potentially block their strategies.

One of the best strategies for excelling in this game, I recommend, involves a balanced approach that combines several key elements. First, focus on drafting cards that complement each other; look for combinations that will help fulfill public and private lesson objectives, which score points at the end of the game.

Second, manage your resources wisely; fish are used to lure cats onto your boat, and you should spend them strategically to ensure you can secure the cats you need without wasting any.

Third, pay attention to the spatial aspect of the game; when placing cat tiles on your boat, aim to cover rats and fill rooms completely for additional points while also considering future placement options to optimize space.

Additionally, keep an eye on the rescue phase, where the right boat placement can help you save more cats.

Lastly, don’t ignore the importance of Oshax cats and treasure tiles; they can be very versatile and help fill gaps in your boat, which can be crucial for scoring bonus points. Balancing these strategies while adapting to the actions of your opponents is key to becoming the most successful rescuer on The Isle of Cats.


Players might find themselves with too many cats and not enough fish, or with a boat that’s hard to fill efficiently. In these cases, it’s important to adapt your strategy, perhaps focusing on smaller cat families or changing the lessons you’re aiming to complete.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing The Isle of Cats game

Q: How many cats can I rescue in one turn? A: It depends on the number of fish you have and the rescue cards you play.

Q: Can I move cats once they are on my boat? A: No, once placed, cats cannot be moved.

Q: What happens if I can’t feed all my cats? A: You will lose points at the end of the game for each unfed cat.

Additional Tips

Remember to keep an eye on the lessons and try to fulfill them as they can score a lot of points. Also, don’t forget to manage your fish tokens wisely; they are crucial for rescuing cats and playing cards.

For more information on The Isle of Cats, check out the official website and rulebook:

The Isle of Cats Official Website
The Isle of Cats Official Rulebook