The publisher gifted me a copy of this game expansion; however, I always strive to provide fair, honest opinions.
Cats & Dogs is a modular expansion to Leder Game’s Fort (see my review for more information on the base game). In this expansion players have the ability to add cats and dogs to the neighborhood antics. You can choose to play with one type of pet, or both.
Dogs are loyal. If you play a dog it will usually stick around and go to your own personal doghouse. But if you have a dog card in your hand that goes to your yard neglected, it will wander off to another player’s discard pile and see if it can find a good home there. At the end of the game, whoever has the most dogs in their doghouse scores seven points.
Dogs play very similarly to friend cards with a few exceptions: they cannot be trashed nor can they be assigned to lookout duty. Leder Games does not condone animal cruelty! If you can meet a dog’s specific needs they can be played just like a normal kid card, and you receive a powerful action before settling them into your doghouse. What a good boy!
Cats wander around the neighborhood looking for a yard that pleases them. If you are lucky enough to attract one of these fickle creatures you may enjoy a benefit… For a time. Cats are not loyal like dogs, and they will mosey over to another yard whenever that player meets their requirements. At the end of the game cats are worth victory points – and the more you are able to collect, the higher they score.
If you’ve read my review on Fort you already know that I think the game is quite good. As a pet-lover I was very excited to add Cats & Dogs to the game. I am happy to report that the expansion did not disappoint.
Both modules seem to integrate into the game well without disrupting the core mechanics. They compliment the game without changing it significantly – something I tend to like with expansions. Players familiar with the base game should be able to pick up the new rules in a matter of minutes. The dogs and cats have very clear effect explanations on their cards, and the doghouses themselves explain the dog card mechanics.
The dog module in particular blends in nicely as the dogs work similarly to the kid cards, but with a few twists and turns to add some interest. Some dogs are quite powerful, such as Watson who allows for some made-up rule flexibility. As is often the case with many of these dogs, Watson cannot be played right away – players must be at Fort Level 1+ and have a card in their lookout. Loki, on the other hand, has fewer requirements to play and has the ability to take 3 resources from a rival’s board. But to counterbalance this take-that mechanic, Loki is then added to the victim’s doghouse, so there is a bit of a risk in playing him.
The cats are easy enough to add in as well; however, in my experience they are also easy to forget. There have been several turns where I’ve accidentally ignored the cat sneaking around my yard and its ability went under-utilized. It will probably just take me some time to get used to them, whereas the dogs are shuffled into the deck and are a lot more front-and-center. That being said, I don’t mind adding in the cat module and I am interested to see what happens when a player decides to go all-in on a Cat Lady strategy, working to create a deck of kids meant to be relegated to the yard for maximum cat attraction. That is a completely different way to play and it might be a lot of fun to try.
The cat benefits are less powerful than that of dogs, especially when they don’t stick around for long, but they still can be very useful. Bandit lives up to its name by stealing resources from a rival’s pack, and Scratch is more guard dog than cat, sending the neighborhood kids home for some first aid. One cat in particular is actually a nuisance and forces its owner to spend an extra resource to upgrade Fort levels. These fickle, roaming creatures add a dose of variety to the game.
It is very apparent a lot of thought was put into the theme of the base game, and the expansion is no exception. Cats and dogs behave in the game as they do in real life. I think most of us are familiar with neighborhood porch cats, wandering from home to home in search of a nice sunny nap spot or bird-hunting. And the dogs are willing to stick around with their people as long as they are not neglected. Play to their needs and they will be yours for life (or until end-game scoring).
The artwork integrates with the base game quite smoothly, style-wise. Kyle Ferrin’s artwork is able to inject so much personality into these small creatures with the bare minimum of colors and linework. The dogs have a very slight color discrepancy on the backside of the cards compared to the kid cards in my copy of the base game. This is something I only notice when I’m scrutinizing them very closely. In normal gameplay this has not caused any problems. I would sleeve these cards with an opaque-backing if I were concerned, but for now these cards are still naked and will likely remain that way.
This entire expansion fits nicely into the base game box, tiny rulebook and all. The doghouses are adorable and made of sturdy-cardboard that matches with the personal game boards in the base game. For such a small expansion it does seem like a lot of effort has been put into ensuring it integrates well.
Overall I really enjoy Cats & Dogs. Both modules add new ways to score points at the end of the game, something that Fort was not sorely in need of, but is enhanced by. It is so satisfying to think you’re losing but then have those seven dog-points earn you a surprise victory. Fans of Fort tend to enjoy exploring new paths to victory, so Cats & Dogs is a worthy addition to the game.
Expansion Verdict: Excellent. If you like Fort, this expansion is an affordable way to add some variety without changing the core mechanics.