Hey, look at the time! I have a spare week due to an Unplanned Delay (two, now), and because of that I can actually write about a Gen Con game that I bought for myself. What a time to be alive. To that end, let’s talk about one of those games; a game that’s just been widely released called Catch the Moon!
In Catch the Moon, you play as dreamers who have been beckoned heavensward by none other than the moon herself. However, uh, you weren’t exactly planning for this dream, specifically, so rather than having the appropriate building supplies (and permits, mind you), you just have a bunch of ladders. The Moon is somewhat bemused by this, but is also sensitive; if you are too clumsy, you’ll upset her and she’ll shed tears to the ground below. While these tears are valuable (especially in a series of long-form real-estate transactions), you do feel bad making the Moon cry, so try to avoid doing that, you jerk. Will you be able to rise to the challenge? Or between you and your opponent, is the latter going to win?
There’s not a whole lot to setup. Place the cloud platform in the center of the play area:
Put the ladders aside (I like to set them in a circle around the cloud platform):
Set out the Moon Tears:
Give the start player the die:
Place two straight ladders into the cloud platform at random locations:
And you’re ready to go!
Here’s the whole game. On your turn, you randomly choose a ladder, then roll the die and do what it says:
- One Ladder: You must place the ladder you picked such that it touches exactly one other ladder.
- Two Ladders: You must place the ladder you picked such that it touches exactly two other ladders.
- Moon: You must place the ladder you picked such that some part of the ladder is higher than anything else in the structure and the ladder you placed can touch either one or two other ladders, no more or less.
The rules say you can only use one hand, so try to stick to that. You can do anything that works, either using Strange Friction Cheats or hanging a ladder like a picture frame or wedging a ladder into another ladder, if you can make it work.
If, however, you are unlucky and you knock some or all of the structure over (a ladder is touching the table and / or the cloud platform), you have caused the moon to weep for your clumsiness. Take a Moon Tear and remove all ladders (except starting ladders) touching the table and / or cloud platform from the game. If this causes further ladders to fall, well, whatever. You only take one tear per turn. Note that as soon as the next player rolls the die, the tower is their responsibility. This both helps you hustle the game along and does a nice job of letting you penalize someone else for your poor ladder construction skills.
The game can end one of two ways:
- All ladders have been played: The player(s) with the fewest Moon Tears wins.
- A player gains a third Moon Tear: The player … with the fewest Moon Tears wins. If there’s a tie, the tied players basically do Sudden Death with the remaining ladders until one player is victorious. If you run out of ladders, well, all remaining tied players win.
I mean, if you want to change it up, you can; it’s your game. Here are fun things we’ve done in the past to try a variety of different ways to play:
- Let players choose the ladder. You’ve got some analysis paralysis there, sure, but you might be able to spice up the game / add in a bit of expert play for experienced players who are trying to think of ways to keep the game fresh. I personally like this variant a lot.
- Ignore the Moon requirement. Not the one that’s “place a ladder so it’s the highest”, but the “you can still only touch one or two ladders” rule. Get rid of that one. The structure becomes a bit … stranger, but it does make the ladders a bit easier to place, especially for new players. I originally started playing this way but now I prefer the rules as written.
I’ve also been “developing” / trying a solo mode where you just try to use up all the ladders before you get three tears. It’s a bit interesting to me since you can kind of try and set yourself up for structure, rather than just attempting to clown on your opponents.
Player Count Differences
Honestly, player to player, there are very few; you still have a pretty decent chance of getting a very bad die roll (relative to what your options are) no matter how many players are in play; you might notice that some spots that are “good” for certain die rolls fill up more quickly at certain player counts. I’ve honestly played this at 10 people just fine, and I play it quite frequently at 2. I mean, I’ve played 26 games of it in the last two months; the player count hasn’t really been a mitigating factor for that. The reason they cap it at 6 is likely because there aren’t … that many ladders, so you won’t have that many turns and you’ll have a lot of downtime. I’m pretty sure you could combine multiple games to increase that player count.
- Honestly, just try to clown on other players. You should really prioritize barely-stable placements and Questionable Attachments. Bonus points if you can place something that appears stable but can’t actually support ladders. Those are always fun way to help your opponents gain more Moon Tears, which is just … so kind of you.
- Use the ladder to try and manipulate the structure. Sometimes the only thing you can do to prevent the structure from collapsing is to try and balance it on the ladder you just shoved in there. That’s not … ideal, but it’s better than getting a bunch of extra tears.
- There are certain combinations that are more stable. Some of the ladders are thinner at the top or have longer bits at the top and bottom that can be used as levers or wedges that are better-braced than others. If you end up getting one of those ladders, you may be able to use that to create a new stable sub-structure, which is always fun, to be honest. Another good one is slotting a ladder inside of another ladder (the thinner ones), or hooking edges of ladders to create small bridges between other ladders. All of these things are … decent ways to mitigate the stability problem, so keep that in mind.
- Take inventory when it’s not your turn. Identify some places where you can put ladders for the one-ladder and two-ladder case ahead of time; this will help you move a bit faster on your turn and also may make it easier to find a spot that’s actually workable instead of having to compromise on a much more risky play than you want.
- Friction is going to be your ally. There are really fun things that you can do where you can place a ladder such that nothing but pure friction is keeping the ladder up. That’s not stable in the slightest, but it definitely looks cool. And looking cool is half the strategy.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The ladders are so cool. There’s three of each type, I believe, and they’re super nice to look at! They’re also a nice quality to them; they seem laser-cut, decent weight, and nice construction. They’re clearly one of the best parts of the game, and they did well to capitalize on that.
- I appreciate the opportunities for variable setups. I kind of want to see how a three-starting-ladders game plays, but I like that there are many different ways you can place the starting ladders such that you can avoid playing the same exact way twice.
- The insert is kind of velvety and I’m not really sure what to do about that. It’s kind of useful, but it also might be able to be used as a knockoff Strike bowl? Who knows.
- Super easy to teach. I feel like you could get a good 70% of the game without reading the rulebook and just kinda guessing from the components, which I haven’t seen pretty much at all in a game.
- Plays very quickly. 20 minutes, tops.
- Very pleasant theme / artwork. Sure, you don’t see much of it beyond the box and the rulebook, but it’s very nice.
- Even if it hurts you, it’s hard to be anything other than enthused when someone makes a great play. There’s usually applause in my group, which is also very nice.
- Make sure you’re playing on a level surface that nobody is going to kick. I would advise keeping this on its own table at a game night, just in case someone kicks the table or bumps into it.
- It would be nice if the turn order randomized or something. There’s definitely some advantages to going after players that want a more stable structure than going after players that are aggressive and chaotic, like me. It would be interesting to see if the game changes if the player order is randomized between rounds, especially if you’re lucky enough to take a turn after yourself, so you can potentially set yourself up.
- Those last couple turns where you know you can’t win because the player with the fewest tears is never going to play again are a bit annoying. The nice thing is that the game plays quickly enough that you can just try getting them back on the next game.
Overall: 9.75 / 10
I mean, I’ve played it 28 times in the monthish since I bought it. This was probably my favorite game that I got out of Gen Con (other than Railroad Ink, bless). It’s an absolutely gorgeous dexterity game that does probably one of my favorite things I’ve seen from a board game in some time: I was playing it at home with a friend and one of my housemates walked by, saw us playing it, and asked to get in for the next game. She joined in, another housemate walked by, saw us playing it, and asked to get in for the next game. He joined in, and we played another six games. That’s really a testament to what I like about it; it does everything I want in a game. It’s beautiful to play, the component quality is quite nice, and it has an excellent table presence. Add in that it’s short and simple to play, and you’ve got a game that’s firing on all cylinders, for me. If you’re looking for a great little stacking game to start off an evening while you wait for more players, or you want a game that you can just marathon mindlessly for a few hours, Catch the Moon is rapidly becoming one of my favorites!