We Didn’t Start the Fire – A Mi Gato se Incendia Review

Hello, I’m Chris. I play games. Lots and lots of games. As a nifty online experiment, Ben Gerber – of this very site – and I came up with a cunning plan, a sort of blogger exchange program. Once a month, Ben and I plan to share our views and musings with the readers of Troll in the Corner and Dice Hate Me, my board game blog. For my inaugural column, I thought it fitting to review Ben’s newest creation – the board game Mi Gato se Incendia! – which he so graciously gifted to me. Look for more cross-pollination each and every month on Troll in the Corner and Dice Hate Me, and let us know what you all would like to see in these columns.  This month’s article on Dice Hate Me – Cats! Fire! Living in a shack without heat for a week! Or, How Mi Gato se Incendia (My Cat is on Fire!) became a board game

In Mi Gato se Incendia! players take on the roles of ordinary people whose world has just been turned upside down by an escaped housecat. The goal of the game is to scour the neighborhood for the cat and bring the cat home. The goal seems simple, but your task is fraught with obstacles. Not only are you competing against your neighbors/family/mailman for capture of the cat, but the cat can move around the neighborhood much more freely than its human captors. Oh, and the cat can also burst into flames. Have you ever tried to catch a flaming cat? It’s not easy.

We went 1-bit with components. Can't you picture all this on the ol' Atari?

At the start of the game, the players choose a starting spot on the outside of the game board, and each player receives five action cards that range from moving extra spaces to taking another turn. Each turn, a player draws one action card and can then play any number of action cards from their hand. Players may also move one space on the game board, regardless of any movement cards played during the turn. If a player is on the same space as el gato, they may make one attempt to catch the cat, provided they have a Net card in their hand. Other players can cancel the net attempt with a failure card from their hand.

At the end of each player’s turn, they draw a single Event card, which dictates what happens to the cat. Most Event cards result in el gato moving a number of spaces around the neighborhood. There are a few, however, that result in the cat catching on fire. This is usually a very bad thing.

Homemade token. Mi gato... se incendia!

When el gato bursts into flames, there is definitely mixed emotion around the table. The good news is that the cat’s movement is slowed to only one square, regardless of the event card drawn. The bad news is that the cat is, well, ON FIRE. While the cat is on fire, it will lose one life each round until the fire is put out. The cat is also uncatchable while it is on fire. Net cards have no effect on the flaming ball of spite.

The action cards in the game provide a joyously random element to the chase, but it’s the board movement that is the real star of this game. Players are limited to movement along the grey lines between some houses and streets. El gato, however, is not. Just when a player has managed to wind his way around houses, bushes, shrubs and mailboxes to nab the furball, the cat (having drawn a move three spaces North event card) suddenly sprints under the Johnsons’ station wagon and through the hedges to the Pickman’s backyard. It’ll probably take you several minutes to get there, and by that time, the little punk will most certainly have skirted off in chase of a squirrel.

Overall, Mi Gato se Incendia! is a fun and incredibly light-hearted game despite its foreboding title. This is a game that will provide a lot of enjoyment to families, those needing a party-like filler, cat lovers, and even those of us – like me – who would rather let el gato sit there and smoke for another turn rather than put him out.

Gameplay/Replay

The mechanics of Mi Gato are not revolutionary, nor are they what most gamers would consider “tight,” but the Action and Event cards seem to have just the right amount of chaos and humor to make each game a little something different. As mentioned, the game board accurately recreates the realistic dilemma of trying to capture an escaped cat. In many instances, the card mix can result in a pretty short game, but for every three games my wife and I played that were over in five or so rounds, we also had an epic, twenty-minute battle over a constantly-shifting flaming feline that we laughed about well after the game was over.

Components

This is a difficult category to judge since Mi Gato se Incendia is a print-and-play purchase. I printed the Event and Action cards on good card stock, which made them easy to handle and shuffle. However, the text on each card is oriented horizontally rather than the traditional vertical design, which made holding the cards and seeing what was in your hand at any given time a real chore. The board, designed by Jeremy Bushnell of Inevitable fame, is fairly well-laid out and attractive. I did, however, take the board PDF into Photoshop and delete the solid green background just to keep our printer from becoming en fuego from using the cyan and yellow cartridges so much.

Fun

So, is Mi Gato any fun? The short answer is – yes. The long answer is that Mi Gato will be fun amongst gamers who are able to forgive loose mechanics and engage the creative and storytelling centers of their brains. For instance, the reason the players are competing to capture el gato is not fully explained in the rulebook; it is left open to the interpretation of the players. Perhaps the cat wears a diamond flea collar and the players are jewel thieves who broke into the house and were surprised by a spry, cunning ball of fur. With a little dose of imagination, this print-and-play marvel’s fun factor will always lie in the heated chaos of chasing a tiny little flaming ball of spite.

Overall score:

13 out of 18 – Look past the components and picture a meeple hopping fences after a flame-broiled, cat-shaped resource disk and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Mi Gato se Incendia! is a game for 2-6 animal control officers from Ben Gerber. You can purchase Mi Gato se Incendia on Drive-Thru RPG for only 99 cents! This is a great price for a truly enjoyable game – get ’em while they’re hot!

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