Pounce is about reaction time and perception and perceptiveness, with a wee bit of strategy and a lot of funny fun. There are five kinds of room cards, and five sets of cat cards. Each set of cat cards contains one cat that kind of matches each one of the rooms shown in the room cards. Kind of – because the cat cards don’t look exactly like the rooms – they match in color, but they show the rooms from the cats’ perspective. So, the room card that has the bird in a cage matches the cat card that has the bird’s eye view of the cat. And the room card that has the gold fish bowl matches the fish-eye view. And the room card that shows the bubble bath matches the bubble-covered cat. So just a tad of extra thinking is necessary for successful match-making. Just the right tad.

Players (there are enough cards for 5 players) all pick a cat card from their hand, place it face down on the table, and, when everyone is finished, all, simultaneously yell “pounce”, turn their cat card over, and put their paws on the room that matches their chosen cat. The first player to successfully identify the correct room gets that room card.

There’s also one card showing Bruno the Dog. The player who holds that card (a different player gets it each round) can, once all cat cards are placed, put Bruno on any room, taking that room out of play for that round. Once a room card is won, it is placed, face-up in front of the winning player. The first to collect four of the same room card, or four different room cards, wins.

Designed by Roberto Fraga for Gamewright, this simple game is surprisingly deep for a kids’ game. Easy to learn. Fun to play. But to win, you have to do a lot of second-guessing – basing your strategies on what room cards each player has already collected and which cards are easiest for that player to reach. This second-guessing strategy is especially true for the holder of the Bruno card, but at every play it definitely helps to try for the room card that the other players are least likely to go after. Speed, however, generally trumps strategy. Nevertheless, the older the children are who play the game, the more likely they are to play strategically. The presence of this modicum of strategic depth keeps the game interesting and eminently playworthy.

The art by Dave Clegg is the perfect complement to the game play, adding whimsy and reinforcing the fantasy, cleverly cartoonish without being too childish. Major FUN.

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