The Daily Worker Placement

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

DIGGING INTO DEXTERITY: Tinderblox and Kittins

by | published Tuesday, February 4, 2020

“Daddy, I made a cat sculpture!”

The components of Kittin (an upcoming title from Alley Cat Games) had just been dumped on the table, and I was reading the first paragraph of the rules. Before I had digested any information, my 4 year old had figured out the core concept of the game – stack the kitten meeples into fun arrangements! Rather than continue reading, we flipped over the first card of the included deck, and upon seeing the goal, my Big Bean constructed it within a few seconds. We repeated this act a few more times, and suddenly our table was a museum of colourful kitten contraptions! Big Bean’s younger sister saw what was happening, and quickly started putting together her own creative cat puzzles, and everyone was smiles and giggles.

Kittin is one of two dexterity games that Alley Cat is launching on Kickstarter in February, and I was fortunate enough to be given a pre-production copy of both games to explore for the Daily Worker Placement. The second game, Tinderblox, we’ll cover in a few paragraphs.

Inside the metal tin of Kittin, players will find 48 cat meeples in eight different shapes and colours, as well as a deck of 24 cards. Designed by Simon Milburn and Caezar Al-Jassar, with illstration by Daniela Magalhães, Kittin plays 2 to 4 players … or up to 8 with an included team mode! It has a play time of 10 minutes, and is recommended for ages 6 and up. 

As a dexterity speed game, Kittin is centered around the aforementioned pile of multi-coloured cat-shaped blocks. Each round, a card is flipped over, and players scramble to be the first to find the correct pieces and assemble them into the required formation. Whoever successfully does so first delivers their finest “MEOW”, and claims the card. The first player to claim three cards is declared the winner of the game!

It’s ridiculous and delightful that the entire game can be condensed into one paragraph of four sentences, but that’s the game in a nutshell. Not only is it easy to digest, but it’s also perfectly intuitive, as evidenced by my Big Bean sorting out the basics of the game with absolutely no instruction. Although she was able to comprehend the basics, the speed element makes it not quite appropriate for most players younger than six. However, we’ve managed to find a few different ways to tweak the game to be kid-friendly, my favourite being giving my little one a brief head start!

When playing Kittin with a table of all adults, the cat meeples have made the game an instant winner, with some even saying “I NEED THIS GAME” before even learning the rules! Even for my friends who don’t enjoy dexterity games as much as myself, it’s over before anyone has a chance to complain. Adorable and accessible, Kittin could easily be enjoyed at a noisy bar, a quiet coffee date, or a high-energy way to cap off a game night. 

Tinderblox is the second game in this Alley Cat double feature. Designed by Rob Sparks, with artwork from Rory Muldoon, the game plays in 15 minutes or less, can handle 2 to 6 players, and is recommended for ages 6 and up. 

In this game, players are taking on the role of a team of scouts, each trying to prove who is the most safe scout by … playing with fire! Inside this small metal tin, players will find 20 brown blocks representing logs, 20 cubes in red and yellow to represent fire, a starting campfire card, and 19 instruction cards. Oh, did I mention the tweezers? This game also includes a pair of tweezers!

Setting up Tinderblox involves preparing two stations – one of which is the pile of logs and fire cubes, and the other is the campfire itself, which starts with three logs. Each turn of the game will involve flipping over the top card of the instruction stack, and using the tweezers to transport the appropriate combination of logs and cubes from the supply pile to the campfire. Some cards ask for a single cube or log be added, while others demand several bits be placed onto the fire. The trick with the latter, is that the dictated arrangement must be assembled at the supply pile, and then delivered in a single trip of tweezer transportation. Fortunately, the rules permit droppage of the pieces while at the supply station, but if any spillage happens near the campfire, that player is immediately eliminated from the game. The winner is declared once all but one player has been eliminated due to their careless campfire etiquette.

In contrast to Kittin, Tinderblox has a much slower, measured, and tense feel. “Slower” is a bit of a relative term, as a game of Tinderblox could easily end after one round, with a winner being crowned after just a few minutes of play! Tweezers are a hassle at the best of times, but some of the cards in this game require players to use their non-dominant hand. Such a request is a different level of cruelty, given that the scout before you might only need to transport a single cube to the fire. Speaking of cruelty, the campfire itself is a very compact space, and it’s hilariously easy to set up a painfully difficult situation for the following players to navigate. The game is fully aware that life is not fair, and each turn will remind you of that fact, for better or worse!

The tweezer element made this game less accessible for my young daughters, but the adult groups I introduced Tinderblox to really enjoyed the short play time, the potentially nasty decisions available, and the unforgiving nature of a single mistake resulting in elimination. We all were quite impressed that two short stacking games could feel so very different from each other!

Oddly enough, Tinderblox is not the first tweezer-based dexterity game I’ve reviewed for the DWP. Doctor! Doctor! from Indie Boards and Cards is a game that we praised for its tense gameplay and portable box size, but Tinderblox certainly takes the cake in the portability department. The tiny tin can actually fit into the pocket of a pair of jeans, which is almost unheard of outside of the wallet-size Button Shy game series. I can’t think of any other dexterity game that is even half as easy to carry about incognito.  

Although I’m not terribly good at dexterity games, I love most of them and am addicted to absorbing all the wacky experiences these games have to offer. Alley Cat Games have discovered a small unsettled part of dexterity island, offering two small, short, and satisfying gaming experiences that will stand out as unique and fun.

Be sure to check out their Kickstarter campaign, which lands on Kickstarter February 4th!

Special thanks to Alley Cat Games for providing pre-production review copies of Tinderblox and Kittin. Components and packaging may differ slightly from those pictured in this article.


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