Updated: Jan 4, 2020
You don’t need to be a physicist to have heard of Schroedinger’s Cat. Predicated on the notion that, at the quantum (atomic particle) level, matter can be in multiple states at the same time, Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger postulated that a cat in a box whose survival was dependent on whether or not an atomic particle had decayed should be considered to be both dead and alive. Its state only becomes fixed as one or the other as a result of observation (opening the box).
Although this was put forward as a metaphor rather than an actual scientific experiment, the notion of Schroedinger’s Cat has seized popular imagination. It was surely inevitable that someone would use it as the basis of a game.
Dead Cat is the contribution of publisher He Does Not Throw Dice (named for one of Einstein's most famous quotes). It’s a simple card game designed by Luca Kling with art by Elisa Raciti. From the 20 Alive Cat cards and 5 Dead Cat cards supplied in the box, the players create a ‘Box Deck’ appropriate for the number of players so that there are 4 Alive and 1 Dead card per player. Those cards are shuffled and three are removed without looking at them.
In a player’s turn they draw the top card of the Box Deck, peek at it and place it face down to an adjacent pile, referred to as the Time Deck. They then turn the face of the six-sided die to represent their bet on how many cards will have to be turned over in the Time Deck before a Dead Cat is revealed. Players must change their bet every turn. As an alternative to drawing a card and amending their bet, a player can simply call out ‘Dead Cat’. This triggers a check through the Time Deck. The winner of each round is the player whose bet is closest to the position of the first Dead Cat revealed in the Time Deck.
That’s all there is to the game play. A few plays reveal, however, that the game is actually about bluffing and second-guessing your opponents. If you turn over a Dead Cat, do you alter your die to show the position it will be when your turn comes around next, assuming the other players will draw Alive Cat cards on their turns? If another player suspects you’ve done this, will they frustrate you by calling Dead Cat ahead of you so that your count is out? Perhaps you really turned an Alive Cat card and your bet is a bluff aimed at tricking the other players.
There’s quite a high luck quotient because bets are invariably based on limited information. Nevertheless, Dead Cat is a short game (it takes no longer than 10 minutes) so works as a novelty filler.
Of course, to some critics, Dead Cat is simultaneously both a game and not a game. That seems rather apt.