Cloaked Cats (aka Club der Tatzen) is an attractively produced deduction game from HABA. The game is designed by Connor Reid, with art by Pablo Fontagnier.
In Cloaked Cats, the 2-4 players take on the persona of cats attending a masked ball. You'll each have three identifying traits and you'll be competing to unmask your competitors by identifying their traits before they reveal yours. Points are awarded for each trait you correctly guess and you lose a point for each incorrect accusation.
There is a deck of 19 cards, each clearly showing a different trait (pose, colour, pattern or accessory) of which three are dealt face down to each player. In an appealing nod to the Regency era, the game comes with stands in the shape of fans to hold the cards so that only you can see them.
In addition to these trait cards, players also have a hand of Cat cards, each of which features a picture of a very friendly cat sporting 3 or 4 of the traits. Play is quite simple: you play a card from your hand and then declare if any of your traits are showing on that card then each player must also declare whether they have one or more of the traits shown (player markers are left on the card to indicate this). By this method you start to gather information but you must be careful with the card you choose to play so that you limit the information you give about yourself.
After each play you may try to unmask one trait from one other player. Guess right and the you gain a mask token (victory point) from the player you have partially unmasked. Don't be too hasty tho' - guess wrong and you have to give up one of your mask tokens to the player you wrongly identified.
The game initially flows very quickly and after 5 or 6 cards there may be enough information to make some informed decisions about what card you may wish to play and what trait another player may have. You get a great feeling of achievement when you can declare a trait and even if you cannot do that on your turn you always feel that you have learned something and made progress. Also there is very little downtime because more information may be revealed with the next players turn.
For me this is a lovely deduction game playing in about 20 minutes with brilliantly light-hearted artwork. Like most HABA games, it's designed to appeal to children (there's no text to read so it's playable by quite young children) but it's a game that adults will enjoy playing too. Think of it as a feline Mastermind.
(Review by Ken Nel)