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Top Cat Top Dog

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

Designed by Stephen Betts and published by Savvy Games, Top Cat Top Dog is a two-player poker variant with cute animal art by Akha Hulzebos. It's played using a deck of 45 cards: cards numbered 1-9 in five colours.

You decide up front whether you'll play a single or agreed number of rounds - typically best of three or best of five. Three cards are removed at random from the deck, so you are actually playing each round with a deck of 42 cards. Players take either the cat or dog indicator card, and seven score cards are laid out in a row. Aside from their score value, the score cards show either a cat or a dog, and this will be used to resolve ties at that location in the row.

Players each start with a hand of nine cards. They use these to form poker-style hands of three:

singleton< pair<run of mixed colours<flush (three of the same colour)<three of a kind<run of the same colour. You place three cards face down at the scoring location of your choice. Players are each dealt three more cards and this process is repeated until all seven locations are filled.

There's scope for bluffing and psyching out your opponent after all the cards are played because you each get a free swap of the position of two of your face-down sets. You can make further swaps but at the cost of discarding a set and so conceding a location to your opponent. In our Board's Eye View plays we've found it rare for a player to be willing to make this sacrifice - even for a weakish set at a 1-point location.

Next you get to swap one of your sets for your opponent's set at the same location. Your opponent will do the same, and can simply reverse the swap, but you'll find this is the key part of the game. Just as in poker, a game of Top Cat Top Dog can turn on a successful bluff. There was much celebration and gnashing of teeth in a Board's Eye View game when a player used their free swap to place a very weak set at a 4-point location and their opponent took the bait and swapped it! The sets at each location are compared one by one to determine who has won the most points and so who wins the round.

A round takes less than 10 minutes, so Top Cat Top Dog plays quickly. As in poker, you're at the mercy of the cards you happen to be dealt - tho' there are hand management to take over which cards to combine to play, where best to play them and whether or not you can successfully bluff or sucker your opponent. The cat and dog art makes the game appealing to children and it's a family-friendly way of introducing poker rankings to kids without directly setting them on the path to gambling.

Savvy Games plan to bring Top Cat Top Dog to Kickstarter later this year but they do have a quantity of prototype editions, similar to the version shown here on Board's Eye View, which they are selling at just £10 plus postage. Click here to check out the Savvy Games website.

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