Designed by: Fabien Riffaud, Juan Rodriguez
Published by: Asmodee
Catch the Moon does not waste time with its theme; you build a ponderous tower of ladders in order to catch the moon. It’s a simple, lofty goal, a hint of story in an abstract game you can learn in a minute and then giggle about for many happy hours. Grabbing my attention-span challenged niece, age 9, I sat her down and taught her the whole game in just a couple of minutes. Just a few minutes after that she was hooked.
So here’s how it works; you take the cloud-shaped plastic base and then pop the three straight ladders into any of the available holes, forming the basic foundation on which you’ll build upwards toward the sky. Then the first player grabs a random ladder from the pile and rolls the wooden die, placing their chosen ladder based on the result. A single ladder icon rolled means your placed ladder can only touch one other ladder, while a two ladder icon means it has to touch two, no more, no less. If you role a moon symbol then your ladder can touch up to two others, but the tip of it must be the highest point of the entire jumbled construction.
Eventually, someone is going to muck it all up and send ladders falling to the ground in an epic display of their general terribleness. When this happens the responsible player needs to take one of seven tear tokens, and then all fallen ladders get removed from the game. Once the final tear is taken there’s a surprising rule in which the player who grabbed it immediately gets eliminated and then whoever has the least amount of tear drops wins. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this because it means the best player can get suddenly eliminated even if they’ve managed to avoid taking any other tears throughout the entire game.
I do, however, like the rule for a tie. If two or more people end up with the same amount of tears it becomes sudden death with each player having to place a ladder as if they had rolled a Moon result on the die, leading to some awesome teetering towers of doom and tension-filled finales.
Of course, the rest of the game is pretty tense, too. The simple rules and idea of Catch the Moon make for an exciting game of dexterity that pretty much anyone can enjoy. The ladders themselves come in different shapes and some even have some partial rungs to allow easier hanging. Deft players can come up with some genuinely amazing ways of balancing their ladders in precarious positions that seemingly defy the laws of physics. Having ladders instead of sticks of wood (such as in another game I’ve played) opens up so many more ways to build a teetering tower of trickiness.
There’s even a light layer of tactical thinking created by deciding whether to go for a deliberately wobbly placement in order to catch the other players out or play it safer in case you wind up having to deal with your own cleverness. It’s sort of like Jenga where you’re constantly asking yourself, “how much of a dick do I want to be?”
Regardless of your level of dickishness Catch the Moon does make for a rather eye-catching setup. Its 3D design really draws the eye, easily grabbing the attention of children and adults alike. The quality of the components is pretty good, too. Perhaps the ladders could be a bit more solid, but unless you deliberately try to destroy them or maybe step on them by accident.
I’d love this review to be longer, but really there’s very little point. To waffle on about such a simple game would be an injustice to it, the sheer simplicity of the idea being its greatest strength. No matter who I played it with everyone had fun, from young children to grown adults clutching a beer and blubbering about the horrors of life. It’s one of those lovely games that you can whip out and feel confident that everybody sitting at the table is going to enjoy it, unless they’re a cynical jerk. Like me. Except I liked it, too, so I guess it has the magic power of making even the most jaded jerks smile.