Anyone who’s owned a pet knows that they have a psychic ability to detect when you’re heading to the vet and suddenly be scarce or need to go outside for an extended period. With cats, it’s even more fun because you need to get them into a cat carrier so they’re safe in transit and at the vet’s office. A cat carrier that looks plenty big when you bought it, but suddenly seems mighty tiny as your little Fluffy or Snowball transmogrifies into a bristling Bengal Tiger who is Not. Getting. Into. That. Tiny. Box.
Hissy Fit is a fun, family-friendly card game for 1-4 players where you work together to try and get your beloved cat into that darn cat carrier. You have your tricks and techniques, but your cat has their wiles and sneaky tricks too, so it’s a race to capture them before you give up because they inflicted too many scratches or had three hissy fits. Designed by Chris Stone (3 cats, Pixel, Cinnamon, and Buddy the Gaming Cat) and Levi Robertson (also 3 cats, Pancake, Waffle, and Oatmeal) and published by Stone Age Distractions, Hissy Fit is destined to become one of your go-to solo games and family favorites.
SETTING UP YOUR CAT VS. HUMAN BATTLEFIELD
Let’s just jump in with an overview of the setup for a solo game:
Top row to bottom, the Human Cards are arranged in a marketplace where you can acquire new tricks to try and coax kitty into the carrier (three cards are shown), and Cat Cards, their sly and cunning feline defenses against being trapped in a carrier (two cards are shown). The third row has the Cat Tracker which shows both your progress to the carrier and how many scratches you’ve received for your efforts and the three Hissy Fit cards. Each of these is face down and has space for 1, 2, or 3 Hissy Fit tokens: Once all three spaces are filled, the card flips over and it’s cat: 1, human: 0 as things get harder.
Finally, the bottom row is the player’s hand; you start out with five Human Cards, as shown. Since it’s a co-op game, players can opt to show their hands if desired, and certainly, for solo play, there’s no reason not to have it as a fourth row on the table.
Human Cards have a Card Effect along the bottom (notice they’re grouped, so you can choose one or the other, not both), along with Combo Icons on the left side. Combos are critical to winning this surprisingly tough solo game too: once you play any one card, subsequent cards can be “grouped” and played without costing an additional action if the icons match. I could play all three of the above cards for the cost of a single action, for example, by matching the mouse toy icon.
Cats have attitudes, of course, so there are three primary “cattitudes” in the game: Angry (orange), Sneaky (blue), and Stubborn (pink). All of the above cards calm the Stubborn cattitude. They also have paw prints which can be utilized to help move the cat towards the carrier: If you could play all three of the above, you could move your cat a total of 5 steps closer to the carrier, a huge leap forward!
But those darn cats, they have their defenses. Here are my starting two Cat Cards:
These cards have three sections: Instant Effect (middle left, only Laser Focus has one in this example), Continuing Effect (the icon in the middle of the card), and Cattitude Cost (along the bottom). Laser Focus has you immediately gain a scratch – Fluffy! No! Owww! – then blocks any combo plays (remember how I could play all three cards above by matching the mouse toy). To remove the Laser Focus, you need to calm the Stubborn (purple big-eyed cat icons) catitude. By contrast, Grumpy has no immediate effect but will prevent you from moving your cat closer to the carrier until you get rid of it by calming four Angry cattitudes!
Finally, the cat tracker has 11 steps from start to the carrier, and you can sustain up to four scratches but if you ever get a fifth scratch, you lose and Snowball laughs all the way to the treat bowl:
Earlier, one of the Cat Cards had an instant scratch, but some also have Hissy Fit icons, which adds a token to the current card; get all three and the card flips over. Flip over the third card and you’ve lost.
There are also calm (transparent) cubes that track how many of the cattitude cost you’ve met with Cat Cards that are in play.
TAKING TURNS IN HISSY FIT
A turn consists of flipping up a new Cat Card and adding it to the row. If it has instant effects, you apply them, then apply the ongoing effects of all cards still in the row. The player then gets two actions; take a Human Card (from the deck or marketplace along the top), play a Human Card (and subsequent combo matching cards, as available), or draw 3 Human Cards as a dual-action turn.
In the above I have three active cats; Laser Focus, Grumpy, and Vanish. Two of them included scratches (remember, I can only sustain four max), Laser F. prevents combos, and both Grumpy and Vanish stop forward progress. I can, however, spend both my actions playing Human Cards (not as a combo, frustratingly!) which is worth up to 5 Sneaky icons and up to 4 Stubborn, eliminating two of the three cards.
Combinations are important, as I said, but it’s also important to know that as soon as you meet the cost of a Cat Card it is removed from play, including any effects. This means that I could have played my first Human card to remove Laser F. then my second turn could have been Cucumber and any other matching cards in my hand as a combo. How? Because the no-combo limitation would have been immediately eliminated once Laser F. was cleared.
A bit further along and you can now see some of the calm cubes tracking my attempt to remove Grumpy and Hungry from play. Retreat is an interesting card too because it’s an “apply and discard” so there’s no ongoing effect, just an instant one (of a hissy fit token being placed and the cat moving one step back towards the starting point:
It’s a bit hard to see, but the Catnip card in the marketplace is a great one and because it has a yarn icon for combos, I could play all three of my other cards as a combo, allowing me to move forward five (because the Catnip card will immediately remove Grumpy and Hungry, so the forward motion limitation will be removed too).
Another way to accomplish this is to use Kitty Treat, as shown:
Once Kitty Treat is used, all the Cat Cards will be discarded and I can again get +5 movement with the yarn-ball combo.
Don’t let the strategy and logistics fool you, though, there’s a lot of humor in the sequences and combos in the game, and as a long-time cat owner myself, I know that sometimes you end up using a half-dozen techniques together to try and get that darn cat into the darn carrier. The artwork is excellent too [though I will hasten to add that I had a prototype of the game so the artwork, design, and all elements are subject to change] and some images are laugh-out-loud hilarious. I might add a “Threatening Yell” Human Card that has absolutely no effect to continue with the theme, but it’s very clear that both Chris and Levi are experienced cat owners!
THE FINAL MOVE
I kept plugging away, pushing closer and closer to the cat carrier, with some definite slides backwards. But once I got to this point, I realized I was able to move forward three and wrap up my game. I’ve already flipped the new Cat Card (Zoomies) and am poised to play a card. So what should I pick and play, or play from my hand?
The key is that I don’t need to remove the Cat Cards to progress because neither of them are stopping forward progress. That’s so important to game strategy that I’m going to say it again: you don’t need to eliminate all Cat Cards to be able to progress on the Cat Tracker, just those that block forward progress.
Therefore, I’m going to pick and play Carry, which moves me forward two (so close!) and simultaneously prevents the back-one ongoing effect from Zoomies. Since Frenzy removes calm cubes (of which there are none) and Zoomies is blocked, I use Lure as a combo for two more steps forward and win the game! Human: 1. Cat: 0.
I really enjoy playing Hissy Fit, both for the humor of the scenario and artwork and for the solo challenge. Learning to exploit combos as much as possible and to focus on moving forward rather than trying to clear all Cat Cards are both critical to having a winning strategy to the game too. I played through five times, and the first three resulted in my losing from having too many darn scratches. With a simple design like this, it would be easy to adjust starting or winning conditions or add house rules to vary the difficulty of the game.
Hissy Fit is a winner, fun, amusing, very kid friendly, easy to learn and fast to play. The final design will also fit neatly into a box, making it a great game to keep in the car or add to your travel kit. Coming to Kickstarted mid-January, 2023.
Hissy Fit, from Stone Age Distractions. $20 at HissyFitGame.com
Disclosure: Chris and Levi sent me a prototype of Hissy Fit in return for this candid review. Thanks, guys!