Catch the Moon, released in 2017 by publisher Bombyx, is a dexterity based board game. Designed by Fabien Riffaud and Juan Rodriguez, with art from Emmanuel Malin, the title is themed around stacking ladders to reach a lady waiting on the moon. Seeing ladders skillfully, or not, stacked by 2 – 6 players, the game is about determining who is the most agile dreamer. However, is the game a dream or a nightmare to play? Let’s find out!
Setting the game up takes no time at all, with the cloud like base put in the centre of the table and two straight starting ladders added to it. The rest of the ladders are tipped onto the table or the lid of the box and play begins. On a turn the active player rolls the die, which has three different symbols – each featuring twice. No matter what is rolled the player must place a single claimed ladder onto the structure, though the rule for placement changes.
A single ladder indicates that the placed ladder must only touch one other ladder. The double ladder symbol, by extension, means it must touch exactly two ladders. The final symbol is the Moon. On top of balancing on a maximum of two ladders, the new ladder must be the highest ladder of the structure. Regardless of what is rolled the placed ladder cannot touch the base or the table. Failing to fulfill the placement rules, or causing one or more to fall, nets you a tear from the lady on the Moon. Any ladders that fall are removed from the game, rather than being put back into the pile of available ladders.
Whether the Moon lady cried or not, play continues clockwise with the next player. The game is played until either the tear or ladder pile is depleted. In a slight twist whoever takes the final tear is instantly out of the game, with the player with the fewest tears then declared the winner. This is somewhat different in a two-player game where the first to 3 tear tokens loses. If there is a draw the tied players continue to place ladders until one player is left standing.
The attraction of Catch the Moon is the simplicity of the objective. At the end of the day players are simply rolling a dice, adding a ladder to the structure and making sure they fulfil the rolled placement requirement. The concept is super easy to explain and means new players can instantly jump in and play, taking as long as upending the box and neatly arranging the components.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the action though, as the game progresses the balancing gets harder and harder – presenting more of a challenge. Working with this, as the players experience increases they often start to be more daring with the balancing, attempting more awkward and precarious placements. Large wonderful structures can be made, all balanced on one point, or a swinging ladder that is ready to fall at any moment. One downside is that the limited actions results in very similar gameplay from one game to the next, with the the onus being on players to attempt different balances to make things different.
There are only a few types of components in the box: a base, a die, tear tokens and a selection of peculiar ladders. Catch the Moon shows that you do not need much to be able to create a fun experience. The teardrop tokens are functional and dont need to be anything else, they aren’t the star of the show. The base is nicely designed with multiple starting slots for the straight ladders to fit into, of which three are included despite only two being used. Then, there are the wonky shaped ladders, of which there are 9 different ladder designs, 10 including the straight starting ladders. These are solidly built but are lighter in weight than I had anticipated. This weight works perfectly though as it allows for careful precise balancing, where heavier ladders would have made the structure over balancing more commonplace.
Catch the Moon is a quick dexterity game that takes seconds to set up and can be an instant hit. The gameplay is somewhat repetitive so won’t be captivating gamers for long periods of time, though for short sharp fun, with a slice of balanced based tension, it can be perfect. The twist of rolling a dice doesn’t drastically impact the game, as the luck is counterbalanced by each action being equally easy or hard at different times. For the unique visual and balancing experience Catch the Moon offers, that can intrigue new players and be different for veterans, the game has earnt its space on my gaming shelf!
[Editor’s Note: Catch the Moon was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £24.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]