Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is a fast paced, card based, party game published by Blue Orange Games. Designed by Dave Campbell, the game sees 2 – 8 players flipping cards that feature tacos, cats, goats, cheese or pizza. With a few extras (gorillas, narwhals, and groundhogs) they aren’t all named on the box, with players needing to have quick reflexes to win cards. However, who is this oddly named game aimed at? Let’s find out!
In Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza players are attempting to get rid of all of their cards. If playing with 6 or more players this is an even split of the 64 card deck, otherwise each player is dealt 12 cards. Each player sits around the table with their pile of cards face down in front of themselves. One player starts the game by flipping their top card into a central face up pile from their draw pile and says “Taco”. The next player then repeats this process: flipping the top card from their own draw pile onto the central pile, instead saying “Cat”.
This process is followed by the subsequent players saying “Goat”, “Cheese”, “Pizza”, then back to the top with “Taco”. This continues until one of two things occurs. If the card flipped over matches the word said then all players must slap their hand onto the central pile. When this happens the slowest player, whomever is last, gains all of the cards – putting them on the bottom of their personal draw pile.
Included in the deck are 3 special card types that don’t feature in the name Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza: Gorillas, Narwhals, and Groundhogs. There are far fewer of these card types in the deck and when they come out they have specific actions assigned to them. For gorillas players must bang their chest, Groundhogs see players drumming the table and narwhals make players make a horn above their heads with both hands, before slapping the deck.
The final ways players can gain the cards from the middle are flinching and forgetting. A group can decide to what level a flinch is enough to be punishable, but as per the rules any flinch towards the deck incorrectly is enough to gain you the pile of cards from the center. Players can also be tripped up by forgetting what word to say, again being punishable by gaining the pile! The game continues until one player has managed to rid themselves of their draw pile and then goes on to be first in the next match or special card – winning the game. These players still have turns, despite having no cards, saying the appropriate next word in the sequence.
The game seems to be a modernisation of the old card game Irish Snap, or Slapjack. In that game players would start by calling Ace, two and so on while flipping cards. It can become just as “violent” with players slapping their hands onto the central deck, but comes with a fun family friendly deck of cards – rather than standard playing cards. The addition of the special cards is enough to elevate the experience from a standard deck though. The silly vibe of the special cards suits the rest of the game, breaking up the rhythm nicely. It would have been interesting to see a slightly wider range of these special cards included, to shuffle some in and out from one game to the next. Still, even with only 3 it is more than possible to panicky do something wrong.
An average game of Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza takes around 15 minutes. Though, with the way players win, it can be over much quicker or last a lot longer. As to win a player must be first there is a lot of chance, increasing with the player count, that someone with zero cards won’t be fastest to slap the pile. Most of the time this creates an entertaining atmosphere, as someone gets within moments of winning only for the game to eventually be won by another. However, at the lower end of the player count (with 2 or 3 players) 1 player can be miles ahead and it feels more like just putting off the inevitable. In games with higher player counts this may not be as much of an issue, as multiple players could get close to winning simultaneously.
The crux of the experience is the way that the cards can trick players into flinching or completely slapping the deck incorrectly. The likes of the goat and the cheese wedge might not look too similar but the cheese wedge and the pizza slice are very similar in shape. To keep players more on their toes the cards are split into 5 colours. Predominantly one type is one colour, for example the green cards are mostly Tacos. However, each of the other main card types also feature in the green section of the deck. When taking your time the artwork for each is distinctive, but the need to be fast combined with some similarities trick the mind over and over again.
With only cards included in the box, it is nice to see that they are of good quality: perhaps they could have been a touch thicker but they are very easy to shuffle. As with any card game that requires players to slap a deck or cards, there is a risk of cards being bent. A visual tell on a card isn’t enough to make the game unplayable, and you could easily get away with leaving that card in the box. Some may wish to sleeve the cards though, as all it takes is an over exuberant slap to see a card get creased. One thing Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza really has going for it is the box size. Being so small makes the game incredibly portable, so you’ll be able to easily throw it into a bag whenever meeting up for game nights is allowed again.
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza may not be the best game to play in a game cafe, let alone a library. Saying the words as you play cards isn’t the issue, at least the offset of the game. As cards start to build up in the middle, hands get slapped a bit, the volume of the game rises. What was a game where players around the table clearly spoke the words, becomes one where players squeal with excitement, cheer and groan. That excitement is certainly part of the charm of the experience, just pick the location of play accordingly.
The concept and rules of Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza are super simple. Play a card and say the next word of the series, if they match then act. Looking a little silly is therefore the only barrier of entry. It is that game that anyone can sit down and instantly know how to play and intuitively how to win. Therefore, it is brilliant for family gatherings where other board games wouldn’t fit in and there is no trivia in sight. It is silly, yet it is fun. Fast paced fun that brings the thrill of playing snap when you were younger back into your life, with a bright colourful aesthetic. Hands may get hurt a little with all of the slapping but Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is certainly one to try!
(Editor’s Note: Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)