Review: The Secrets of Cats

Last one! For awhile anyway, I have others to review but I’ll wait awhile.

So far I’ve talked about Fate’s core rulebook and a book full of suggestions on adapting them for a variety of games. Today I’m going to talk about an actual game built on that system. It’s called The Secrets of Cats.

This was the first complete Fate-based game I ever bought, and still the only one I actually have in paperback form rather than just an ebook. (Fun facts though: If you buy a physical copy of an Evil Hat game, even in a regular brick-and-mortar store, you can download the ebook for free.) Cats! Fate! Magic! Cats! What more could you want!?

Evil Hat started this awesome Patreon-supported project where they’ve published a whole bunch of short games (called “Worlds of Adventure”) using the Fate system. Makes it easy for players who don’t necessarily want to build their own games to find something they can just jump into the same way they would more traditional systems where the rules and story are combined. And there are so many now! Lots of variety so there’s almost certainly something to interest every player.

I actually don’t think this one came through the Patreon, but it’s similar in format and also considered a World of Adventure. It is about sapient, magical cats who secretly protect their humans (their “burdens”) against the hidden dangers of the world.

In this setting, all (or nearly all) cats are “sapient” (intelligent, human-like, the kind of animals you see in Disney films talking to each other in English) while few other animals are. Cats have their own governing body and certain responsibilities that must be carried out and passed onto each generation to keep everyone safe. They also have secret names (“true names”) and titles that indicate their place in that process.

The book comes with some NPCs and a starting adventure, so it really couldn’t be easier to jump in. There are even tables at the back of the book to randomly generate character information if you’re out of ideas.

This is just such a fun concept. And it pairs really well with the comic Hero Cats, which I noticed and picked up right around the time I discovered the game. I haven’t yet been able to run a game in it, but one day I’d like to give it a try and maybe also mix in some inspiration from the comic. Super-cats and wizard-cats? Yes please.

lucy character sheetFor supporting either the first book or the second on Kickstarter (there are three books in the series, I haven’t picked up the last one yet), I got this really cool character sheet made by the author for one of my two cats. One of these days I’ll make one of my own for my other cat. But for now, I’ll put this here to give you an idea of how characters look in the game.

One of the most interesting and surprising things for me was the way Aspects are handled in this game. As you can see on the character sheet, 4 out of the 5 are reserved for specific information about that character, and only that character. There’s no getting-to-know-each-other process to fill in Aspects like I’ve done for other Fate games, and that seems a little weird to me. Like it gives you as a player less control.

On the other hand, it makes character creation a lot faster, especially with those tables in the back (though really you can probably manage without them for the most part). And each character gets 6 free Stunts right at the start, so that helps to make up for any loss of creative freedom you might feel. It’s helpful to see these alterations, to get an idea of just how adaptable the system really is and think through what sorts of adaptations might work for my own games rather than just following a list of steps chosen by someone else.

My favorite thing about it…cats. I like cats, I like things that are about cats, I like that the author seems to have a good understanding of cats. Everything about character creation reinforces familiar cat-like traits and helps to create the right frame of mind for playing one. Very well-designed.

My least favorite thing…Hmm, I guess that it’s a magic game. I mean, it’s fine that it’s a magic game, obviously. That’s what it is and I knew it when I bought it. Lots of people like that. But I tend to like games with more diversity in skills and if it were my game to design I probably would have explored other “classes” emphasizing different skills. That’s probably why the idea of merging it with Hero Cats appeals to me. But it’s not really a negative and I still want to play it as is. Just something I’m not quite as excited about.

Overall it looks like a great game and I especially recommend it if you are a fan of cats. I also recommend you take a look at the other Worlds of Adventure and appreciate the variety. See if something appeals to you. And let me know how it goes if you decide to give either this book or one of the others a try!

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Secrets of Cats

  1. Thanks for the review, Zeph! I’m glad you like the game and that you’re happy with the character sheet for Lucy!

    “The Secrets of Cats” was the second book released under the Fate Worlds Patreon after “Venture City Stories”, so it’s officially a Fate World. The second and (just released!) third books in the series were both written and self-published by me on DriveThru RPG with Evil Hat’s blessings after I successfully Kickstarted them.

    I can’t remember if I made this clear in the book, but though there’s no explicit Phase Trio in “The Secrets of Cats” I do recommend that you follow a similar procedure to link the characters, and any of a cat’s character aspects can be linked to another player character’s to help that along.

    Uncoupling the phase trio from aspects gives a lot more freedom to round out your character as you see fit rather than trying to shoehorn in aspects that match your first adventure and/or relationship to other characters.

    Ryan Macklin gave a similar recommendation here:

    http://ryanmacklin.com/2014/02/decoupling-aspects-phases/

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    1. Thanks for the information/correction. I think maybe I got confused because I supported “Animals and Threats” on Kickstarter and I remember I knew and was excited about the first book before it was actually released so I thought I supported both of them that way. I must have just seen it mentioned on G+ or something, though.

      I agree that the phase trio can be a bit limiting. On the other hand, it can add some structure for groups and individuals that need help. My first Fate game would have been a mess without it, none of us knew what we were doing and being able to link the Aspects into our character and group creation did a lot to pull everything together. But the freedom is nice when you know what you’re doing.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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