50 Games in 50 Weeks: Catego

Catego is an abstract dice game in which several players (about 2 to 5) each roll dice, and slowly fill in a scorecard, jockeying for position.

The scorecard looks like this:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Player 1
Player 2
Player 3
Player 4

Every turn, each player rolls two six-sided dice, adds them, and places that result in one of the columns in their row.

Here’s where strategy enters: The player with the highest number in a column wins that column, and all the numbers in that column (including the header) are added to that player’s score. So, columns farther to the right are more valuable than the left-hand columns.

As with any game, one’s enjoyment of Catego is proportional to one’s expectations. Catego remains interesting beyond the first few games, but would begin to wear thin after several dozen.

The weighting of each column adds important complexity. After the random die roll, the player must decide whether to lock up a low-scoring column or struggle for a high-scoring one. Each roll presents the player with several interesting options, which diminish alarmingly as the game draws to its close. The rules nicely balance random chance with strategy.

Moreover, players of almost any age can learn Catego in a few minutes, and its strategy reveals itself in play.

However, Catego is not Risk. Play can grow repetitive, and the lack of anything except abstract, black-and-white numbers can feel exhausting. That is not, of course, its fault. But it’s still true.

On the whole, though, Catego hits a lovely balance between extremes, as a game that’s easy to teach, slightly unpredictable, and strategic.

Catego was originally published in Reiner Knizia’s book Dice Games Properly Explained.

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