Grand Prrrrix in Cat's Mansion

Variant rules for Spear Games'Cat's Mansion by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 6, 1998

Cat's Mansion from Spear Games (UK) is a delightful-looking board game - if you're a cat lover, which I am. The components are so attractive, no cat companion can resist: five little cat statues as pieces, all different colors and poses; little silvered toy mouse, food bowl, pillow, and wrapped present - these are irresistable. While the board and cards aren't anything special, neither are they ugly - they're fairly attractive, very serviceable parts.

But the game is far too simple to have a good replay value. I've rarely seen a game last more than ten minutes, and you really don't feel like trying it all that often, cute as it is. It looks like Cat Clue - "Ah! The Black cat did it in the Conservatory with the toy mouse!" But it's not - it's a simple game of match your secret cat with its secret object, and it's too easy to do.

So I came up with the following rules which uses the components of this game, in an attempt to create something I'd want to play now and then. CAVEAT: I have only tried these once! But they went fairly well, so I offer them to you.

So if you have Cat's Mansion and feel like being a guinea pig, give them a try and send me feedback on them. All criticism, constructive as well as destructive, welcome - so long as you actually try the rules.


For three to five players.

Extra equipment needed

Poker chips (or a deck of cards: number cards = value 1, face cards = value 5; or glass tokens, etc.); one small coin per person; 2d6.


Put the cats on their starting pillows; shuffle the cat cards and have everyone draw one, keeping it face up in front of them: this is the cat they will play this game. Give each player the three PURR cards for their cat. Give each player 20 value in poker chips (or playing cards or what-have-you).


  • The Toy Mouse and one coin per person on the asterisk by the Bedrooms;
  • The Food Bowl on the asterisk near the Dining Room;
  • The Pillow on the asterisk near the Drawing Room;
  • The Present on the remaining asterisk.
Separate the Miaow cards into two stacks:

Stack One:

  • Front Hall and Wine Cellar with Brown Cat pictured
  • Billiard Room and Kitchen with Grey Cat pictured
  • Reception Room and Pink Bedroom with Black Cat pictured
  • Drawing Room and Dining Room with Orange Marmalade Cat pictured
  • Conservatory and Blue Bedroom with Blue Persian Cat pictured
Stack Two: the remaining Miaow cards. (If playing with three or four players, remove the three remaining Miaow cards for each cat not in play. Do not change Stack One, however, unless you want a shorter game.)

Shuffle each stack separately. Deal out Stack One across the top of the board, ten cards in a row next to each other, face up. This is now called the Race Order Layout. Set Stack Two to the side, face down - it is now called the Turn Order deck.

Object of the Game

The game is a race through the Mansion. The winner is the first cat to visit all the rooms in the order shown by the Race Order Layout. (As they were dealt, first to last.)


Move order is determined by the cards in the Turn Order deck. Each turn, the top card is turned face up: the cat pictured may take its move. This stack has three cards for each cat, so each cat will move three times before the Turn Order cards are reshuffled. Bonus: if the cat whose turn it is happens to be in the room shown on the Turn Order card at the beginning of its turn, it moves one space more than normal.

Movement is determined by Energy Points (EP): the poker chips or playing cards or what-have-you all players start with. You may move up to four spaces each turn, paying an EP cost as follows:

      Move: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
        EP: | 0 | 1 | 3 | 6
You spend EP (if any) and move the number of spaces you are entitled to. You may engage in a "Cat Spat" and, if you win, decide to spend more EP to continue moving.

Moving one space (sauntering) is always free. Four spaces is the maximum number of spaces a cat may move in any given turn, unless it started the turn in the room drawn for its move from Turn Order cards, in which case it could move five spaces if it paid 6 energy.

Movement is only orthogonally - not diagonally.

All movement off or onto a starting cushion is to or from the space directly in front of it, closest to the bedrooms - never to or from the side - unless blocked.

You may move adjacent to a cat which is on a starting cushion, but a cat that is blocked from leaving a cushion may leap over you to exit. If that space is also occupied, a cat on a starting cushion may exit diagonally. A cat coming off its starting cushion may "Cat Spat" on that movement phase, or may move past another cat without having to fight.

You may not move onto a space occupied by another cat. You may move onto a space occupied by an object (Mouse, Bowl, Pillow, Present), but not if another cat is there first.

Moving adjacent to another cat starts a "Cat Spat" - see below. This is only orthogonally - you may be diagonally adjacent to another cat without a problem. (See variants for a different way to play this.)

When you end your turn in a room in the correct order as shown by the Race Order Layout cards, place one of your Purr cards above it. In this way, players can keep track of their progress through the Mansion, making sure they don't miss any rooms. You must go through the rooms in order, ending a turn in each room - if you go into a room too early, or simply pass through it without stopping, it doesn't count, and you must go back into it in the correct sequence later. Your other two Purr cards are used in Cat Spats.


Moving onto a space containing one of the four objects ends your turn. The objects may not be moved the entire game.

If you opt to spend your entire next turn with the object, you gain some benefit:

  • The Toy Mouse: you play with it, honing your Cat Spat skills. Take one of the coins in the space, which you can turn in later for a Cat Spat bonus. No player may have more than one coin at a time. Once used, put the coin back with the Mouse - you can get it back by spending another turn there, or by trouncing another cat in a Spat. While you're at the Mouse, you look so fierce that no cat may move adjacent to you.
  • The Food Bowl: gain five energy. You may not eat two turns in a row, and must move off the bowl after eating. While you're at the Food Bowl, you growl so fiercely if anyone even thinks of approaching, that no cat may move adjacent to you.
  • The Pillow: gain three energy - but do not take the tokens until the beginning of your next turn. You may rest here as many turns in a row as you wish. Other cats may Cat Spat with you while you're resting, however - such a Cat Spat might mean you gain no energy for that turn - see Cat Spats.
  • The Present: this is a surprise, of course - you'll have to open the present to see what's inside. If you decide to stay for a turn, shuffle the four cards marked OBJECT and draw one - the object shown is what you've found. If you get the PRESENT card, you choose which of the other three you've found - OR you have found a secret passage to your own starting cushion (move immediately there for free and your turn ends). The rules for an object in the Present are identical to those above. The four cards are always shuffled when any cat spends a turn here, even if the same cat has been here before. If you don't use the object you found, you may search in the box again on your next turn - but shuffle the object card you drew back into the deck, and you may draw it again if you're unlucky ...

Other Ways to Gain Energy

You can rest in either Bedroom or on any of the starting cushions, and gain three energy per turn. These catnaps can be interrupted by Cat Spats just as napping on the Pillow can be. In addition, it's risky to catnap on another cat's cushion - see Cat Spats.

Maximum Energy

You can never have more than 25 energy stored up, no matter how much you rest or eat.

Cat Spats

If you move adjacent to another cat, a Cat Spat ensues. (Note: moving diagonally adjacent to another does not cause a Cat Spat, and movement off a Starting Cushion has special waivers - see above. Starting Cushions are not considered adjacent to each other, as you cannot move from one to another.)

The player moving is considered the attacker.

To resolve a Cat Spat, each player rolls 1d6 and adds any Spat Bonuses. The possible results are:

  • Attacker's score is higher than the defender's: The attacker may move the defender's cat one space in any direction, even diagonally (but not to an occupied space, of course). A defeated cat may be moved adjacent to another cat without causing a Spat. The attacker may occupy the defender's now vacant space - and may continue moving by spending more energy, if it hasn't moved the maximum distance yet. It may not attack the defender again in the same turn, but may attack other cats if it keeps moving. Simply occupying the defender's space does not require it to fight another cat, however. If the attacker's score is at least twice the defender's, the attacker gains a coin from the Mouse space.
  • Tie: roll again, continue to count any bonuses from the previous round.
  • Defender's score is higher than the attacker's: The defender moves the attacker one space in any direction, even diagonally (but not to an occupied space, of course). The attacker's turn is over. The defender may occupy the space the attacker came from if desired. If the defender's score is at least twice the attacker's, the defender gains a coin from the Mouse space.

Retreating before Combat

If the defender spends one energy token, it may retreat one space orthogonally before the combat. It may move adjacent to another cat - it is cowed, and no threat to anyone.

Spat Bonuses

  • +2 if defending your home territory. Your home territory is defined as your starting cushion and the two rooms in the Race Order Layout with your cat pictured on them. If either you or your opponent is in your home territory, you get this bonus.
  • +1 if your or your opponent are adjacent to your home territory (but not in it), as defined in the previous paragraph. Adjacent is orthogonal, of course, and one of you must be next to the starting cushion or next to an entrance to a home territory room to get the bonus.
  • +2 if you spend one of your two Purr cards. (The third Purr card is not available for a bonus, since it keeps track of your progress.) You may spend at most one Purr card per Cat Spat. Attacker must decide first, and then the defender, whether or not to spend a Purr card - once used, they're removed from the game. You must decide before the dice are rolled.
  • +1 if you have a coin from the Toy Mouse space. This is returned to the Mouse space when you use it. It's mandatory to spend it if you have it - the edge gained from Toy Mouse practice has to be used in the next combat or not at all.
  • +1 for every three EP you spend. The attacker must first announce, before rolling the dice, whether or not she's spending any EP, then the defender.
  • +1 if your opponent is resting - that is, didn't move this turn in order to gain EP.

Other Cat Spat Details

If you're attacked while Resting, you lose any EP you would have gained that turn if you lose the combat. If you manage to win while resting, it was such an easy fight you still gain EP for resting.

You may fight more than one Cat Spat per turn, but only one per opponent per turn. If you move to a space which borders two or even three other cats, fight them one after the other, in any order you choose. If you lose a fight, you retreat and don't fight any further that turn.

If you begin your turn adjacent to another cat, you may move away without spatting, or you may "cat spat" it.

Cat Spat Example

The Black Cat decides to bully her way by the Grey Cat, who's resting on the pillow. Blackie has a coin from the Toy Mouse space, and must spend it (return it to the Mouse space), so she's at +1. Her opponent didn't move the previous turn, trying to gain EP for resting, so Blackie's at another +1. The Grey Mouser has no bonuses.

Blackie decides not to spend three EP, and the Grey Mouser, who's resting for a good reason, likewise decides not spend any EP. They are not near their home territories, and neither wishes to spend a Purr card. So Blackie has +2 and the Grey Mouser +0.

Blackie rolls a 3: with her +2, that gives her a 5. But the Grey Mouser rolls a 5, so this round is a standoff. Both players roll again, Blackie is still at +2. This time she rolls a 1 and hisses at the dice as the Grey Mouser rolls another 5: the Mouser wins 5 to 3.

The Mouser retreats Blacking to any adjacent space, choosing the space Blackie came from since it's the least desirable space to be on, and the Mouser doesn't want to occupy it. The Grey Mouser retains the pillow, and will indeed win 3 EP for resting - Blackie was a pushover. However, since his score wasn't double her score, he does not take a coin from the Toy Mouse space - she wasn't that much of a pushover.


A five-player game can drag a bit, for a few reasons:

  • too many rooms to visit,
  • too many cats trying to use the same corridors at the beginning, and
  • too much fighting at first.
So here are some suggestions to alleviate those problems, in order:

Shorter Course

Deal out the Race Order Layout cards as usual. When all ten are dealt out, remove the cards with the second appearance of each cat, so only five rooms are remaining in the race order layout, each with a different cat on it. In this case, the race isn't over until all five rooms have been visited in order, and you return to your starting cushion.

Bidirectional Race

A cat may start at either end of the Race Order Layout. Those starting from the last room card dealt should use their "Purr" card markers upside down so all can see easily which cat is going in which direction. This should relieve the opening congestion quite a bit.

Smaller "Personal Space"

You can walk by another cat without Spatting. To instigate a Cat Spat, you must move directly onto another cat's space.


Only fair to tell you that parts of these rules were inspired by Hare and Tortoise, Deep Space Navigator, Desperado, and Hordes of the Things.

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