Sunday, 8 August 2010


The Game

Another game played at Carcasean, which Chong Sean taught us. Players compete to buy fish as they are caught, and then try to earn as much money as possible by selling them. Richest wins.

The players take turns to be the fisherman, who reveals cards one by one from the deck, until one of the other players rings the bell to buy all fish revealed. This is a real-time game. Whoever rings the bell first gets the fish. The buyer always pays a flat $10. The fisherman gets $1 per card revealed. There are all sorts of different fish cards in the deck, numbered 1 to 3. You only have 3 trays in front of you for storing fish, each tray being able to store only one type. If you buy any fish that you can't store, you dump it to your bin, and you will get penalised for it based on the card value.

You can only sell fish at the start of your turn before you start flipping cards from the deck. You can sell from any number of your trays, but you must sell all the fish in the same tray together if you do decide to sell. The price varies depending on the number of fish you have. Price per fish is very low if you only have a few to sell, but can be quite lucrative if you have a lot of fish. So you'll want to collect many fish of the same type before you sell the batch. When you sell a fish type, you also force all other players having that fish type to discard one fish card, unless they are holding that fish type in their ice tray (everyone has 2 normal trays and 1 ice tray). The game ends when the Market Close card comes up. This is shuffled into the last few cards of the deck, and you won't know exactly when it will come up.

Everyone has 3 trays (2 normal, 1 with ice) and a bin. You have $30 at the start of the game. I like how that sea gull on the lower right looks at you with a cheeky glint in its eyes.

There are some other quirks. Octopus cards are jokers and can be placed with any fish type. Cat cards let you steal a fish from another player. Canned fish cards let you discard 2 cards from your bin. That can save you as much as $6 (two value 3 cards) in fines.

The Play

Chong Sean, Michelle and I played a 3-player game. The rules changes a little - the fisherman (i.e. seller) can ring the bell himself to buy his own fish. This is needed to make the game more interesting. I was quite aggressive in buying fish in the early game, however during mid game I kept losing out on the purchases. Either Michelle or Chong Sean would ring the bell just before I was about to do so. I had a major fish drought. Towards game end I think my desperation made me irrational and I probably spent too much buying some batches of cards that didn't really help me very much.

The paper money is beautiful. I wasn't do so well in the game. I had two empty trays. I had a face-down card on my bin. You can see the card back - a sea gull holding a fish in its beak.

Michelle was most aggressive in buying fish. She bought the most, and also was forced to dump fish a lot. However she also made a lot of money. Chong Sean was the evil one, often trying to look for opportunities to sell fish types that would force others to discard fish cards. At game end, Michelle won at $70. Chong Sean had $61. I had $34, which meant I earned only $4, because everyone started the game with $30. I was a lousy fishmonger.

The Thoughts

Cash-a-Catch is quite a funny game. Because of the real-time element, sometimes you really can't think straight and you can get easily influenced by the psychology of the group. It's not easy trying to evaluate the worth of the cards in real time as one card after another is revealed. You need to consider not only how much they are worth to you, but also how much they are worth to your opponents. Get too nervous and slam down on the bell too quickly, and you may be paying more than what the batch is worth to you. Hesitate too long, and a good batch of fish may be grabbed by an opponent before you can. It's impossible to calculate things accurately, so mostly you have to go by gut feel. And I think that's what makes the game fun. There's also the atmosphere and the psychology. If everyone is very trigger-happy, you may be forced to do the same, or you'll never have any fish to sell.

I think it's always good to reveal the cards quickly when you are the fisherman. If you do it quickly, you'll earn more because there will be more cards revealed when someone rings the bell. You'll also create tension and you won't allow your opponents time to calculate things accurately. However one drawback is the big batch of cards may benefit the buyer a lot too.

The game may sound similar to Halli Galli, because of the bell, but it really isn't. In Halli Galli you just need to identify the 5-fruit pattern and hit the bell, but in Cash-a-Catch you are frantically trying to evaluate the worth of the batch of fish on the fly as one card after another is added to the batch. If you take the game too seriously, this can be quite taxing.

The game is quick. The rules are simple, but the game isn't exactly light. It requires your full attention all the time because you are involved in every auction (yes, I think of them as auctions).


Frank Conradie said...

Thanks for bringing this game to my attention. I hang out on BGG way too much, and yet have never heard of this game until today! Sounds like a great super-filler that will work well for my game group.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I too take daily doses of BGG. :-) I only vaguely remembered Cash-a-Catch. It wasn't a title that interested me and I never tried to find out more about it. Also I tended to confuse it with If Fishes Were Wishes. If Chong Sean had not suggested it I would not have picked it to play. I'm glad to have tried it. Even though I've learned that I suck at selling fish, ha ha...