This is the box for boop., the new game from designer Scott Brady and publisher Smirk & Dagger.
Separating ourselves from the subjectivity of taste, this is ca-yute, whether you love it or hate it. And I know some of you hate it.
There’s a certain type of customer who comes into the board game café where I work, asks for two-player game recommendations, and then blanches when I pull boop. off the shelf. He—it is always a “he” who blanches—refuses to believe that he will be entertained by what is “clearly” a game for children. I get it. It doesn’t look Serious. These adorable wooden kittens and cats must be beneath him, unworthy of any expenditure of his intellect.
I get it. The kittens and cats, like the box, are dang cute.
Never one to back down in the face of a challenge, I tactfully push on. I’ve stopped explaining that the board is quilted and the box is turned upside down to make a bed. This, I have learnt, does not sway this particular brand of customer. Instead, I tell him that boop. is, in fact, a wonderful little abstract game, a wolf in sheep’s kitten costume. “You’ll feel like you’re playing a game that’s been around for hundreds of years,” I tell him. “Backgammon. Chess. boop. That’s the lineage.”
Assured enough to risk it, if still skeptical, the wary man takes the game in hand and returns to the table where his date—who is, by the way, always a “she” in these situations—is waiting. They inevitably end up playing several times in a row.
Quietly, in my heart of hearts, I hope she beats him every time.
You each start the game with eight Kittens. You take turns placing a Kitten on any one of the board’s 36 squares. If you manage to get three Kittens in a row, you remove them from the board and replace them with three Cats, or, as my friends and I have come to call them, Chonks.
Your ultimate goal is to either get three Cats in a row, or to get all eight of your Cats out on the board. The first player to manage either is the victor. Lest this sound boring, I’ve left out the twist.
Each time you place a Kitten on the board, it pushes Kittens in the eight surrounding spaces one space backwards, provided they don’t have any Kittens or Cats in the space behind them. Cats do the same thing, but they move both Kittens and Cats. Edges will not save you. Pieces can, and will, get pushed right off the board.
Don’t worry, you get them back.
boop. is simultaneously pleasant and sharp, both relaxing and relentless. As my coworker Josh put it, “If this game were made with, like, cones and cubes, you’d put three times as much thought into it.
In addition to being a delightful design, boop. fascinates me because it taps right into that pesky vein of fragile masculinity that persists in our culture. In case my anecdotal evidence does not convince you, I come bearing objective evidence.
This is the box for Gekitai, which was self-published by designer Scott Brady back in 2020.
Not so cute, Gekitai. Attractive, yes, but not cute. It looks like an abstract game. It looks Serious. It looks the part of a game Great Minds have gathered around for centuries.
Compare, if you will, the BGG scores for boop. and Gekitai.
Not to blow your mind or anything, and perhaps you see this coming, but boop. and Gekitai are the same game. boop. added upgrading your pieces, and the need to get three matura felines in a row in order to win, but they are otherwise identical designs.
Gentlemen, I beseech you, we must take ourselves less seriously. Open your eyes and your minds and your hearts to the wonder of boop. This absolutely lovely little game wants only to love you. If you learn to love it in return, I think you’ll have a pretty good time.