(The Board) Games People Play: #18, The Alley Cats Game

You know, everybody wants to be a cat…

Tuesday 11 January 1983

I was woken up at 3am by this wailing noise. For the last two years, our neighbour at 173 Waterton Lane has had a cat. A grey Persian Longhair by the name of Clarence. It’s a bit of a scruffbag getting slugs in its fur. It can hold its own against Labradors, Rottweilers, and my Auntie Ethel’s Chow Chow. Last night it was miaowing for the best part of an hour.

The first thing I thought was that Clarence had been trying to ‘talk’ to Rocky, the Andrews’ Jack Russell Terrier. On closer examination, the stupid moggy fell inside our dustbin. For the best part of an hour he was stuck. Before I set off for Brocklehurst’s Newsagents, Muggins here risked being scratched and spat on by picking up Clarence. Thankfully he was happy to relieved of his ordeal. Thank goodness for the fact that our bins are emptied on Mondays.

Back in 1976, Ideal let the fur fly with this board game.

The Alley Cats Game

Cats are seldom seen in board games. The domestic cat prefers its own company and, unlike the dog, doesn’t greet you on arrival. They prefer to wander at nighttime whereas your dog likes to sleep in its own bed (or your own bed). Inspired by Top Cat (itself a feline skit on Sergeant Bilko), The Alley Cats Game was both a race game and a test of memory.

Throughout the board, you have sixteen plastic dustbins (about the same size as a 35mm film canister). In twelve of them, each bin has plastic fish skeletons. In the remaining four, a cardboard Bulldog may be lurking in them. Each player (based on a four player game) can choose four bins at random, out of their opponent’s/opponents’ view. They fill the bins with three fish skeletons and a cardboard Bulldog.


The fun begins once the player with the highest number thrown goes first. Each player tries to find their nearest bin, in the hope of finding their booty. All cardboard cat counters are designed to carry two fish skeletons on their body. If your cat picks up a fish, it returns to its Home square. Sounds straightforward? In theory yes, apart from a few obstacles.

If you copped for one of the bins with a Bulldog, oh dear. One leaves empty handed. The winning player is the cat that has caught the most fish skeletons. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, BluebirdLegend has created this funky video of the Ideal board game.

S.V., 18 December 2017.

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