A Few to Review: Catch the Moon

  • Play (Mechanics)
  • Presentation (Art/Quality)
  • Plan (Rules)

Welcome to the first-ever A Few to Review, a series of reviews written by members of the Tabletop Writer’s Guild. Each month, several guild members select a game to play, write up their thoughts in 300-500 words, and one of those members hosts the review.

This month’s review is Bombyx’s Catch the Moon, a dexterity game set in a poetic and dreamlike world. Each turn players roll a die and add a new ladder in an ever-increasing stack of ladders, trying to touch only 1 or 2 other ladders, or raising the height of the structure. All of this is determined by the die. Fail to place a piece, or cause the structure to fall, and the Moon sheds a tear. Once all the ladders are placed, or all the Moon’s tears have been shed, the game is over. The player with the least tears wins.

So what did our panel think of the game? Read below to find out!

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Marc, The Thoughtful Gamer

A website about board games, card games, and pretty much every other kind of game that traditionally requires a table.

Catch the Moon is delightful, with its tone somewhere between the destructive madness of Jenga and the serenity of a collaborative art project. Indeed, the win/loss conditions are the slightest form of incentive possible, and I can’t imagine anyone ever feeling genuinely competitive over a game of Catch the Moon. Quickly it shifts from opposition to teamwork as you root for your ostensible opponents to successfully place their ladders in creative and exciting ways.

I love how well it expresses the reality that often competitive and disparate individual incentives can interact in such a way to result in something greater than the individual parts. Each person wants to place a ladder according to the rules, but together the players are, unknowingly, building something beautiful and unplanned. It’s a type of spontaneous order.

Such phenomena are not easily captured by games which often feel pressured to shoehorn in a single winner even if the theme doesn’t promote that. But, as I’ve talked about on my podcast it’s very difficult to step outside of the win/loss binary without simultaneously leaving the realm of “game”.

The dreamlike art and presentation are in Catch the Moon’s favor. (I particularly enjoy the stately, tongue-in-cheek “Book of Figures” housed in the rule booklet that shows possible ways to connect the ladders.) Unlike many games where the presentation is wafer thin, Catch the Moon improves as you dwell on the Quixotean absurdity of stacking ladders on a cloud to reach the moon. The fact that failure is met with tears from a weeping moon is the cherry on top. My friends and I have quickly ritualized a simultaneous frenzied cry of “THE MOON WEEPS” to further accent the shame.

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Andy, Meeple Mountain

Meeple Mountain began life as a game night for a handful of people in 2014, and since then had grown into a full blown event organizer and board game media outlet.

Dexterity games are a staple in board gaming circles; going back to Kerplunk, Don’t Break the Ice, and that most iconic of dexterity games: Jenga. Clearly the demand is high for fun, exciting, and unique games in this space. So it was with great anticipation that I ordered Catch the Moon.

While there’s a good number of pieces in the game, there’s really only 3 types: teardrops, dice, and of course the ladders. They immediately draw the eye, like something from a fever dream. “The angles are off” your mind says, “these ladders can’t be safe, they can’t serve their primary purpose”! But when you’re trying to use them to climb your way to the Moon to stop her tears from falling…well then perhaps it’ll be okay just this once.

Bit by bit, rung by rung, you and your opponents build a rickety scaffolding that will take you to your true love, the Moon. The ladders assemble like so many forked twigs tossed to the ground; first interlocking, then coming apart with the slightest pressure in the wrong direction. As the structure grows in height it increases in flimsiness until eventually a ladder falls, and then another; each mishap earning the transgressor a single teardrop. Once all the Moon’s tears have been wept, the game is over and the one who causes the least heartbreak wins the game; and the hand of your lady love.

Playing Catch the Moon is an exercise in patience, and willingness to move slowly and with great care. It’s an interesting concept, and a fun game. And what wouldn’t you do for love?

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I’ll emphatically echo the other voices of praise here for this lightweight and esoteric game with a rapturous atmosphere built up around it. Catch the Moon isn’t a complex game, but it’s impossible to overlook its inherent value due to the degree to which it nurtures social interaction, table discussion, and a rising communal excitement when it crescendos towards completion as ladders become increasingly challenging to place and the tension mounts to match. And the whole thing takes about 20 minutes. 

If Catch the Moon is to have a particular area of criticism, the most likely one is in its repetitiveness. Although every iteration of the game yields a unique visual appearance thanks to the randomness of the roll and the machinations of its players, its replayability is not endless. Like most games of dexterity and stacking, its most base appeal lies in its simplicity both in form and function. In this Catch the Moon is no different: the entire game revolves around rolling a die and then adding a ladder to the pile while trying not to topple whole sections over. This provides a great deal of variety and replay value writ large, particularly when sharing it with others who may not have experienced the intoxicating temerity of trying to reach the moon via ladder. However, it’s best in doses to avoid having the appeal wear off. Playing more than a couple times in a row starts feeling a little rote.  

Although the game has elements of tactical decision-making based on the roll of the die and where to place pieces, the game is much more about the collective social experience and seeing which way you can shape the ever more unwieldy tower than about overarching strategy – or even winning. Instead, matching its quixotic premise, Catch the Moon is a marvelous stacking exercise that’s three parts game, one part artistic expression, and very much worth checking out.

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Rob, A Pawn’s Perspective

With a price tag of only $20, and a poetic beauty rarely found in games, Catch the Moon captivates players as they build a structure from different sized ladders. The goal? Reach the sky and catch the Moon, who is eager for your arrival. Topple the structure, or fail to find a place for a ladder, and the Moon will shed a tear. Once all the ladders or tears have run out the game ends and the player with the least tears wins.

The ladders, coming in several configurations, lend themselves to some interesting and unique building choices. Pieces can be placed between rungs of other pieces, or simply laid flat across others. Some ladders have half a rung, which can be utilized as a hook to secure a piece or to hang. There will be times where your structure is so solid and sound that it feels like it could never topple. Other times every last ladder is placed so precariously it’s a small wonder how the structure stands at all.

Catch the Moon is surprisingly simple, yet its charm is enough to set is apart from games of similar ilk. Be warned, though. With its low price comes slightly flimsy components. The ladders don’t feel like they’ll stand up to the test of time. I’ve managed to play the game with my 5 and 9-year-olds with no damage yet, but the fear is there that sooner or later we’re going to lose a ladder or two. That being said, Catch the Moon is still an excellent family game that all ages can enjoy. You’ll quickly get your money’s worth out of the game, so maybe having to buy another copy in a year or so won’t be such a sting.

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