That's because both Rat-a-Tat Cat and Play Nine harken back to the traditional card game Golf. (In fact, Play Nine is basically Golf with golf themed cards) In all three games, you have a tableau of cards face down and you swap out cards from either the draw pile or the discard pile, trying to get the lowest total value
Rat-a-Tat Cat actually breaks from the mold more. It's simpler with only four cards and a simpler (and kind of more brutal) scoring system since you don't cancel out pairs. Plus, it has action cards.
Has it really been twelve years since I wrote a review of Rat-a-Tat Cat? Sweet Garfield and Heathcliff, it has. https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/75341/flexible-filler-2-6 My word, my sense of short games has changed since I wrote that.
The game has been in my collection for quite a while and I have played it a fair bit over the years. And, as much as I dislike the term filler, I have really Rat-a-Tat Cat to fill time. The vast majority of my games have been played waiting for people to show up or waiting for food to show up or squeezing in one last game in the night.
As I talk about in the review I wrote so long ago with thicker and darker hair, one of the keys is that you can end the game whenever you want. You can play as many rounds as you feel like and a round ends when someone knocks. Which could be the kiss of death in a game of any weight but is actually a virtue in this light, little game.
Compared to Golf, Rat-a-Tat Cat is both lighter and more random. You have a tableau of four cards compared to eight. You have those action cards. Heck, you have extra nine-value cards which messes with the odds.
But I'm pretty sure it's been close to twenty years since I've played Golf. And Rat-a-Tat Cat, I've been a fair number of plays of it over the last twelve years. It's a simple card game with silly art but it has kept on delivering.
I don't go looking for games with the goal of filling time. I do like short games but I want them to have depth and interesting decisions. Rat-a-Tat Cat isn't the kind of game that I look for. But it has kept delivering.
Of course, you also have to take into account that it is a children's game. As a game for grown ups, it works. But Rat-a-Tat Cat is pretty brilliant for the under ten set. Simple rules that still makes them think. Push your luck with a decent amount of control.
I don't need another game like Rat-a-Tat Cat. It has kept on doing what I need it to do.