Review: Exploding Kittens

Yay! My first blog post. It has been a while since I’ve actually written, but it’s nice to be back, and writing about something that I’m truly passionate about; tabletop gaming. I am definitely not an expert on the topic, but when random people ask me what are some of the best games to play, or how to get started in tabletop gaming, I figured that I would dispense some of that knowledge in an open forum such as this. Please feel free to comment and share because really, my intentions are to just get any conversation going on tabletop gaming.

And for my first post, I wanted to review one of the most anticipated microgames to come out in the last year, Exploding Kittens.

Phuong and I usually get the mail together, and I had been checking it more often in the last week since I got an email from Blackbox saying that my copy of Exploding Kittens was on its way. You watch videos of people play it, read comments from beta testers, and it ramps up your anxiety knowing that the game isn’t in your hands yet. Then one day, on a random trip to the mailbox, it had finally come in. Opening the box, I was satisfied knowing that I held in my hand one of the most backed Kickstarter games in history, and helped fund the movement. Even the “secret add-on” the developers put for the backers was a bit of a surprise, although I was anticipating confetti to shoot out at me, which is why I slowly opened the box.

Exploding Kittens First Edition
Inside the box

Exploding Kittens is a card game designed by Elan Lee, Matthew Inman, and Shane Small. Matthew Inman was famous for his cartoons on “The Oatmeal”. His viral artwork combined with the simplicity of the game was what essentially ensured the success of this Kickstarter project.

Simply put, Exploding Kittens is the tabletop version of Russian roulette. Thematically, you are preventing these kittens from exploding by not drawing the card in the deck. If you cause one of these kittens to blow up, you lose the game. There are obviously other cards in the deck that help prevent you from blowing up these cute creatures.

Exploding Kittens Cards
Examples of the Exploding Kitten

To start, you are given one defuse card (this card prevents a cat from exploding), and then are dealt four of the cards from the deck. Finally, the kittens are then shuffled into the deck. The gamers that night tried to play a nine-player game by combining the regular deck with the NSFW edition. The main goal was to not draw cards from the deck. By drawing, you risk getting one of the dreaded exploding kitten cards.

Playing this game, you essentially have a backwards version of Uno, playing cards so that you are the last player standing. From the actions of the other players, you are trying to determine whether or not the next card you draw is, in fact, the exploding kitten. Add in the artwork, humour, and satire of The Oatmeal, and the game becomes even more fun. I mean, when do you ever get a chance to attack someone with a “bear-o-dactyl”, or see into the future by rubbing the belly of a “pig-a-corn”?

IMG_7182
Ways to avoid exploding a kitten

What really made the game was in the last moments of play when the deck had a few cards remaining. I’ll admit I was eliminated early in our game that night, so it was entertaining to watch when the last four or so surviving gamers sweat it out and do whatever it took to prevent themselves from getting an exploding kitten. Players were stealing from each other, playing nope cards to prevent their precious defuse cards from being stolen, and even becoming more cognizant of where they put their exploding kitten back in the deck. Then there were the mind games people started to play. “Did he put the exploding kitty back on the top of the deck”, “maybe it’s the second card instead”, “where the hell is that exploding kitten?”

We had only one opportunity to play exploding kittens that night, but because of its easiness and humour, it is a game that you can easily pick up and bring to any group of friends and play. As the box states, it really only takes two minutes to explain the game and due to its really simple setup, you can play another game over and over without much effort.

My only issue with the game is that I don’t anticipate any more can be added. The game currently has only two decks, the regular deck, and the NSFW edition. And when you combine these decks, you can get, at most, nine players playing at the same time. If the developers make a different set of cards, the best it can do is increase the number of players in the game. If they decide to make another set of actions or moves, the game becomes convoluted and Exploding Kittens was built on its simplicity.

Let’s remember though, the game was intended to be a microgame so don’t expect much. What I can tell you is that this game creates conversation and is awesome for social events. It is a game that you play when you are enjoying a beer with your friends or when you’re waiting for that one friend to make a move in a strategic board game (you know that friend). When we played this game last night, gamers were egging each other on, or were on the edge of their seat waiting for the next card. As I mentioned before, I was eliminated early in the round, but I was thoroughly entertained watching the others battle it out and vie for the top spot as ultimate survivor.

The developers are still sending the games out to all of its backers, and there is no doubt that this game will be available on game store shelves in the near future. When it does, I highly recommend picking up this game and having it ready in your car, or in your pocket. It is definitely a surefire way to create weird conversations and pass the time.

Pros:

  • Short game that is easy to learn.
  • The Oatmeal’s amazing artwork is hilarious.
  • There is a subtle hint of strategy that makes the game exciting for both casual and avid gamers.

Cons:

  • If you buy only the NSFW deck, you definitely can’t play this game with your kids.
  • Not much depth in the game.
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