As a longtime The Oatmeal fan I was very interested when its creator and Elan Lee teamed up to create a simple yet fun all-ages card game called Exploding Kittens. I pretty quickly backed the Kickstarter and watched as it became the most subscribed Kickstarter in history with 219,382 backers.
As the often hilarious backer updates continued we saw additions to the game in the form of NSFW cards, a special treat in the box, and a higher quality package. The big draw for me was that this was meant to be a game that can be played as a family or with a bunch of friends.
After having the game for some time and playing in many scenarios I can say the game delivers exactly what it promised and is a fun diversion.
The point of Exploding Kittens is quite simple. There is always one less exploding kitten card placed in the deck than there are players. If you draw that pivotal card and cannot bypass it, you lose (because the cat explodes in a spectacular fashion) and the game continues until only one player remains.
To balance out the game-ending power of the exploding kitten card, you have other cards such as diffuse, shuffle the deck, read the future (letting you see the top three cards), skip a turn or attack (you skip your turn and the next player goes twice). There are also ways to steal your opponents’ cards to try and take away their ability to bypass a cat exploding in their face. I was worried at first that the relatively simple nature of the game would make it a short-lived experiment, but the tactics you can employ and the fun you can have make the game quite enjoyable to play over and over again.
I first played Exploding Kittens with my sons, aged 14 and 10. They are competitive and, despite my best efforts, at times bad winners and losers. Games like Munchkin (one of my favorites) often end in fights as they get upset at each other for playing curses or backstabbing each other. In Exploding Kittens you are doing much the same things, but the quick and relatively low-stakes feeling of the game makes the kids not even realize they are being beaten or winning till the game is over. The first time we played we went through seven rounds in a row without any squabbles or fights, just laughter and pure fun. Part of this is due to the hilarious cards and text. The Oatmeal is a talented satirical online cartoonist and his art adds a real charm to this game.
Next I tried playing the NSFW deck with some buddies, and we laughed for over an hour as we played the gross and over-the-top variants of the regular cards. The rules are the same between decks, but the NSFW cards push the envelope of what is acceptable when drawing cats and humans, so if you are easily offended avoid it. I found them hilarious. The game is still great and tons of fun, but the NSFW deck adds a definite edge and elicits a lot of laughter, adults snickering like teenagers watching an R-rated movie for the first time.
When played with one deck Exploding Kittens is designed for two to five players, with both decks up to 10. The larger the group the more frantic play gets, and tactics that throw the exploding cat card between players happen often. The game is quick to learn and quick to play, which makes it great for casual get-togethers or family game nights. Exploding Kittens was originally a Kickstarter Backer exclusive, but it is now available on Amazon and well worth adding to anyone’s game library.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B010TQY7A8]