Exploding Kittens Card Game Review – How to Play, Rules & Strategy
Exploding Kittens is unique, to say the least. It’s a push-your-luck Russian Roulette type game where the only real goal is to not explode. What could be simpler?
With 219,382 backers, Exploding Kittens became the most-backed Kickstarter project of all time. But it isn’t only the most-backed project, it’s also the most-funded games project ever, raising $8,782,571. How does this ridiculous game warrant close to 9 million dollars in funding?
The answer to that question is a man named Mathew Inman. He’s the creator of The Oatmeal. At its core it’s a silly webcomic with over-the-top drawings of random things, but which also very often leaves you with more questions than answers. He’s made infographic comics about angler fish and mantis shrimp, the English language and grammar, and even a very sad but very hopeful comic about growing up with a houseful of cats.
His comics, although absurd, usually leave you feeling slightly better about the world or at the very least, with a smile on your face.
It’s this man’s iconic art style and absurdity that’s the basis of Exploding Kittens. With a cult following and rabid fan base from the start, it’s easy to see how Exploding Kittens was able to blow up on Kickstarter.
But was it all hype and no substance? Did the game live up to its promise of exploding kittens and ensuing hilarity?
Let’s take a look. (Spoiler: It’s pretty sweet)
“It’s like UNO, except there are goats, magical enchiladas and kittens that can kill you.” – CNN
Exploding Kittens is not a deck-building game, but has been described as an eccentric game of Russian Roulette.
If we stick with the theme the cats in the deck are the bullets. There is 1 less cat in the deck for the number of players. In a 5 player game, there will be 4 cats in the deck.
The deck is the gun pointed at your head, figuratively speaking. Every time you draw a card you risk exploding.
The goal: Don’t Explode.
There are, of course, several things you can do to protect yourself from flammable felines.
Defuse cards will let you cancel the exploding kitty and let you put it back in the deck, anywhere in the deck. You can put it right on top, you can put it on the bottom, or you can just randomly throw it back in the deck.
There’s quite a lot of strategy to not blowing up.
Exploding Kittens Original
- Versions available in Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, and Finnish.
- This is the family-friendly version.
Exploding Kittens First Edition
- Fun for all ages.
- Advertised as “A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats.”
- The box MEOWS when you open it. I’m sure that never gets old.
Exploding Kittens NSFW
- Party game version with the same mechanics as the original.
- Too horrible for children, apparently.
- From the website: “This box, like 99.99% of boxes, does not meow”
Exploding Kittens Party Pack
- Includes select cards from the originals and expansions
- Allows for up to 10 players
- The ridiculous box even plays party music when opened
Imploding Kittens (Expansion)
- Compatible with all versions of Exploding Kittens, except the Party Pack
- Adds 20 new cards, like Alter the Future and Feral Cat (who is lonely and confused)
- Also includes a human-sized turn indicator, which is shaped like a cone of shame. Of course.
Streaking Kittens (Expansion)
- Compatible with all versions of Exploding Kittens, except the Party Pack
- Adds 15 new cards for more strategy and increased buffoonery
Exploding Kittens Apps
- On the App Store and Google Play
- Has a single player mode
If you’re familiar with the weird world of The Oatmeal, then you’re going to feel right at home and slightly uncomfortable with Exploding Kittens. Exploding Kittens is purely a card game, so there are no dice or any other distracting elements other than a simple deck of cards.
Don’t let it fool you, though. It’s a very quick game with a surprising amount of strategy buried within a stupid amount of stupidity.
According to the box, it takes 2 minutes to learn.
It really is that simple. After watching both videos I fell completely prepared to explode.
Step 1: Draw a card.
Step 2: Try not to explode.
That’s a gross oversimplification of the rules, but during your first round of playing it’s going to take a few tries to figure out a strategy and what cards do before you’re able to really start planning ahead and coming up with a solid strategy.
My first playthrough, I was honestly underwhelmed. It had hilarious artwork and cards, but I didn’t really see the complexity and strategy in my first round. After the 2nd and 3rd rounds, however, I was jumping up and down screaming about exploding and celebrating Tacocats with the best of them.
It wasn’t until I actually grasped the point of the game and all of the rules that I really started to enjoy myself. The point is not to worry so much about the rules and just hang out with your friends playing a nonsensical card game.
I’m usually the rules guy in our group because nobody else wants to read them and Exploding Kittens forced me to relax a little bit and just enjoy the absurdity for what it was. Draw a card, try not to explode, and set up your friends so they explode.
Once I got that through my head it was much more fun. It also might have been that we had found the game sitting in a craft brewery and we were halfway through a flight of beers.
Some quick pointers for new players
In the early game, the odds of getting an exploding cat are slim. It may be worth it to just take the risks while the odds are in your favor to just draw a card. Try to save up as many cards in your hand for when the explosions begin.
Don’t underestimate the All-Seeing Goat. There are several cards that allow you to view the top few cards in the deck. These are extremely powerful especially after a Defuse card is used. You never know if a player is being sneaky and puts the Exploding Kitten right on top of the deck.
The artwork is fantastic. If you haven’t seen The Oatmeal or have no idea what it is, I highly suggest you head on over and waste several hours reading his comics. They’re hilarious, grotesque, and very often mixes absurdity with a childlike wonder for the world (especially cats and dogs). It’s an odd combination but it works.
Simple to learn, travels easily, and a clever mix of strategy and luck-of-the-draw
The game does have a surprising amount strategy and a very simple ruleset, but underneath the simplicity and goofiness, you’ll find the need for some tactical maneuvering.
The game travels very well. It comes in a small unassuming box, and if you’re really space-thrifty you can pull the inserts out to make room for the expansions. In one box you can pretty much fit every card (without inserts). Some of you may wish to murder me for ripping out box inserts, and I completely understand that, but Kendra and I travel a lot so we’re always on the lookout for a game we can pack up small.
Have a drink and read the card descriptions
It’s great with a beer! The very first time we played this was actually in a bar that had it sitting on a shelf. We picked it up and started playing. A few rounds later with some new friends who were interested in what we were doing and we had a full table cracking jokes and exploding.
If you do not like confrontation then this isn’t the game for you. Much of the strategy involves setting up your friends to explode and stealing from them. The game is designed to throw your friends under the bus. It’s not Munchkin-level skullduggery, but if you know your buddy has 2 Defuse cards, chances are you’re going to steal cards from them until you get one.
- Do you take the risk and just draw a card?
- Do you steal someone else’s card, making you stronger but also putting a target on your back because you’re a jerk?
- Do you put the exploding kitten back on top of the deck or manipulate it so it pops up in a few turns?
More players = More explosive fun
The game is okay with 2 players. It’s still fun, but it really shines when you have at least 4 players. The more players, the more fun it’s going to be. When Kendra and I played it for the first time it was just the two of us, which is not the way I recommend getting introduced to the game. The best way to play Exploding Kittens is with a bunch of friends and a fridge full of beer. You’re going to have a good time.
If you’re playing with much larger groups it can be a little boring if you’re the first one out. Once players are knocked out, they’re dead. They have to sit on the sidelines and wait until the game over. Usually, this involves heckling the players who are still in the game, but that’s not part of the official rules. Some players may not be okay with just sitting around watching other people play, especially if they are super unlucky and get knocked out right in the beginning.
We could list them here, but the Exploding Kittens website has a great list of FAQs already made. Also, we’re lazy.
- Exploding Kittens has some of the most fun artwork I’ve ever seen.
- It’s ridiculous and absurd but has a decent amount of strategy for being so lightweight.
- Best played with larger groups of players for the most explosions.
- Read The Oatmeal comics to understand the man behind the madness.
- It made a crap-ton of money on Kickstarter so it’s probably worth checking out.
Stats at a glance
Exploding Kittens is outlandish, silly, and sometimes really gross. It will also make you laugh out loud.
What other game are you going to have an angry Kraken, the Pope of Nope, magnificent squid arms, and cute adorable kittens trying their darndest to murder you?
It’s a fantastic game that does live up to the claim that you can learn it in 2 minutes, and for being so simple, there’s a ton of strategy and replayability built into the game.
If you were like me and didn’t enjoy it the first time you played it, give it another go, and try playing with a few more players.
Have you played Exploding Kittens? We would love to hear your thoughts on the game. Drop a comment below!