Exploding Kittens

Publisher Exploding Kittens LLC
Design Credits Elan Lee, Shane Small
Art Credits The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman)
Game Contents 56 cards, rules
Guidelines Nihilistic game of playful death by well-meaning kittens
MSRP $19.99
Reviewer Andy Vetromile

Cats are a handful. They get underfoot, they get into everything, and the only consolation is they’re usually a little more laid back than they were as kittens. Back then you wouldn’t be surprised if . . . heck, if one of them blew something up. Exploding Kittens does not deal with the question of a kitten destroying something, it assumes the kittens will destroy all but one thing, to wit: you and your fellow players. Therefore . . .

. . . the object is to be the only one not blown up.

Kitty, get that boom-boom-boom

Two to five maladjusted people get a hand of cards, including one Defuse card. Unlike most card games, though, the only thing a player has to do on his turn is draw a card. That’s it. Nothing more.

It’s what he draws that’s the problem. No one wants to pull an Exploding Kitten out of the deck. If he does, the only thing that can save him is his Defuse card. If he has no Defuse card, boom, he’s out of the game. The same fate lies in wait for all but one player. Oh, sure, one may stave off the inevitable. See the Future cards let one look at the top of the draw deck to see if a booby-trapped kitten is in his immediate future. He can’t survive an explosion but he can Shuffle the deck, play a card that lets him skip his turn, or play sets of matching cat cards that let him steal cards from another player’s hand. But if the purloined item ain’t a Defuse, everyone else is one death closer to success. Last cat-lover standing wins.

If you want to know what the artwork is like, think Matthew Inman. Ever seen the on-line cartoon The Oatmeal? If so then you know of what wonders Mr. Inman is capable, and he brings that same liquid-hectic style to the cards in Exploding Kittens. If you don’t know the strip your geek cred takes a hit but you’re in for a treat. The cards themselves are fine things, and the whole, er . . . “kit” and caboodle? . . . comes in a box with the rules (also illustrated by the aforementioned Matthew Inman).

Defuse is de way to stop de kitty from de explosion

Exploding Kittens talks about a deep strategy and it’s unclear why because there really isn’t one. Sooner or later someone is going to get blown up by a kitten and it only gets worse from there. The game enjoys a building sense of nihilistic expectation, which is why they also characterize it as something akin to Russian Roulette . . . though to be fair if this were real life there’d be a whole lot more collateral damage. The game is also quick to point out the kittens harbor no ill intent; they’re just as much a victim as anyone else in this fiasco as the detonations they set off are the result of innocent play and careless frolicking. Heck, if anything you’re to blame for leaving any number of combustibles out where an unsuspecting moggie can get to them.

There's more than one way to spin a cat

As the above suggests, if you’re a deep thinker or a heavy strategist, the only reason for you to play this game is a hatred for all things feline or the possession of 20 minutes (or less) to kill (kittens, people, bystanders, rivals, etc.). It’s not well thought out save in the mathematical sense that they know how many people to eliminate and how to make that pain last so everyone can savor or dread it per their individual card appointments. Real masochists can combine multiple decks to accommodate additional victims. There are tweaks to give one a lingering but unfounded sense of hope – enough all-different or all-matching cards allow one access not just to rivals’ hands but the discards as well – and yet, spoiler alert, it all ends in tears anyway. The inevitability of it all is palpable, so it has that going for it from a theme/design standpoint, but should anyone seek an exercise of the grey matter they should look elsewhere. In Exploding Kittens there’s nothing but death, fear, cats with an expiration date . . . and a box littered with fun.

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