Easy to learn and no setup required
Strategy required keeps players engaged
Cards feature irreverent artwork
Limited to 5 players
Card uses can be confusing
Encourages aggressive play
According to the box, the Exploding Kittens card game is the most-backed Kickstarter project ever, having raised more than $8 million. That’s thanks in large part to the insane popularity of co-creator Matthew Inman’s webcomic The Oatmeal. The cards contain his signature artwork and text, making the game irresistible to fans. But that’s a lot of hype to live up to, and we wondered if this strategic, Russian roulette-style card game actually delivers. We got our hands on it and played several rounds over the course of two weeks with a mixed-age group ranging from 8 to 50. Read on to find out what we thought.
How it Works: Try not to draw the wrong card
The whole point of Exploding Kittens is to not draw an Exploding Kitten card. Once you do, you’re out. That’s the (bad) luck part. And since you can’t end your turn until you draw a card, the threat is always there. But to stay in the game, you can try to use all the other cards to your advantage. That’s where the strategy comes in: You want to lower your odds of drawing the dreaded card by increasing the odds that your opponents will.
This is done with the use of the other cards in the deck. Every player gets one Defuse card, which counteracts the Exploding Kitten card. You only get to play it once, but you’ll stay alive and you get to put the Exploding Kitten card back in the deck wherever you want. If you think it through carefully, you might be able to knock the next opponent out.
There are six other types of cards, including an Attack card, which lets you immediately end your turn and force the next player to take two turns in a row. Why is taking two turns a bad thing? Because you’ll have to draw two cards, and you never know if the Exploding Kitten will be one of them.
Most people attracted to this game will love the ridiculous drawings of bats farting or cats shaped like hairy potatoes.
Think the Kitten card is lurking? Play the Skip card if you have it, and you won’t have to draw a card to end your turn. If you have a See the Future card, you can take a peek at the top three cards in the deck to see if it’s there, then play another card to avoid it. Maybe you’ll play a Skip card, an Attack card to force an opponent to deal with it, or a Shuffle card to get it back further down the deck.
You can use a Favor card to force an opponent to give you one of their cards (of their choice), or a matching pair of Cat cards to steal a random card from an opponent. While drawing a card from the pile is always fraught, getting one from an opponent is great because there’s no way it’s an Exploding Kitten—and you might end up with a coveted Defuse card. Of course, these strategies will all be used against you too, which is where the Nope card comes in handy. It counteracts any action against you, except for the Exploding Kitten.
Each deck of 56 cards can support a game of two to five players (if you want to include more players, you have to buy another set of cards). Shuffle the Exploding Kitten cards into the deck, making sure there’s one less than there are players so that someone can win.
Design: Wonderfully inappropriate
You don’t buy a game called Exploding Kittens if you’re easily offended. And you won’t want to pull it out to play with someone who will frown upon gross-out humor. But most people attracted to this game will love the ridiculous drawings of bats farting or cats shaped like hairy potatoes, all in Matthew Inman’s signature humorous style. Our players found the pictures hilarious, and they added a big fun factor to the game. Even the text on the instruction sheet is fun and slightly silly.
Other than the cards and the instruction sheet, though, there’s nothing else to the game, making it compact and easy to take on the road.
Entertainment Value: Fun for evil genius types
Exploding Kittens requires a certain amount of hard-nosed aggression to try to get everyone else to explode but you. This appeals to some people but not others. We found that the kids, teens, and dads relished stealing cards from their opponents or setting them up for disaster. One of the moms in our group was more reluctant to be ruthless and enjoyed the game far less.
People in the group who don’t like to think strategically also felt a little lukewarm about the game. It took a few rounds to remember what all the cards can do and learn how to use them to their best advantage. And since it’s a game with a lot of tension, rather than action, some of our younger players got bored pretty fast.
People in the group who don’t like to think strategically felt a little lukewarm about the game.
However, game players who thrive on the luck of the draw, as well as the thrill of thwarting opponents and causing their demise, will thoroughly enjoy Exploding Kittens. It’s simple enough that it doesn’t require complex Machiavellian tactics, and most kids can grasp the strategic concepts. Games don’t take too long to play, so it’s easy to fit in a round without a big-time commitment.
Age Range: Temperament trumps age
The game’s creators recommend ages 7 and up, but we think that depends a lot on the 7-year-old. Age, really, is less relevant than temperament. There’s not a lot of reading, and the concept is simple to understand, but there’s strategy required to make the game fun and not just random, and that requires patience and concentration. Some younger kids might find that kind of a tall order.
The game’s creators recommend ages 7 and up, but age is less relevant than temperament.
There’s also quite a bit of downtime as you wait for each player to make his or her choices. Since each player can play as many cards as they like before ending their turn, it can take a while. Exploding Kittens is definitely not a fast-paced, action-packed game. And it’s really only fun for people who relish knocking other players out of the game.
Ease of Cleaning: Don’t lose the cards
The game is just a deck of cards, so there’s nothing to clean, although if you do happen to dribble food or drinks on them, they’re sturdy and glossy enough to stand up to a wipe down. Just don’t lose any of the cards because it’ll skew the game. The box helps keep the cards contained.
Price: Premium price tag
Considering it’s pretty much a deck of cards, Exploding Kittens is actually a bit on the pricey side at around $20. However, this is totally in line with other cult-favorite card games like Cards Against Humanity and Unstable Unicorns. A deck of UNO cards, though, only costs about $10.
Exploding Kittens vs. Unstable Unicorns
Both of these games have an irreverent sense of humor, not to mention a preoccupation with animals. Both are card-based games without a board, both got their start on Kickstarter, and they both cost about $20. They have totally different vibes, though: Exploding Kittens offers gross but hilarious artwork, while Unstable Unicorns has a more anime style with lots of sparkles, rainbows, and big, doe-eyed unicorns. For both games, sabotaging the opponent is the key to winning.
Get it if you like the concept.
Nearly anyone can play Exploding Kittens because it’s pretty easy to grasp, but not everyone will love it. Its warped sense of humor is fun and light-hearted, but ultimately, it requires patience, concentration, and cold-hearted strategy. For some, that’s the very definition of fun, but others will be bored.
- Product Name Exploding Kittens
- Product Brand Exploding Kittens
- UPC 852131006020
- Price $19.99
- Weight 6.4 oz.
- Product Dimensions 6.5 x 4.5 x 1.5 in.
- Manufacturer Recommended Age Range 7+