Thursday 27 August 2015

Cardboard - Exploding Kittens card game

Described as 'a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats', it was inevitable that I'd be buying this game (they had me at kittens).

Exploding Kittens box art

After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of 2015, Exploding Kittens landed on my doormat at the beginning of this month.

The rules are nice and straightforward to pick up.  For the most part, you just follow the instructions on the cards to help you skip draws, force other players to draw, steal cards or manipulate the deck.

Exploding Kittens instruction cards
Instruction cards - each one has its own unique caption and artwork

There are some cards with no instructions; these need to be collected into pairs which can then be played to allow you to steal a random card from another player.  There are additional 'advanced play' rules which use different combinations of cards to give you extra card stealing and deck searching powers.

Exploding Kittens cat cards
Ah, Tacocat, how I love thy cuteness!

Each turn you can play as many cards from your hand as you like, but once you're done you always have to end your turn by drawing a new card (unless you've played a card that says otherwise). This is the scary part, because in true Russian roulette style this could be an Exploding Kitten card which causes you to explode (hopefully not literally) and knocks you out of the game.

Exploding Kitten and Defuse cards
Exploding Kitten and Defuse cards

Before the game, you prepare the deck with enough Exploding Kitten cards to blow up all but one of the players. This ensures that there will always be one person left unexploded and victorious.

Sudden destruction can be avoided if you have a Defuse card in your hand, which cancels the effect of the Exploding Kitten in various cute ways - laser pointers, catnip etc. You are then allowed to place (note, place, not shuffle) the Exploding Kitten card anywhere in the deck. This offers myriad opportunities for upsetting other people as you could pop that kitten straight back on top of the pile, potentially forcing the next player to pick it up. My husband attempted this tactic at the end of our two player game; 'sadly' it backfired on him due to an unanticipated pile of Skip cards in my hand (and some bad reverse psychology) which caused him to draw his own kitten card repeatedly until he ran out of options and blew up!

Underneath the Kickstarter hype, I think there is an actual game here. It was easy to pick up the rules and I did enjoy playing. Whether it has much replayability remains to be seen. Between two players I think it would get old really quickly, but with more than two (it plays up to five) there would be far more opportunities to cause trouble for other players (which, let's face it, is the fun part of these kind of games).

That being said, I'm not sure in a group situation I'd often pick to play this over something like Cards Against Humanity (another Kickstarter card game, but with a comparatively tiny campaign) unless it was for age suitability reasons. Whilst there are amusing moments if you can force other players to 'explode', it doesn't seem to have the same funny-every-round potential as Cards.

I think I might be more enthusiastic about it if I was more of a fan of the artwork. A lot of people will be buying this as fans of Matthew Inman's work on The Oatmeal website. I was drawn in by the cat-based theme and general hype rather than a love of his previous work, and as much as I am completely in love with Tacocat, 'barfing' rainbows, bat farts and thousand-year back hair just don't seem to make me laugh.

The inclusion of 'advanced' rules seems a little superfluous; the changes seem straightforward enough to include in the normal rules (if you think their impact on gameplay is significant enough to bother).

On the plus side, the box is adorable. It has space for both the standard deck and, I assume, the not-safe-for-work additional deck or other potential expansions (I appreciate a box that plans for the future) and when you open it up it actually mews at you. Cute!

Exploding Kittens box
Beautiful spacious box!

Reading back through what I've written above, it sounds like I've issued the game with a resounding 'meh!', which is a shame.  It's okay, but it's just not as exciting as I'd built it up to be from the hype.

I didn't buy the NSFW expansion deck, so one of the other 200k+ Kickstarter backers will have to let me know if it's any good!