Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Noob Reviews : Exploding Kittens


The Game:

Exploding Kittens is the result of one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history. Designed by the creators of the popular comics website The Oatmeal, the perfect pairing of kittens and explosions has seen this card game take the tabletop gaming world by storm. When Husband saw the game on Kickstarter and asked me whether he should back it, my response was: "It has kittens, and explosions!! HOW IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION??!!"


Features:

The Kickstarter deluxe version of the game consists of the original Exploding Kittens deck of cards housed in the First Edition box. An optional Not Safe For Work deck was also available, which we of course availed ourselves of. The first edition box has room for both sets of cards, and is styled to look like a kitty litter tray. There's also cute surprise in the box, but I won't say what it is as I don't want to spoil the surprise! Each of the cards has an illustration on it from the Oatmeal -- the Action cards, Explosion cards and Defuse cards all have unique illustrations, while Cat Cards have a range different but repeating pictures, enabling them to be paired.



Gameplay:

Exploding Kittens can probably be described as a cross between Russian Roulette and Go Fish, with a dash of Uno thrown in for good measure. The aim of the game is to survive until the end by not picking up an Exploding Kitten card. As soon as you pick up an EK card, you're exploded and out of the game, unless you have a Defuse card in your hand to cancel it out. Likewise, if you can force other players to pick up cards, you increase their chances of exploding. All of the Action cards assist you in this mission. For example, the Attack card forces the next player to take 2 turns, doubling their chances of picking up an Exploding Kitten card. The Skip card means that you skip your own turn and you don't have to pick up a card -- sort of like reverse Uno.


The rest of the deck is made up of Cat Cards. This is where the element of Go Fish comes in. If you collect a pair of Cat Cards, you can use them to take a random card from another player. The main purpose of the Cat Cards seems to be to pad out the deck and make the game last longer. They also add an unpredictable element, in that your opponent may have a Defuse card or another useful card which you can steal away. As the game goes on and the draw pile gets smaller, it gets more exciting because there's more chance of drawing an Exploding Kitten card. Depending on the pre-game shuffle, all of the players might be out after a few rounds, or the draw pile might be whittled down until there are nail-bitingly few cards left. That's when those Action cards start to look pretty darned useful.

The playing time is approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on the number of players. The original deck can accommodate 2 to 5 players, while adding in the NSFW deck or a second deck brings that to a maximum of 10. While the game can be played with 2 players, in my experience a minimum of 3 makes for the more fun. I have also watched a 10-player game, which worked just as well -- as long as you can remember whose turn it is!



Pluses:

++ It has kittens and explosions, what else can I say?
++ The unique illustrations from the Oatmeal and cute extra touches on the box make it a very collectible game. The fun pictures and bizarre scenarios are amusing even if you weren't previously an Oatmeal fan. The game's repeatability depends almost entirely on them.
++ The deck can be customised so that a few or many people can play.
++ The concept is very simple so players can hit the ground running. There's even a video on YouTube explaining the rules for the non-rule-reading types.
++ The game is fairly short and engaging, which makes it good for kids as well as adults.
++ There's a mixture of luck and strategy involved, so whether you like one or the other, there's something for you.
++ The optional NSFW deck makes things more interesting. The individual cards have varying degrees of NSFW-ness, and a few or many cards can be removed to suit the age level of the players. This doesn't affect the gameplay at all.

Minuses:

-- Although the rules are easy to learn, the dynamic can be a little daunting for new players. Each round, the player can play as many cards from their hand as they like, before picking up from the draw pile at the end. When you're still at that newbie stage, it's hard to decide which and how many cards to play and what the consequences will be.
-- The presence of both luck and strategy in the game could be off-putting for people that like one but not the other.
-- For someone who was hanging out for months for their deck to arrive, the game is possibly a little too short. But, you can always play it again....


Final Comments:

Exploding Kittens is a lot of fun for all ages. The unique illustrations on the cards make it a very repeatable game. It's a good game to play when you only have a short amount of time, or as a warm-up on a games day and, being a simple deck of cards, can be taken travelling, etc.



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