Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a manager at the same college he graduated from.
What Is Exploding Kittens?
You may have heard of Exploding Kittens, renowned amongst gamers for its mix of strategy and luck, dark yet cutesy art. You can tell pretty quickly if you'll like the game's style with its tagline, "for people who are into kittens and explosions."
Having raised literally millions of dollars on Kickstarter, is this party adventure worth its weight in gold or best left in the box? Here's everything you need to know about (and some strategy tips for) Exploding Kittens!
Exploding Kittens Rules
Here are the basics of how the game works. Starting with a hand of seven random cards plus a defuse card, players take turns playing any number cards from their hand, then end their turn by drawing from a shared deck. If you draw an exploding kitten, you're out of the game unless you save yourself with a defuse card. Other cards activate effects like shuffling the deck, skipping your draw, stealing cards, and so on. Last player standing, the one who hasn't exploded, wins.
So, drawing from the deck is both good and bad—it's how you gain beneficial cards, but it's also how you'll lose if you're not careful and draw into an explosion. Also, when you defuse an explosion, you get to pick where the explosion goes back into the deck, so you (and only you) know where it'll come up (and can try to target other players).
Is Exploding Kittens Fun?
So that's how the game works, but before some tips, is it worth it in the first place? I'd say yes—with a few caveats. No matter how good your plan, the game is no doubt very luck dependent, similar to poker; there's definitely strategy, but you can only do so much, so players have to accept that sometimes the cards will just come out poor.
Also, people will probably either love or hate the crude art style; if cartoony cats vomiting rainbows isn't someone's thing, they might be turned off. But beyond that, it's a fun, quick, and dynamic game, with plenty of interesting actions. The "nope" card that can stop anything except a bomb helps create intense situations where you steal a card, get noped, then nope the nope to complete your dramatic play.
Another plus is the game's comparatively-low price; since it's mostly just cards, the components won't deplete your wallet, costing less than $25. So, yea, game's good. Here's how to win it:
1. Steal the Leftmost Card
While luck plays its part, here are some tips to increase your odds of success. When you collect two of the same action-less cards (like "Taco Cat"), you can play them to steal a random card from an opponent's hand. Try taking their leftmost card, the slot where players tend to organize their valuable defuse card (and pay attention to which players have one remaining).
Some game groups might frown on this, and so give the defending player a chance to "shuffle" their hand so it's not obvious where a defuse is. But if not, grab away—and consider fighting your OCD urges and keep your own defuse somewhere in the middle of your hand.
You might also want to target a player who only has one card left, where the "random" card isn't so random because it's all they have—hopefully a defuse.
2. Carefully Place Exploding Kitten Cards
Bad luck, you drew an exploding cat and had to spend your defuse. But you're not out of it yet, as you now have a chance to place the explosion where you like. Put the deck behind your back or under the table so other players can't see where you replace the card.
Now, think carefully. You can, and often might want to, place the card on top of the deck to hit the next player who draws. However, other players will suspect you to target them, so sometimes it's actually smart to place the explosion to where it'll hit you if everyone draws in order—then it's not an issue if someone uses a skip card and disrupts the timeline.
Another advantage of placing the explosion to come up on your turn is to try and make allies, at least temporarily. When the next player who draws sees that you didn't target them, they're more likely to attack other players with future explosions and effects.
A slimy yet technically legal strategy is also to lie. Tell poor ol' Bill he can safely draw when he really can't and will lose—but consider the long-term ramifications. Lie too much, and you'll be a popular target in future rounds.
3. Save Cards at First
As nerve-wracking as drawing is, your chances of exploding are initially low while the deck has plenty of buffer cards. This means it's a good time to play the odds by conserving the good cards you have for when you need them, and simply drawing on your turn. There's no maximum hand size, so you can hoard as many as you need.
Once the deck starts to thin a bit, then it might be time to start skipping draws and manipulating your turn with cards.
Exploding Kittens Expansions and Variants
If you like the base game, you have many options to increase variety. Exploding Kittens has official expansions like the dangerous Imploding Kitten (which can't be defused) and the helpful Streaking Kitten upgrade (which lets you stave off an explosion as long as you retain the Streaking card).
Plus, like most popular games, many knock-offs use Exploding Kittens as their base but alter things a bit. For instance, Star Wars: I've Got a Bad Feeling About This! is basically the same game, but with a few different cards and fun little consequences after you've defused, like having to use Yoda grammar or breathe like Darth Vader.
Whether you prefer the generic or off-brand Kittens, try busting it out at your next game night, but for now, share your thoughts on its chaotic mayhem, and I'll see you at our next game review!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill