Exploding Kittens blew up last year on Kickstarter (pun intended), raising over $8 million dollars during its campaign. While that mark makes it easily the biggest board gaming Kickstarter campaign of all-time, it’s heavily presumed that the game itself wasn’t the biggest driver of dollars. Instead, the key selling point appears to be the creators of the Oatmeal web comic, who co-created the game and provide its humour. Because of this, it’s unfair to expect Exploding Kittens to be the best board game of all-time based on its Kickstarter money. Instead, let’s judge it on its own merits.
The premise of Exploding Kittens is simple. Players take turns playing cards from their hand to better their situation or make the lives of other players worse. Then they wrap up by drawing a card from the main deck. If they don’t draw an exploding kitten card, play resumes as normal. However, if they draw an exploding kitten card and don’t have a diffuse card, they blow up with the cat and are out of the game. Play resumes like this until only one person is left standing.
There are two versions of the game: one in a red box and another in a black box. The red one features art and humour that is suitable for the whole family, while the other is explicitly labeled as the NSFW deck. This is the one I played. I’m presuming that the cards act the same way, though the art and jokes are changed to be more risque. Clearly this is a ploy to attract Cards Against Humanity fans, of which there are many.
Personally, I could do without the NSFW version. None of the cards got a chuckle out of me to begin with, and the very nature of the game will make any funny joke on the cards tired with just a few plays. Strongly recommend going with the regular version of the game.
Strip away the silly art and racy humour, and you’re left with a fairly straightforward hand management game. Besides praying that you won’t draw an exploding kitten, you’ll want to play certain cards that give you an advantage, such as being able to preview the top three cards of the draw deck or steal cards from your opposition. In a way, it reminds me a lot of games like Uno or Fluxx.
For all of the hoopla around the Oatmeal’s involvement and the silly art, there isn’t much sizzle to Exploding Kittens. Casual gamers and fans of the comics will probably get the most mileage out of it, though I have a hard time seeing how its pedestrian gameplay is going to keep people interested after a few plays. Compared to games of its ilk, such as Uno or Fluxx, I’d rather play this. That said, off the top of my head, of comparable games on the marketplace, I’d rather play Guillotine. You could do worse, but you could also do better.