And that's all there is to it! Play cards, draw cards, infuriate your opponents, and pray to the higher powers you don't find yourself on the wrong end of an Exploding Kitten! So that's the mechanics out of the way, how does it actually fare as a game in practice?
Well for one thing it's incredibly simple to learn - we wouldn't even describe it as having a learning curve, seeing as the learning process is so quick that it never has the chance to form a distinct shape. The box boasts "2 minutes to learn", and frankly we're convinced that one minute of that is spent figuring out that the instructions are tucked inside the box lid and then unfolding them.
Once the game gets going, it's very fast moving and entertaining. Not only do you never have long to wait for your turn even in full 5 player games, but it's fun to watch the other players sweat and argue as the deck moves closer and closer to one of the kittens. It can be infuriating at times when your friends mercilessly turn on you, but the number of Defuse and assorted action cards are so much higher than the number of actual Exploding Kittens, that escaping or avoiding the explosion is actually far more common than being caught in it.
Purely from an aesthetic point of view, we feel we should point out that Exploding Kittens is wonderful to look at. Not only are the the illustrations an absolute joy, but almost all of the cards are different. Each Exploding Kitten is getting up to different destructive mischief, each Defuse is a different method of cat pacification, each Attack is a different form of aggression, and so forth. Only the Cat cards - which must be played as pairs - have identical illustrations, and this is understandable.
Decorated inside with more of Matthew Inman's illustrations, the box is sturdy, precisely the right size for the game, and is divided into two sections so you can even play a round in a place where space is simply unavailable, using the empty side of the box for the discard pile.
But the world can't all be sunshine and rainbows (or even Rainbow Barfing Cat). The biggest weakness of Exploding Kittens has to be 2 player games. It seems to be a running problem with card games, that as soon as you drop to two players and the "back and forth" routine begins, the game loses its lustre. It also leaves the game susceptible to a card hoarding tactic, enabled by the unlimited hand size. Unlike larger games, where a certain momentum can be reached, two players can simply draw and keep cards indefinitely until the single Exploding Kitten in the deck is revealed, at which point both players can simply play everything they have in one go to see who ultimately wins. It's not a very exciting way of playing, but if one player does it then the other has to in order to compete. In a game all about explosions, it really is the nuclear option.
- Quick to play, and even quicker to learn.
- Beautifully illustrated - quite possibly the nicest looking game in our library.
- An excellent way to enrage your closest friends.
- Cats. Who doesn't like cats?!
- Less enoyable and prone to being broken with only 2 players. In fact we'd even go so far as to say it flat-out doesn't work as a 2 player game.
- A little pricey for a card game.
- Apparently some people find the notion of exploding kittens "distasteful". Here's hoping those people never find out about Kittens in a Blender.