Critical Play: Exploding Kittens

Game: Exploding Kittens

What is the theme?

The theme of exploding kittens is, well, exploding kittens. The game consists of a deck of cards with varying effects, and players attempt to not draw the exploding kitten.


It appears that the target player audience are either either strangers looking to get to know each other with a quick game, or family and friends seeking to spend time together.


What mechanics do they use?

The main game mechanic revolves around not during an exploding kitten. The deck contains one exploding kitten less than the number of players, and if a player draws an exploding kitten they’re out of the game. The game ends when there is only one player left. Players take turns playing cards and drawing cards. Cards played help to prevent a player from drawing an exploding kitten or force others players to draw one.

Players take turns drawing cards from the deck, hoping not to draw an exploding kitten.


Players can play cards that have different effects, like stealing cards from other players.


What kind of fun do they promise the player?

The game promises light-hearted, easily-learned fun, with a whacky theme. Players can also backstab, betray, and just generally mess with other players. Personally, I believe that this is the game’s strongest point: the ability to keep players engaged and invested through various (mostly nefarious) actions.

Players can set up other players to draw the exploding kitten and just generally mess with each other.

How is this fun and theme reinforced through graphic design decisions?

The cartoonish somewhat outrageous art style on the cards helps to reinforce the whacky-ness of the game. Sarcastic, witty flavor text also helps to support this general feeling while playing.


How does the game differentiate itself from other games in its genre?

I think it differentiates itself in that it forces players to interact or interfere with each other to avoid losing. Instead of single-mindedly trying to go toward some goal, players are forced to pay attention to each other’s actions and think how things they do may affect their relationships with each other. This helps to keep players engaged while fostering interaction (and potentially friendship?) between the participants.


How they handle abuse (or don’t?)  Abuse is a critical concern for social games. 

Exploding Kittens handles abuse by encouraging it. The game is designed for players to screw each other over, target whoever they want, and make each other have a difficult time. They allow everyone to abuse each other, so that it no longer becomes abuse.


How would you make it better?

My biggest issue with this game is that once you draw an exploding kitten and no longer have your defuse, the game is over. You’re stuck waiting for the rest of the players to finish, twiddling your thumbs. I would change Exploding Kittens to be more inclusive of players who have had the bad luck of drawing an exploding kitten earlier in the game by allowing them to join some sort of sabotage team, where their goal is to get the remaining players to draw an exploding kitten. Perhaps if they get someone to explode, they can then take their place or something of the sort.


Anything that interests you!

I’m most interested in the simplicity of the game that allows for such deep player interaction. You can start playing after 5 minutes, and almost all the instructions are written on the cards themselves. I think we can apply this to our game, which is also simple to play after understanding the basic premise, but has some complexities and special card effects that could be simplified by only making players read instructions when they need to.


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