Critical Play: Competitive Analysis – Exploding Kittens

Similar to the game we’re developing is the ever so popular Exploding Kittens (designed by Elan Lee and Matthew Inman). The game revolves around a “kitten powered” version of Russian Roulette whereby players draw cards that are either “an exploding kitten” upon which you lose or special action cards that will help you avoid drawing an exploding kitten card. The game is also a mashup of Uno where you are able to have certain action cards which allow for greater strategical thinking (beyond just drawing a card and hoping it doesn’t go Kaboom).

The game mechanics afford for two types of fun: Fellowship and Challenge. The previous stems from collaborating with other players in order to avoid being the one who ends up drawing the exploding kitten card while the latter is causing other players to draw the exploding kitten card. The game’s objective is essentially centered around convincing and deceiving your friends through various antics in order to ensure that you do not end up drawing an exploding kitten card.

The game also allows and encourages a strategy based approach when playing (again mainly because of the existence of action cards). Exploding Kittens manages to accomplish this by allowing you to combine multiple action cards to carry out any dubious plans that you come up with. For example, combing three of a kind allows you to steal a specific card from opponent’s deck assuming they have it.

An important aspect of the game that I think makes it stand out from its competitors is the graphic design of the various cards. Not only are the cards combined of cute drawings and are just generally pleasant to look at, but they are also constantly reinforcing a certain art-style and the game’s theme of (exploding) kittens by having various drawings of kittens in some of the action cards (yes, including the exploding kitten cards).

I think the game is overall well balanced since your strategies need to be adaptive enough to switch between and combine defense and offense. There is one edge case that I found, however, where you are almost certainly guaranteed to win if you make to the end of the game where there are only a few cards left to draw. The secret is force your opponent to draw multiple times using the attack action cards that you have saved up throughout the game. Using two of those means your opponent will draw four cards which is an almost guarantee for them to end up with an exploding kitten.

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