Exploding Kittens Review: Explosive Ambivalence


Exploding Kittens burst onto the scene with a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised eyebrows and piqued curiosity. Marketed as a “kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette,” this card game promised a blend of strategy, luck, and outrageous cat-themed humor. With its eye-catching artwork and the involvement of Matthew Inman, the creator of the popular webcomic “The Oatmeal,” expectations were sky-high for this feline-filled frenzy. Of course I had to gather some friends and play – who can resist kittens? Even if they do explode?

And hence in this Exploding Kittens review we will dive into the cardboard chaos and determine whether the game lives up to the hype. Lets go!

Exploding Kittens Review: A Mixed Bag Of Meows And Misfires

Just The Facts

Key FactDetails
Game TitleExploding Kittens
DesignerElan Lee, Matthew Inman, Shane Small
PublisherExploding Kittens LLC
ThemeCats, Explosions
GenreCard Game
Target AudienceCasual Gamers, Families, Social Gatherings
Age Range7+
Number of Players2-5
Game Duration15 minutes
Complexity LevelLow
Game ObjectiveAvoid Exploding Kittens and be the Last One Standing
Difficulty LevelEasy
Similar GamesSushi Go!, Love Letter
AwardsGolden Geek Best Party Game Nominee (2015), Toy of the Year Nominee (2016)
Release DateAugust 2015

Game Overview

Exploding Kittens is a wildly popular card game that combines strategy, luck, and outrageous cat-themed humor. Designed by Elan Lee, Matthew Inman, and Shane Small, this kitty-powered adventure promises a unique and unpredictable gaming experience. In Exploding Kittens, players navigate a deck of cards filled with explosive felines, hoping to avoid being the unfortunate soul caught in a catastrophic kitty explosion.

The game’s objective is simple: be the last player standing, avoiding the dreaded exploding kittens at all costs. Each player begins with a hand of cards, including defuse cards that can defuse an exploding kitten and skip cards that allow players to skip their turn. The deck also contains a variety of special cards, such as attacks that force opponents to take extra turns, favor cards that enable players to demand cards from others, and many more.

The target audience for Exploding Kittens spans a wide range of ages and gaming experience levels. With its accessible rules and quick playtime of around 15 minutes, it serves as an ideal choice for casual gamers, families, and even larger social gatherings. The game accommodates 2 to 5 players, allowing for intimate duels or lively multiplayer battles.

Exploding Kittens thrives on the element of surprise, providing a delightful blend of strategy and luck. The game’s mechanics are easy to grasp, ensuring that even newcomers to the hobby can dive in without hesitation. However, it’s important to note that the game’s simplicity and reliance on luck may limit its long-term appeal for more seasoned gamers seeking deeper strategic engagement.

Components and Artwork

The first thing that catches your eye in Exploding Kittens is the whimsical artwork. The colorful and cartoonish illustrations of cats engaged in hilarious antics, courtesy of Matthew Inman, bring the game to life. Each card is a visual delight, infused with humor that adds a layer of entertainment to every play session. While the cards themselves are of decent quality, some players have reported minor durability issues with repeated use.

On the downside, the component list is somewhat lacking. The game consists of a deck of cards, a small rulebook, and a cardboard box to hold everything together. While simplicity can be a virtue, it feels like the game could have benefited from additional components or a more elaborate presentation. The absence of visually appealing tokens or playing pieces is a missed opportunity to enhance the overall experience.

Gameplay Experience

At its core, Exploding Kittens follows a familiar card game structure. Players take turns drawing cards from the deck, hoping to avoid the dreaded exploding kitten cards that result in instant elimination unless they possess a defuse card to counteract the explosive feline. Special cards, such as skips, attacks, and favor cards, introduce variety and strategy to the gameplay.

The gameplay experience is fast-paced and frenetic, providing moments of laughter and tension. The humor infused in the cards and the unexpected twists and turns keep players engaged and eagerly anticipating their next move. With a short playtime of around 15 minutes, Exploding Kittens is an ideal choice for a quick game night or as a warm-up activity before diving into longer board game adventures.

One area of concern, however, is the game’s heavy reliance on luck. While luck can add excitement to a game, it becomes the dominant factor in Exploding Kittens, leaving players feeling more like bystanders than active participants. The lack of meaningful choices limits the game’s long-term appeal, particularly for seasoned gamers seeking deeper engagement.

Theme and Immersion

Exploding Kittens fully embraces its absurd theme. The combination of cats and explosions may seem odd at first, but it quickly becomes endearing and adds to the game’s charm. The whimsical illustrations and humorous card text enhance the immersion, creating a lighthearted atmosphere that encourages laughter and banter among players.

That being said, the theme may lose its novelty after repeated plays. While the initial captivation is undeniable, the lack of variety in the theme’s execution and the reliance on a single joke may result in diminishing returns over time. Players seeking a more immersive and diverse theme may find themselves wanting more than what Exploding Kittens has to offer.


Replayability is a mixed bag with Exploding Kittens. On one hand, the game’s short playtime and easy-to-understand rules make it accessible for casual gaming sessions or as a filler between heavier games. The unpredictable nature of the deck and the occasional hilarious moments ensure that each playthrough feels different, adding a layer of freshness to subsequent rounds.

On the other hand, the lack of strategic depth and the limited variety of gameplay options make the game lose its luster after a few plays. Once players become accustomed to the available strategies and card combinations, the gameplay can start to feel repetitive and predictable. The absence of any notable progression or advancement further dampens the desire for repeated plays.

Player Interaction and Engagement

One of Exploding Kittens’ strengths lies in player interaction. The game encourages table talk, negotiation, and even temporary alliances as players scheme to avoid exploding into feline chaos. The attack and favor cards provide opportunities for clever maneuvering and playful sabotage, fostering a lively and engaging social dynamic.

However, the game’s random nature can lead to frustration and imbalance in multiplayer games. Unlucky draws can result in quick eliminations and limited opportunities for participation, leaving sidelined players feeling detached and disengaged. It’s essential to strike a balance that allows for the game’s unpredictable fun while ensuring that all players remain engaged throughout.

Learning Curve and Accessibility

Exploding Kittens excels in terms of accessibility. The straightforward rules can be grasped within minutes, making it an excellent choice for players of all ages and experience levels. The game’s light complexity and intuitive mechanics allow for quick onboarding, making it an ideal gateway game to introduce newcomers to the hobby.

However, the simplicity that contributes to the game’s accessibility is also its downfall in terms of strategic depth. Seasoned gamers may find Exploding Kittens to be lacking in complexity and meaningful decision-making. While it serves as an enjoyable introduction to the world of board games, it may not satisfy those seeking a more challenging and intellectually stimulating experience.

Strategies, Tactics, and Tips

Exploding Kittens, despite its simplicity, does offer a few strategies and tactics to consider. Players can try to manipulate the deck by using favor cards to obtain desired cards or force opponents into taking unwanted ones. Skillful management of skip cards can help prolong survival and keep opponents on their toes. Additionally, observing other players’ actions and keeping track of the cards in play can provide valuable insights into their intentions.

To increase your chances of survival, it’s essential to maintain a healthy balance of cards in your hand, avoiding drawing too many cards in a single turn. Conserving defuse cards is crucial to prevent sudden elimination, especially in the late game when the likelihood of drawing an exploding kitten increases.


Exploding Kittens offers a variety of expansions that aim to inject new life into the base game. These expansions introduce additional cards, new mechanics, and alternative gameplay modes. Notable examples include Imploding Kittens, Streaking Kittens, and Barking Kittens. While these expansions provide some much-needed variety and add fresh elements to the core gameplay, they don’t fundamentally address the game’s limitations in terms of strategic depth and replayability.

Comparison to Similar Games

When comparing Exploding Kittens to similar games in the genre, it becomes evident that its primary appeal lies in its simplicity and humor. It offers a casual and light-hearted experience that serves as a great icebreaker or a quick diversion. However, those seeking a more strategic and engaging card game may find other titles, such as Sushi Go! or Love Letter, to be more fulfilling choices.

Pros and Cons


  • Eye-catching artwork and humorous illustrations by Matthew Inman
  • Fast-paced gameplay with moments of tension and laughter
  • Easy-to-understand rules make it accessible for all ages and experience levels
  • Encourages player interaction and table talk


  • Lack of strategic depth and meaningful choices
  • Reliance on luck undermines long-term engagement
  • Theme and novelty can wear thin over repeated plays
  • Limited component list and lack of visual appeal in terms of tokens or playing pieces

Exploding Kittens Review: Final Thoughts and Verdict

Exploding Kittens is a game that fully embraces its quirky theme and delivers on its promise of whimsical cat-centric humor. The colorful artwork and amusing card text inject a much-needed dose of laughter into each playthrough. Its short playtime and accessible rules make it an excellent choice for casual gaming sessions or as a light-hearted filler.

However, the game falls short in terms of strategic depth, relying heavily on luck rather than meaningful decision-making. The theme, while initially captivating, may lose its appeal over time, leaving players wanting more variety and immersion. The absence of visually appealing components or tokens further detracts from the overall experience.

If you’re looking for a quick and amusing card game that prioritizes laughs over strategic depth, Exploding Kittens may be a suitable addition to your collection. However, for those seeking a more intellectually stimulating and engaging gaming experience, there are better options available.

Final Score: 6/10

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