When it comes to card games it’s often hard to beat the classics. But this generation saw an attempt to reinvigorate a deck of cards into something new and creative – and nothing did this better than Exploding Kittens.
When you think of great card games from the last seven years, it’s easy to look at Cards Against Humanity or any of the similar games that grew from the idea of seeing how funny being crude could be.
Well, Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, and his collaborators Elan Lee and Shane Small, took that idea and added something unique. They paired games with a warped sense of humour and Inman’s comic illustrations. And with that, they gave us the gift that was Exploding Kittens – a card game for a generation.
In 2015 Exploding Kittens hit its crowdfunding goal in under 7 hours and went on to become the most-funded card game on Kickstarter. But the creators didn’t stop there and have since released a whole range of other games in the Exploding Kittens–verse, that have all brought a new spin to playing cards. These games have given new life to card games and reminded us of why they’re fun.
The game that started it all.
For those that didn’t know The Oatmeal’s comics, this was the perfect introduction. All of the cards in Exploding Kittens feature original artwork in The Oatmeal’s comic style and introduced us to a host of crazy cat characters. The comics are crazy, cute, and way too relevant for those who have ever spent time with a cat in real life.
When you draw an exploding kitten card in Exploding Kittens, it’s not just any old trump card. It’s a cat walking over a keyboard to plug in nuclear launch codes that end the world and also your game kind of card.
The action cards all have their own unique drawings along with really cool functions. What other game lets you slam down a ‘Nope!’ card when you want to block an aggressive draw 4? Or gives you the power to ‘see the future’ and preview the cards you’re about to draw with iconic descriptions such as “feast upon a unicorn enchilada and gain its enchilada powers”? Taco Cat, Hairy Potato Cat, Overweight Bikini Cat. None of these cards has any huge significance to the game except to make you laugh when you pick one up. It’s the care and detail put into every single card in Exploding Kittens that set it apart.
Exploding Kittens also leans into the art of deception and trust. It reminds me of Among Us in card game form. You can choose to set up one of your friends by placing an exploding kitten sneakily in the deck for them to draw next turn. And then you can spend the next turn trying to convince them you would never do such a thing. Exploding Kittens can make or break a friendship and isn’t that what the best games do?
I’ll always maintain that Exploding Kittens is the best card game from the Exploding Kittens company – and definitely the card game of this generation. But none of the other games that followed have been any less iconic.
Bears vs Babies
Bears vs Babies asks players to build the most insane monster bear killing machine to then try and eat as many babies as possible. Yeah, if you hadn’t figured out The Oatmeal’s style of humour that should pretty much sum it up. Silly, dark and fun.
Bears vs Babies gives you the character creator from hell. Your bear can have a salmon for a head and chainsaws for arms with a tank for legs and basically any crazy combination in between.
As always, Exploding Kittens games find a way to make the most simple of actions over the top. If you want to eliminate a piece of another person’s bear, you don’t just play a ‘remove’ card, it’s a ‘dismember’ card. Or you can play a ‘mask’ card to hide your bear’s identity. This sort of originality doesn’t come around very often.
You’ve Got Crabs
The name says it all. Subterfuge rules again in You’ve Got Crabs which requires players to team up and use a secret signal in the form of a social cue to win the game. Teams spend time trying to gather four of a kind and when they do must signal to their partner when its time to win, without another team clueing onto their signal. Another instance of deception at its finest.
But one of the best parts of You’ve Got Crabs is its expansion pack, which forces you to wear plastic crab claws if you draw an ‘imitate crab’ card.
Throw Throw Burrito
A dodgeball card game. I’ll repeat that: a dodgeball card game. I’m stretched to think of a time where I’ve played a card game that literally lets me throw things at my mates. It’s a brilliant intersection of physical sport with tabletop cards. Plus it’s just plain funny to throw a cute squishy cat burrito.
Very on-brand for Exploding Kittens, Throw Throw Burrito is completely over the top, totally unconventional and for that I love it.
Honestly, Exploding Kittens has so many card games in its universe that I haven’t even had a chance to try out On a Scale of One to T-Rex, Poetry for Neanderthals or A Game of Cat & Mouth. But I have no doubt I’ll be picking those up next.
So why are these games so iconic? Is it unfiltered creativity? The illustrations that are so insane you can’t help but laugh? The fact that you’re trying to win a game while holding cards with crab claws? If those points don’t set Exploding Kittens’ games apart from the average card game then I don’t know what will.
Exploding Kittens has created a brand and also incited a movement over the course of this generation. It redefined what a card game could be and reminded us all to wholeheartedly embrace absurd fun.