Exploding Kittens Playtesting Impressions

by AJ Adejare

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Exploding Kittens is gearing up for production, but the creators want some quality assurance.  The successful Kickstarter project is currently going through play testing at multiple areas around the United States.  I went to one of these play testings to get sense of how things are going.

The basic rules are simple:

  1. Each player gets 4 cards and a defuse card
  2. Each player may play 0 to X amount of cards sans the defuse card.
  3. Unless a card directs you to, you must draw a card.
  4. If you draw an exploding kitten and you can’t play a defuse card, you lose.
  5. Last one to not draw an exploding Kitten wins.

These rules are simple but there are a lot of modifier cards that can alter the game play.  For instance there are cards that can force players to take more turns or even skip their turn.  There are also some combinations that will allow you to take cards from the discarded pile or other players hands.

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The first game took close to 30 minutes playing with 5 strangers.  Trying to feel out the rules can be a bit interesting as while you may read the rules, the game in itself encourages you to just play and see how they come up.  In that sense, it makes sense.  The rules don’t tend to click until you run to them.  Once they do however, it makes sense of why it was happening.  

For instance, there are cards called “Nope” cards, that negate any and all cards sans defuse cards and Exploding Kitten cards.  It may seem a bit off to negate any card played, but let’s say you placed an Exploding Kitten card on one of the top 3 cards and you want a person to draw that card, you’re probably going to play a “Nope” card to force the draw.

The next round with the same group wend down to around 18 minutes (with minor interruptions to peg it at close to 15).  This time and speed is where the fun will arrive.  Seeing people play different combinations and keeping a marching pace will make the game more fun and interactive. 

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End game mechanics can be tricky.  When your down to three cards, it can be quite obvious at who’s going to win.  On that area I would want more of an end game procedure where when you hit 3 cards, just end the play and wrap up the game via a breakdown procedure (like reveal your cards see who has what etc.) as I feel it would quickly end the game.  However, talking to another player she said that at that particular point strategy for the cards in the player’s hand will take precedent.  Both players may now have to wit in order to force another draw.  I think there will be talking points on both ends, but she’s going to end up right and my procedure will not come up.  

There is an exhaustion point which I would peg at 1 hour worth of game play. At this point you may start to see the novelty split for people.  While someone will want something more deep, this game’s time is built for ice breaking events, that way everyone is having fun and joining in.  This idea also means that rule masters are simply not allowed.  If someone wants to cut the deck anyway, just let them.  Emphasize having fun over losing and laughing over aggressive winning.  So by the end of an hour this game should probably be shelved.

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Also, there is a player limit point as well.  For the final game in full, we played with 9 people using two decks.  Playing at a brisk pace it ended around 23 minutes.  To be blunt, a person would have full right to call that bull.  It is bull because it will almost NEVER hit 23 minutes, it will most likely be a 30 minute game with 9 people. Like I said above, the exhaustion point will hit an hour and with 9 people that means 2 rounds before people were bored.  Playing with the new group (including the woman who offered her opinion on the end game), you could tell that certain people were zoning out a bit and the fun factor started to wane.  Her recommendation was 6 players max, and I honestly agree.  9 players can work, but 6 will be able to retain the fun and speed while keeping the most engaged.  If they cap it at six players with two decks with 4 being the floor limit with one deck, it should work out fine.

Finally, I would personally love reverse cards.  It would be cool to play a reverse card and force someone as a strategy to pick up the exploding kitten when they thought it would be next person.

Overall, it’s a fun game so far and I cannot wait to see how the final game comes out.

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