Tuesday, 25 October 2016

EXPLODING AND IMPLODING KITTENS

EXPLODING KITTENS, Self-Published, 2015

7+, 15 minutes, 2-5 players, Competitive



Have you ever wanted to play Russian roulette? Of course you have. Secretly, deep down inside, you and everyone else want to face the void of your own non-existence and see what stares back. You just choose not to, you choose to suppress these feelings because of a deep-seating and false conviction that your life is meaningful and that your continuation on this ball of water-covered rock is somehow relevant to the universe. You incorrectly have convinced yourself that you have too much to lose. And so you don't. You continue your dull nine-to-five life, eat food to give you energy to essentially repeat your daily activities, you contribute to global species extinction and then you die anyway and ultimately rot to become worm food and then, in a final indignity, worm poop. And on your deathbed, you like many others will realise that, in fact, Russian roulette might have actually been a good idea. 

But guess what? Here's a game that basically allows you to play Russian roulette but without the risk of putting a bullet in your brain. And you laugh while you play it. So, basically, it's not really like Russian roulette, even though the game designers say it is. But it is a game of chance, and this is why thousands of people round the world hate this game. They think that each player may as well roll a die and the winner is the person with the highest number. On Boardgamegeek (the other BGG that's like this one in that it talks about games but is more popular despite being demonstrably less funny), it rates only as 5.8 out of 10, meaning it's seen by the public as a very average game. This despite it being the most popular Kickstarter of all time, raising $8,782,571 from 219,382 backers. So... is it that average? Let's have a look.

The game play is extremely simple. Each player starts with four randomly drawn cards and takes a turn playing whichever cards they want, and then to finish their turn they draw a face-down card from the pile. Playing is really very simple - for example, See The Future allows a player to see the top three cards of the deck. Shuffle allows them to... can you guess? You genius. Harvard awaits. If you draw an Exploding Kitten card, you blow up, unless you can play a Defuse card. Then you get to place the Exploding Kitten anywhere you want in the deck. Do you put it on the top for your next opponent? Or do you think that they've got a Skip card so it goes to the next opponent? And thus the game is on. Yes, sometimes you draw the Exploding Kitten first turn, you spend your Defuse and then you're vulnerable for the rest of the game. And that's what happens when you have a game of chance. Because that it ultimately what life is like. You can make plans but the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley. And if you don't know what that means, Harvard sent the invitation letter to you by accident. But, so what if you're subject to chance? At least you have fun! And you have fun because the cards are funny... genuinely funny. There's a NSFW version that I didn't buy but the normal game has you attacking people with thousand-year back hair. That's funny. There's a Tacocat which is amused by being a palindrome. There's a Rainbow-Ralphing Cat, which is exactly what you think it is. 

Who are the most successful people in life? Those who realise that shit happens by chance and there are only two things that you can do about that - plan for it as best you can, and then laugh when it happens. And that's exactly what this game does. You can plan ahead, and then your opponent can put down three of the same cards and steal your Defuse card the moment before you draw an Exploding Kitten. So then you keep your Nope card which allows you to Nope that play by them... if you're lucky enough to draw a Nope card. So, sure there's an element of chance, but if you know the cards (and there are only eight different action cards, as well as the sets of cat cards) then you can actually plan ahead, learn what your opponent has and take calculated risks. And if it all goes wrong and you don't have the right cards, you just have a laugh because it's the end of the game evening, you've already played two hours of a serious brain-bending game and you just need something light and fun. Honestly, I think that the people who don't like this game are asking too much of it. It's not like rolling dice. It's a quick, fun game of chance with a really good dose of humour and card design. Is it Fury of Dracula or Dead of Winter? No. Is it the kind of game you'll play after that kind of game for a bit of fun to round off the evening, especially after you've all had a few drinks? Yes, it's totally perfect for that.

WE LIKEY
  • Very easy to learn
  • Quick and portable
  • Funny card design
  • The box literally meows when you open it
  • Perfect game when you've got a little time left at the end of a game evening

WE NO LIKEY
  • If you lose, you're out
  • Very heavy chance element
  • TSA agents really don't like this in your luggage. I'm not kidding. Having a box with wires inside that has the word "Exploding" written on the cover? They don't think that's funny. Trust me - I'm speaking from real personal experience here.
It's time to give this game some points....

Accessibility: 5/5 - I play this game with my kids. When they started playing it, they were 3 and 5. The rules are ridiculously simple.
Design: 4/5 - For a game of chance, this is very well designed because there are some strategic options that you can explore in the hope of reducing your risk of chance. Yes, your starting hand, which is drawn by chance, strongly affects the rest of the game, but if you can last a few rounds, it's your choices that really make the difference.
Depth: 2/5 - It's not just rolling dice. There are strategic choices, just not very many.
Replayability: 3/5 - I have played this game at least fifty times. I took it on a weekend away with a group of teenagers and they loved it. It was a fun, bonding experience.
Availability: 5/5 - Easily available online and in gaming stores.

Summary: Yes, there's a chance element and yes, if you're out you're out, but that's like Russian roulette so when you pick up this game, you know what you're getting into. And if you have even a modicum of a sense of humour, you'll laugh when you're out and then you'll watch your friends play the rest of the game and make noises that encourage players or add to the tension or, if you're particularly anti-social, you'll go and do something else. To my surprise, I have found that I have some special Force-like ability that often helps me know when the Exploding Kitten is coming. Maybe this is basically Force training. I imagine that on the down-time when Luke wasn't schlepping Yoda across the swamps of Dagobah that they pulled out Exploding Womp Rats (the Star Wars version that probably should exist now that I think about it) and played it. 

Final Score: I rate games according to what they're trying to achieve as well as in comparison to others. This isn't trying to be a super complex strategic game. It's funny, it's silly, and so it earns a totally fair 71%.

BUT WAIT!!!! There's MORE!!!!!

IMPLODING KITTENS, Self-Published, 2016

7+, 15 minutes, 2-6 players, Competitive


They only went and made an expansion!!! Why would they do such a thing? Well, money, obviously. You get how the world works, right? Of course you do - that's why secretly you want to play Russian roulette, because the call of the void is only marginally quieter than the vacuous machinations of global society. 



The biggest criticism of Exploding Kittens was the element of chance, but Imploding Kittens minimises that with some new cards. Where Exploding Kittens had See The Future where you got to see the top three cards of the draw pile, now you can Alter The Future by seeing and rearranging the top three cards of the draw pile. That's a huge change. Moreover, if you Alter the Future, you might then choose to play Reverse, which switches the order of play, adding another dynamic play level to the game and thus force a card on a player who just spent their Defuse or Skip card getting themselves out of trouble. Or you could Draw From the Bottom if there's the Imploding Kitten card staring at you from the top of the deck. Ah, Imploding Kitten, how you open your maw to swallow the Earth, thereby reminding us of the futility of human existence. Not only does the game minimise the chance element through specific cards, but by starting you now with 6 cards instead of 4, you have more options and you're less likely to lose straight away due to a freak random draw. In other words, Imploding Kittens addresses exactly the problem that those who didn't like Exploding Kittens had. And, once again, it does it in a really funny way. One of the cards is a shark who hurts with words instead of teeth, another is a self-aware toilet. And there's also a surprise. I won't say what the surprise it, but there's a reason that the box for the expansion is much, much longer than the original, and all I'll say is that there's a clue in the above picture.

Imploding Kittens takes a game of chance and gives us more tools to mitigate against it. Now, instead of us battling the odds, we're really battling each other, and isn't that really life anyway? The constant battle for gene supremacy? The subtle competition of rich against poor, the struggle to be better, richer, faster, stronger than the other? Sure, I understand that that's not really what life should be about, but it's what life often ends up being for most of us. With Exploding Kittens, you were playing Russian roulette. With Imploding Kittens, you're smacking each other in the face with the guns while trying to take out the bullet in your gun and putting it in someone else's. And that makes it more fun because, despite the call of the void, Russian roulette is actually most fun when you win and get to return to your meaningless life, just now with the image of your opponent's last second of existence etched on your memory.



WE LIKEY
  • Very easy to learn
  • Quick and portable
  • Funny card design
  • The box literally meows when you open it
  • Perfect game when you've got a little time left at the end of a game evening
  • Much less of a chance element than the original game
  • The surprise in this box. And no, it's not kitty litter. 

WE NO LIKEY
  • If you lose, you're still out
  • TSA agents still don't like this in your luggage. They really don't have much of a sense of humour about things like this.
So... how does this expansion change the points?

Accessibility: 5/5 - As before
Design: 4/5 - As before
Depth: 3/5 - Oooh, an extra point on depth. Now you're really thinking about strategy.
Replayability: 4/5 - I think this makes the original game even more playable.
Availability: 5/5 - As before.

Summary: If you play games often, ask yourself how many of them actually make you laugh out loud? I mean, properly laugh. Ultimately, that's what this game does. To me, that makes it an invaluable item on any gamer's shelf.

Final Score: I'm going high on this one. I think this expansion keeps the game simple and fun while removing the worst element of the original. It's a game that anyone can pick up and play easily, it's now even more fun because you're able to plan ahead much more. This is an expansion that seriously improves on an already fun game, while remaining as simple and funny as the original. With that in mind, I'm going to award this an impressive 80%.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent Review! If you'd like to trade banner adds feel free to check us out at UnfilteredGamer.com Contact us there and let us know what you think! I'd also be more than happy to give you guys a shout out in our newer video content provided you continue the great reviews! Thanks for the great read and hope to hear from you soon -The Unfiltered Team

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  2. thank you for a great review... i have the NSFW ed. of the basic game and i will be picking up the expansion soonish... been playing this one for awhile and ive loved every minute of it... :]

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