In Depth

Exploding Kittens: how do you play and why is it so popular?

Card game has become most backed project of all time on global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter

A card game for people who are "into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats" has become the most backed project of all time on global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

The makers of "Exploding Kittens" had hoped to raise $10,000 to help turn their homemade concept into reality. But the project quickly gained the highest ever number of supporters on the website, with almost 220,000 people pledging $8.8m (£5.7m) by the time the 30-day campaign closed. It also became the third most funded Kickstarter project of all time.

So how do you play Exploding Kittens and why is it so popular?

Who came up with Exploding Kittens?

Game designer Elan Lee says it was born out of a deck of poker cards that he had "taken a Sharpie to and scribbled all over". He and his former Xbox Entertainment Studios colleague Shane Small initially developed a game called Bomb Squad. Then the "chocolate peanut butter moment" came when The Oatmeal comics creator Matthew Inman played a few rounds and suggested calling it Exploding Kittens. The three creators then developed a single deck, selling at $20 on Kickstarter, and later a double deck that includes a second "NSFW" (not safe for work) pack for $35. As the money started rolling in, the trio sent out 1,000 slices of pizza to 50 cat shelters to celebrate.

How do you play Exploding Kittens?

Players take it in turns to draw cards from a pack. If you draw a kitten card, you "explode" and are out of the game – unless you have a "defuse" card, which calms down the kitten using methods such as laser pointers, kitten therapy and catnip sandwiches. Other cards such as "deploy the thousand-year back hair" and "rub the belly of a pig-a-corn" allow players to skip a turn, force others to pick up cards, peek at the deck or secretly relocate an exploding kitten card. "Cat cards" – including "tacocat", "overweight potato cat" and "hairy potato cat" – can also activate "special powers".

Why is Exploding Kittens so popular?

What makes more than 200,000 people invest millions in a game they have never played? Combining two internet favourites – cats and explosions – was probably a good start.  Jen Yamato at The Daily Beast says it is not hard to see why "retro-hungry millennials sprung so hard" for the idea. "The game's engaging concept and artwork by The Oatmeal comics creator Matthew Inman gave Exploding Kittens a cheeky Cards Against Humanity appeal," she says. While Amanda Kooser at CNET says: "It has tragedy, drama, strategy and weaponised back hair. No wonder it's so popular."

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