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Exploding Kittens Card Game: Rules for How to Play

Exploding Kittens Card Game: Rules for How to Play

Ar you looking for a specific Exploding Kittens rule? | Set Up | Playing a Card | Drawing a Card | Card Meanings | Winning the Game | Advanced Game | FAQ | Review | Components |


The objective of Exploding Kittens is to be the last remaining player.

Set Up

  • Remove all of the Exploding Kittens cards (4) and the Defuse (6) cards from the deck.
  • Shuffle the remaining deck and deal four cards face down to each player.
  • Each player takes one of the Defuse cards. Add the remaining Defuse cards back into the deck.
  • Add a number of Exploding Kitten cards into the deck equal to the number of players minus one. For example if there are four players, add three Exploding Kitten cards into the deck. Return any extra Exploding Kitten cards to the box.
  • Shuffle the remaining cards and place them face down in the middle of the table. These cards will form the draw pile for the game.
  • Choose who will start the game.

How to Play Exploding Kittens

Each turn in Exploding Kittens consists of two steps.

  1. Play a Card(s)
  2. Draw a Card

Playing a Card(s)

A player begins their turn with the option of playing a card or multiple cards. You can also choose not to play any cards. When you play a card you will add it to the discard pile. When you play a card that has instructions on it you will follow the instructions after playing the card.

Playing a Skip card
The current player has played a Skip card. They will skip the rest of their turn.

To play cards without instructions you must play two cards of the same type. When you play a pair of no instruction cards you will choose one of the other players. You will then have the ability to randomly draw one card from the chosen player’s hand and add it to your own hand.

Playing a pair of Non Instruction cards
This player has played a pair of cards that don’t have instructions on them. They will get to randomly take a card from another player’s hand.

Players can play as many cards as they want on their turn.

Drawing a Card

Once you have finished playing cards you will draw the top card from the draw pile (unless they played a card that allows them not to draw a card). If you draw any card other than an Exploding Kitten, you will add the card to your hand and play will pass to the next player clockwise.

Drawing a card
This player has drawn a Hairy Potato Cat card. They will add the card to their hand.

Should you draw an Exploding Kitten card, you will check your hand for a Defuse card. If you have a Defuse card in your hand, you will play it which will nullify the Exploding Kitten. Then you will discard the Defuse card. You will then take the Exploding Kitten card and place it anywhere in the draw pile that you prefer (without looking at the cards). You may place it back on the top of the deck or anywhere else in the deck. While placing the card, you can hide the deck of cards from the other players so the other players can’t see where you placed the Exploding Kitten card in the deck.

Blocking an Exploding Kitten card with a Defuse card
This player drew an Exploding Kitten card. They have a Defuse card in their hand which they will use to avoid the Exploding Kitten card. They will place the Exploding Kitten card back into the deck.

If you draw an Exploding Kitten card and don’t have a Defuse card, you are immediately eliminated from the game.

Eliminated from game after drawing Exploding Kitten card
This player drew an Exploding Kitten card. They did not have a Defuse card. Therefore they are eliminated from the game.

Exploding Kittens Card Meanings

There are a different types of cards in the game that give you special actions. The special action of each card is detailed below.

Defuse card


As detailed above you will use a Defuse card when you draw an Exploding Kitten card. By playing this card you avoid being eliminated from the game.

Nope card


You can play a Nope card at any time to block a card played by another player. This includes playing the card on another player’s turn. You cannot use a Nope card to block an Exploding Kitten or a Defuse card.

You can use a Nope card to block an instruction card, a pair of cards, or any type of combo. Any card that you block with a Nope card has no effect on the game.

Using a Nope card to block an Attack card
The previous player played an Attack card. The next player who would have to take two turns plays a Nope card to block the Attack card.

If the player’s card is blocked by a Nope card, they can play their own Nope card to block the other Nope card. Another player can then play a Nope card to block the second Nope card. This can continue until players stop playing Nope cards. If all of the Nope cards cancel each other out, the initial card’s effect is applied.

Blocking a Nope card with a Nope card
After the player blocked the Attack card with a Nope card, the player that played the Attack card played their own Nope card to block the other Nope card. Unless another Nope card is played, the Attack card will be applied.
Exploding Kitten card

Exploding Kitten

Should you draw an Exploding Kitten card, you are immediately eliminated from the game unless they have a Defuse card to nullify it.

Attack card


An Attack card immediately ends a player’s turn allowing you to avoid drawing a card. The next player will then have to take two turns in a row. They will complete their normal turn of playing a card(s) and then drawing cards. They will then take another turn.

If an attacked player plays their own Attack card they will skip the rest of their turn and the next player will have to take two turns.

Playing an Attack card on an Attack card
After an Attack card was played against them, the next player decides to play their own Attack card. This passes the effect onto the next player.
Skip card


A Skip card allows a player to immediately end their turn preventing them from drawing a card.

Should a player play a Skip card after an Attack card is played against them, the Skip card will only skip one of the two turns. You would need to play two Skip cards to skip both turns.

Favor card


After playing a Favor card, you will choose another player to give you one of the cards from their hand. The player you chose will get to choose which card to give you.

Shuffle card


A Shuffle card allows the current player to shuffle the deck before drawing a card.

See the Future Card

See the Future

When you play a See the Future card, you will get to look at the top three cards from the draw pile. You should not show the cards to the other players. After looking at the cards, you will return them to the deck in the same order that they were taken.

Looking at the next three cards after playing a See the Future card
After playing a See the Future card, the player looks at the next three cards. The next card is an Exploding Kitten card so the player wants to try and avoid drawing the card. After they are done looking at the cards, they will return them to the top of the deck.
Non Instructions cards in Exploding Kittens

Non Instruction Cards

These cards have no special abilities. You can only play them in pairs/special combos. If you play two of them together you can take one card randomly from one of the other player’s hands.

Winning the Game

Eventually all but one player will draw an Exploding Kitten card that they can’t defend against. The last player remaining wins the game.

Advanced Game

If you want a more advanced game you can add combos to the normal game. All of the other rules are the same except for the combo rules.

In addition to playing a pair of non instruction cards you can play a pair of any type of card with the same symbol in the corners. When you play a pair you can randomly take a card from one of the other player’s hands.

Playing a pair of cards in the advanced game of Exploding Kittens
This player has decided to play two Favor cards together in order to randomly draw a card from another player.

If you play three cards of the same type, you have the option of asking for a specific card from another player. Should the player have the card you asked for, they must give you the card. If they don’t have the card you asked for you receive no benefit for playing three of a kind.

Playing three of a kind in the advanced game
This player decides to play three Hairy Potato Cat cards. They can choose a type of card they want and ask another player for it. For example they may ask for a Defuse card. If the player has the card, they have to give it to the player who played the three Hairy Potato Cat cards.

Finally a player can play five cards featuring different symbols in the corners. When a player plays these cards they can take one card of their choice from the discard pile.

Playing five different cards
This player has played five different cards. They will now be able to take a card of their choice from the discard pile.

Exploding Kittens FAQ

If you have any questions about how to play the game, leave a comment below on this post. I will try to answer any questions asked as best and as quickly as possible.

Exploding Kittens Review

In recent years a good source for finding financing for board game projects has been Kickstarter. Some of the biggest projects on the site have come from card and board games. I bring this up because today I am looking at one of the biggest success stories in the history of Kickstarter. First launched in January of 2015 Exploding Kittens was only hoping to raise around $10,000. The game quickly received a lot of buzz on the internet eventually leading to the game getting over $8 million in preorders. I originally heard about the game during its Kickstarter campaign, but I never gave it much thought as I always thought it was just popular for being popular. I normally would have ignored the game entirely, but I found a copy of the game at a thrift store for $0.50 and as a bargain shopper I thought it was worth giving it a shot at that price. Exploding Kittens relies on a lot of luck and is kind of random, but I was genuinely surprised that there is more to the game than I originally expected.

The goal in Exploding Kittens is pretty straightforward. Basically you just don’t want to draw an Exploding Kitten card. Drawing an Exploding Kitten is basically an automatic elimination unless you have a defuse card. In a lot of ways you just have to hope that luck is on your side so you don’t draw one. Pretty much all of the gameplay of Exploding Kittens is based around minimizing the chances of you drawing one of the cards. Each of the cards give you some benefit that makes it easier to avoid elimination. You can use cards to skip your turn, force other players to draw cards, see the next three cards so you know what to expect, steal cards from other players, among other abilities. In a lot of ways Exploding Kittens feels like a traditional card game like UNO which has been combined with Russian Roulette. You can try to avoid having to draw cards, but you will still have to take chances and draw cards. Hopefully for your sake you don’t draw the wrong card.

One of the main reasons that I initially didn’t have much interest in Exploding Kittens was the fact that I thought it would rely on a lot of luck. In a lot of ways this first impression was spot on. Drawing the right cards is by far the driving force behind the game. It is better to be lucky in the game than make smart moves. You could make the best moves possible and still lose because there was no way to avoid drawing the wrong card. Sometimes you could even know what is coming and yet you don’t have the cards needed to avoid elimination. You likely will have to make a smart play at some point to avoid one of the Exploding Kitten cards, but I could see a player easily winning the game just because they got lucky.

Avoiding the Exploding Kitten cards is not the only area where luck comes into play. There are cards in the game that are considerably better than others. By far the best cards in the game are the Defuse cards. These cards are basically get out of jail free cards as they prevent your elimination. When you have one of these cards in your hand you can’t be eliminated. Therefore the cards are really valuable. Everyone starts with one of them, but you can acquire additional Defuse cards during the game. You could end up drawing one from the deck or steal one from one of the other players. The cards that allow you to steal cards from other players are also valuable because they potentially give you the opportunity to take another player’s Defuse card. This takes away the other players second chance while giving you a third chance. Having two Defuse cards at the same time puts you in a very good position. This is one of the reasons that players are likely to gang up on the player with the least cards in their hand as you are more likely to get a good card.

In addition to saving yourself the Defuse cards give you an interesting opportunity. Since you were saved you now have the opportunity to add the Exploding Kitten card back into the deck. Instead of shuffling the remaining cards you get to pick where in the deck you want to place the card. Do you want to put it on the top of the deck so the next player has to deal with it? Maybe there is a player that you know who can’t defend against it so you will place it far enough down in the deck that they are forced to draw it? You could also just randomly put the card back into the deck, but what is the fun with that. What is even better is the fact that you can do this in secret so none of the other players know where you put it. If you play this correctly you can get players to waste valuable cards because they thought you targeted them. This mechanic might not seem like much at first, but I found it to be pretty clever.

It is hard to deny that Exploding Kittens relies heavily on card draw luck. I am not huge fan of this as I like games that give players more impact over their own fate. I have to say that I was a little surprised in this area as I enjoyed Exploding Kittens more than I was expecting. The reliance on luck is still a significant issue for the game, but I actually had fun playing the game. There is just something exciting about not knowing what will happen to you with the next card draw. You could draw a card that really helps you or you could draw the card that ends your game. This is kind of exciting especially when you get towards the end of the deck and you know one of the next cards has to be an Exploding Kitten.

I was also a little surprised that there is a little more strategy to the game than I originally expected. Exploding Kittens is far from a really strategic game, but the decisions you make in the game could make the difference between winning and losing. In most games you will have to make a decision that saves you from being eliminated. If you make the right decision in that moment you can win and if you don’t you will be eliminated. Drawing better cards is always helpful, but you need to be smart when choosing which cards to play. If you don’t need to you are almost always better off waiting to play a card. The problem is that not playing cards exposes you to more risk. You need to be willing to take risks in order to have a chance of winning the game. Choosing the right times to take risks and the right times to play it safe will likely determine how well you will do in the game.

Exploding Kittens’ greatest strength though is probably the fact that the game is really easy to play. Basically each player’s turn breaks down into playing a card(s) and then drawing a card. This is self explanatory. The only thing that is even somewhat difficult is the number of different cards and their various abilities. It takes a little time to understand what all of the cards do. Most of the cards’ abilities are self explanatory though so the game is still easy to learn. I would guess that you could teach the game to new players within just a couple minutes. The game is simple enough that pretty much anyone can play it. Basically if you can play a game like UNO you should have no troubles with Exploding Kittens. This simplicity also leads to the game playing pretty quickly. I would guess that most games can be finished in around 15-20 minutes.

Overall I would say that the game’s components are pretty solid. I thought the game’s artwork was pretty good even though I can see some people not being a big fan of the game’s style. The game’s style is meant be weird and it succeeds in that task leading to some genuine laughs. I will say that the print on the cards is a little hard to see though. I think the game should have made the print a little larger even if it is not all that necessary once you know what all of the different types of cards do. As for the card quality it is basically what you would expect.

I got to say that when I first heard of Exploding Kittens I didn’t have high expectations for it. It just felt like an internet fad that only became popular due to the weird theme. I thought the game would rely almost entirely on luck and my first impression was not wrong. Exploding Kittens relies on a lot of luck as the game comes down to not drawing an Exploding Kitten card. As all of the cards are not equal the player that draws the best cards is going to have a big advantage in the game. Despite the reliance on luck I have to say that I enjoyed Exploding Kittens more than I was expecting. There is just something exciting about not knowing what is going to happen with the next card you draw. You could draw a really powerful card or be eliminated entirely. There is also some strategy to the game as you try to figure out the best way to play your cards. On top of all of this the game is really easy to learn and play.

Basically if you think the premise doesn’t sound all that interesting or you have never really cared for basic card games like UNO I don’t see Exploding Kittens being for you. If the game sounds interesting to you though I think you can have some fun with it. For the right price it may be worth checking out Exploding Kittens.

Components for Exploding Kittens


  • 20 Non Instruction Cards (4 of each type)
  • 4 Attach Cards
  • 6 Defuse Cards
  • 4 Exploding Kitten Cards
  • 4 Favor Cards
  • 5 Nope Cards
  • 5 See the Future Cards
  • 4 Shuffle Cards
  • 4 Skip Cards

Year: 2015 | Publisher: Exploding Kittens | Designer: Matthew Inman, Elan Lee, Shane Small | Artist: Matthew Inman, Elan Lee, Shane Small

Genres: Card, Press Your Luck

Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-5 | Length of Game: 15-20 minutes

Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: High

For more board and card game rules/how to plays, check out our complete alphabetical list of card and board game rules posts.