Geraldshields11, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Geraldshields11, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever had a dog, you’ll know they are pretty straightforward animals. Feed, walk, love. 

Simple.

But the thing about cats is…they’re unpredictable. In the card game Exploding Kittens— even more so. With various cards and combinations, you’ll find there are many ways to win. Today we cover various Exploding Kittens strategies for the basic version of the game. Once you feel confident try adding in some expansion packs for even more mayhem.

This game is heavily influenced by the luck of the draw. This is a ‘Last Man Standing’ kind of game. If you draw an Exploding Kitten–  and you don’t have a Diffuse card— you’re gonna have a bad time.

Bad Kitty

I recently played this game and it’s definitely different from what I remember. We started with three players and once it was down to two, things got dicey quick. Unfortunately, my husband is more ruthless than I am when it comes to this game.

This is the kind of game that friendships can be ruined over. (I’m looking at you Mario Party and Monopoly.) So proceed with caution if you have anyone sensitive to brutal combat. If you don’t take every opportunity to push your opponents to the edge, they will make you pay for it.

Strategy-wise, if you have more players, you’ll have an easier time hoarding cards and eliminating other players through Exploding Kittens. But if you only have two players the game can get short fast. There are four kittens, and every time the Defuse card is used, it means the Exploding Kitten goes back into the deck. With less and less cards to go around, you see where this is going.

Similar to King of Tokyo, this game is very reactive. It rewards being aggressive but you have to be ready to defend at a moment’s notice.

Luck of the Claw

Since this is more luck-based, it’s helpful to consider the cards included and how they are best used. 

  • Defensive = Defuse, Skip, Shuffle, Nope
  • Offensive = Attack, Favor, See the Future, Cat Pairs (Hairy Potato Cat, etc.)

These are the cards that will be used to combat these common issues when trying to win.

Ideally, you’d want to have at least one of each kind of card in your hand. Especially a Nope or Skip card if they try to force you into action. Always consider the possibility that the player before you is bluffing. 

The most common issues include:

  • Your opponents keep stealing your cards, forcing you to keep drawing cards. This increases your chances of drawing an Exploding Kitten.
  • Players just Defused an Exploding Kitten. There’s a high chance that they put the cat on the top of the deck.
  • A rival trying to force you into action with an Attack card. They probably know what’s next.
  • You need a better card, but you don’t want to risk pulling from the deck.
  • You aren’t aware of all the combos you can make with the various cards.

Exploding Kittens Tips

Photo from jason gessner on flickr

1. How do I stop players from taking my cards?

So how do we counter these problems? There are actually a few ways. Some of the cards have similar functions so bear that in mind when we outline a counter.

One surefire way to keep thieves at bay is to use a Nope card on the card they just played. This automatically shuts down most of the actions in the game. 

If you don’t have a Nope card, another thing you can do is try and bluff when they reach for your card. Psych your competition out. If they put their hand over a card, perhaps you could make it seem like that’s not the card they’d want to get?

Related: Castles of Burgundy Strategies

2. Learn to Bluff

For this Exploding Kittens strategy to work use a See the Future card, and then play a Skip card. This will confuse the next player into thinking there is an Exploding Kitten when there isn’t. 

Using this as a strategy will help your opponent waste cards. If you happen to be in a two-player game, and they use an Attack card on you, then you’ve netted two free cards with no risk.

Learning to bluff is a vital part of this game. A strong part of your strategy should include bluffing whenever you can. 

Bluffs can cause your rivals to misread you. A costly mistake when explosions are involved.

3. Mix it Up

If you’re the kind of player who likes to keep all of the same types of cards together, you should mix up your cards in your hand. This will prevent a player from taking all of a certain type of card. Unless they have a ton of Favor cards or pairs this should protect you fairly well.

And if you’re really paranoid, you can shuffle your hand every time before they get to steal another card.

Or when the claw is on the other foot, use a Favor card to get some of your cards back from them. Especially if they took a nice card from you. 

Unfortunately, they get to pick which card they give you. But if you can combine this thieving strategy with Cat Pairs, then use that combo to get your cards back.

4. What should I do when drawing cards?

If you find yourself having to draw a lot of cards hopefully you draw a See the Future card. Use that before you draw again to make sure that the Exploding Kitten isn’t next. 

At the beginning of your turn, use the shuffle if you have reason to believe there was foul play. After shuffling you could still See the Future and bluff about what’s next.

However, most players suggest that if you do have a See the Future card, pair it with a shuffle card so you can change your odds if you need to.

Again this ties into knowing who you’re playing with and if they’ve shown any particular patterns in their play style.

5. Defusing a Kitten Bomb

If a player has just put the Exploding Kitten back into the deck and it’s your turn next. We don’t want to waste our Defuse card if we still have it. So instead you have two options: Shuffle, Skip, or Attack.

Play a Shuffle card to rearrange the deck. Then you know for sure that explosion isn’t imminent.

Use the Skip card so you won’t have to find out what’s next.

Playing an Attack card will end your turn and force the next player to draw cards. Even better if it’s only two players as they’ve fallen right back into their own trap!

6. Ace in the Hole

There are some people who draw parallels to this being an aggressive game of Uno. I’m not sure what version of Uno they’re playing as Uno always gets heated at our house. Other players suggest thinking of the Attack cards as your Draw Four Wild Card.

Save it to the end— the very last turn if you can. The draw deck is thin, it’s down to you and one other player— Attack and boom! You’ve won the game. 

Another benefit to carrying a volley of Attack cards is they can be stacked by the next player. If that happens, chances are the player who doesn’t have a counter will be knocked out.

7. Tricky Tabby

When drawing the Exploding Kitten card, you use your Defuse card. You have a choice. Most players put the kitten back at the top of the deck to try and ruin the next player. 

But if you want to be less obvious, try putting it as the second or third card depending on how many other players there are. After all, we don’t want to blow ourselves up.

No matter where you put the card it could be countered by the next player using an Attack, Skip, or Shuffle card.

8. Devastating Card Combos

1. Favor + Cat Pairs + Attack:

  • If you have a few Favor cards, use them on one specific player. Then use the Cat Pairs you have to take as many of their cards as you can. 
  • At this point, if they only have a few cards left, it’s a good time to use an Attack card. Not only have you ruined their defenses, but you’ve also forced them to draw the next card.

2. See the Future + Attack:

  • Pair a See the Future with an Attack card. In this scenario, if you see the future and the next card is bleak– this is the perfect time to slap an Attack card down. 
  • This works even better if it’s towards the end of the game and there are only a few players left. Chances are they are on their last legs and this will take out at least one player.

3. Exploding Kitten + Nope:

  • If you’re feeling particularly devious, place the Exploding Kitten near the top of the deck. When the next player tries to skip or shuffle the cards, simply Nope them. This works even better if you have multiple Nopes. 
  • Remember Nopes don’t work on the Defuse card so this works better in the end game when most people don’t have this card anymore.

Related: Photosynthesis game strategies

Advanced Rules

After you’ve got a few games of Exploding Kittens under your belt, you may have noticed that they have some additional rules to make the game even more interesting. 

In the regular version, you can use the Cat Pairs to steal cards from other players. With advanced rules, you can use any pair of cards that has the same icon to steal cards. 

Honestly, I can see if you were in a pinch you might use this strategy. But most people would agree that the abilities of those other cards are more valuable than stealing cards.

If you’re a gambler and have three of a kind, you can ask for the card you want from an opponent kind of like Go Fish. But if they don’t have the card you want, you get nothing and wasted three cards.

If you have played five cards of all different types in one turn, you can take any card you want from the Discard pile. This can be a valuable strategy if you know there are Defuse cards in the stack.

What is the Best Way to Win Exploding Kittens?

The best way to win Exploding Kittens is to be aggressive. Draw as many cards as you can early in the game. Including stealing from your rivals’ hands. Force the other players to draw more cards than you late game. Always think about what’s coming next. And like a limber tabby, be ready with a great defense.

Remember all of the abilities of the cards. Don’t be afraid to change up combos and come up with new versions. Use Nopes to trip up the other players at any time, not just your turn. Do everything you can to protect your hand while stacking the deck against your opponents.

If you have enough cards, don’t forget to use the Advanced rules. Swiping an extra defuse card from the discard pile could be the difference between winning and losing.

Bluff and claw your way through the deck and soon enough you’ll be the top cat in town.

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