Home » Cards and Dice » Exploding Kittens Rules: How to Play (without Exploding)

Exploding Kittens Rules: How to Play (without Exploding)

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you click through and purchase, at no additional cost to you. Learn more

These days, there seems to be an influx of bizarre party card games on the market for people who like to get creative with their game nights.

We’ve got Cards Against Humanity, for those of you with a darker sense of humor, Fluxx for people who enjoy ever-changing rules with every deck, and now, even “Exploding Kittens”.

Like many of the most popular card games available now, Exploding Kittens started out as a Kickstarter campaign. The idea, launched by Elan Lee (Xbox Legend) and Oatmeal illustrator Shane Small started with a backing target of around $10k.


The card game managed to earn a whopping $8 million in funding during it’s time live on the internet, however. That means that not only do we now have exploding kittens, but we also have a bunch of exciting expansion packs for the game too, like:

Today, we’re going to look at the Exploding Kittens rules for the basic game, so you can wow your friends with your ability to not suddenly combust.

Exploding Kittens Rules: Setup and Components

Exploding Kittens Card Game - Family-Friendly Party Games - Card Games For Adults, Teens & Kids

The components included with Exploding Kittens are simple enough. With each game, you get a deck of cards, and a little rules booklet. That applies to the expansion packs too. Because there aren’t any bells, whistles, or boards to worry about, setup is relatively simple.

To begin, you’ll need to remove all of the exploding kittens and “Defuse” cards from the deck. Once you’ve done that, shuffle the cards that are left and hand them out four at a time to each player.

Deal a single defuse card to each of the players at your table, so you know that everyone has a hand of five cards in total.

Every player needs to keep their hand a secret. Insert the exploding kittens back into the rest of the cards, so that you’ve got one fewer exploding kittens than the number of people playing. You can leave any extra exploding kittens out of the game and put extra defuse cards back into the deck.

Shuffle the deck and place it face down in the center of the table, this will become the draw pile and the heart of the fun. Then choose a player that you want to go first. The game suggests choosing someone with the most impressive beard, or a bizarre odor, but it’s really up to you.

The object of the game is simple, if you explode, you lose the game, if you don’t then you win!

Also check out: How to play Unstable Unicorns

Exploding Kittens Rules: The Cards

Exploding Kittens Card Game - Family-Friendly Party Games - Card Games For Adults, Teens & Kids

The game play of Exploding Kittens comes down to the cards that you draw on each turn.

You’ll have a deck of card that contains a handful of exploding kittens and a bunch of other things. The idea is to have one person draw a card until someone draws an exploding kitten.

The cards available include:

  • Defuse: If someone draws an exploding card, then they can play their defuse card instead of being out of the game. They simply place the defuse card in the discard pile and put the exploding kitten secretly back into the draw pile – hopefully for someone else to pick up.
  • Nope: The Nope card stops any action except for a defuse card or an exploding kitchen. For instance, if a person could create a special combo or attack another person with their cards, the other player could use a “Nope” card at any time before an action begins – even if it’s not their turn.
  • Attack: Attack cards force you to end your turn without drawing, while forcing the next player to take two turns in a row. This means that the chances of drawing an exploding kitten is usually higher.
  • Exploding kittens: The exploding kitten is basically what kicks you out of the game. If you pick up an Exploding kitten, you have to show the other people in your group immediately. If you don’t have a defuse card, then you’re dead, and you’ll discard all of your cards – including the kitten.
  • Skip: If you pick and use a skip card, then you can immediately end your turn without drawing a card. You could play a skip card as a defense against an attack card, but it will only end one of your turns.
  • Favour: The favour card forces any player of your choice to give you a card from their hand. They’ll be able to choose which card they give you.
  • Cat cards: Some cards have no instructions on them. These cards are powerless by themselves, but they can sometimes be played in special combos and pairs.
  • Shuffle: If you draw a shuffle card, then you will need to shuffle the cards and then draw a card without looking at them first.
  • See the future: Take a look at the top 3 cards from the draw pile then place them back on the top of the deck in the same order. You shouldn’t show the cards to anyone else.

Exploding Kittens Rules: Verdict

Exploding kittens is a fun and fast-paced game which keeps you and your friends on the edge of your seat. Even if you’re great at strategy, a little bit of bad luck could be all it takes to mean that you end up combusting.

The fun and hilarious nature of exploding kittens has made it one of the most popular card games available today for all ages. What’s more, the game goes very quickly, so it’s a great way to break the ice too.


  • Easy to understand and play
  • Games are unpredictable
  • Mixture of luck and strategy
  • Fantastic graphics
  • Fun premise with expansion packs available
  • Quick-fire games


  • Loses replay value over time (without expansion packs)
  • Not ideal for those who don’t want a quick game


About Bar Games 101

Bar Games 101 is a website devoted to helping you learn about the best games to play with your friends. We review the games, research the rules, and uncover helpful tips and strategies.

Get our free guide to the 50 Best Bar Games.