When beginning the game, players start with at an identical number of cards, including one Defuse card for each. All Exploding Kittens and remaining cards are then shuffled into a face-down deck. Players then take turns drawing cards from the deck until somebody draws an Exploding Kitten. Should this happen, they "explode" and lose the game (unless they can use a Defuse card). This continues until only one player remains, and is declared the winner.
There are numerous different cards that lessen players' chances of exploding. On a player's turn, they can play as many of the cards they have in their hand as they want (or none at all!), and then draw a card from the draw pile to end their turn. There are a variety of cards in the core deck, as well as many more in multiple expansion packs and additional full decks.
In April, 2022, Netflix announced that a video game and an adult animated series based on the game were in development. The early plot details indicate that the series will follow a war between the forces of Heaven and Hell. No, really. Tom Ellis and Lucy Liu lead the voice cast.
Exploding Kittens provides examples of (under construction):
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Cards with an identical basic function have a matching icon with its own distinct color.
- Counterspell: Nope cards can cancel the effects of any card besides a Defuse card or any Kitten.
- Expansion Pack: Three exist for the game: Imploding Kittens, Streaking Kittens, and Barking Kittens.
- Extra Turn: Can be exploited as a harmful (if well-timed) Attack. An attacked player can stack their remaining turns onto those of another player with this. (A player can also use a Personal Attack card on themself to play this trope straight.) Also inverted with the ability to Skip a turn, ending it without drawing a card; and a Super Skip card, which skips all remaining turns.
- Extrinsic Go-First Rule: Humorously, players can determine who goes first with whatever they want.
- Kingmaker Scenario: Even if a player's chances of victory are diminished, they could still be capable of turning the tides of play for the others.
- Official Game Variant: The RFD deck, encouraging players to choose the cards they want, comes with ten different official layouts or "recipes".
- Out-of-Turn Interaction: Alter-the-Future NOW and Nope cards can be played outside the user's turn.
- Single-Use Shield: The Defuse card can prevent an Exploding Kitten from exploding, but is discarded once it does so. A defused Exploding Kitten is then placed anywhere in the deck in secret.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: It is possible for players to use their cards and/or proper defused Kitten placement to immensely screw over another player of their choice. How strategically viable this is varies.
- Action Bomb: Why Exploding Kittens present a danger to players.
- Autocannibalism: The Zombie Cat in the NSFW and RFD decks eats its own eyeball.
- Cone of Shame: First released in the Imploding Kittens Expansion Pack alongside things like physical Reverse cards, this acts as a punishment for those who forget whose turn it currently is.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Heavily implied with a certain Exploding Kitten card that is exclusive to the Streaking Kittens pack and replaced in the RFD deck.
- Mad Bomber: Exploding Kittens seem obsessed with blowing up anyone unfortunate enough to draw Exploding Kitten cards.
- Pun: The Feral Cat functions as a wild card that can be used as any other cat card.