Tag Archives: Exploding Kittens

Boardgames in the News: Radio 2 and Online

Over the last few years there has been a lot of anecdotal evidence that modern boardgames are becoming less of a niche activity, with a large number of reports in local and national media.  Last month alone, there was a prime-time article on BBC Radio 2‘s flagship Breakfast Show, where Chris Evans interviewed Dicky Duerden, Head of Games at the Chance & Counters Games Cafe in Bristol.  The interview took place shortly before 9am (2hrs 13 mins into the show) and discussed classic games like Connect Four and Kerplunk as well as their most popular games, Scrabble and Jenga.

Chris Evans
– Image from bbc.co.uk

The interview included a couple of nice little anecdotes, for example, Dicky Duerden explained that Battleship began life as a French game called “L’Attack” and was renamed twice, changing to “Salvo”, then “Broadside” before finally becoming “Battleship”.  He was also asked whether they have problems with players having temper tantrums and whether people lose pieces or walk off with them.  Apparently, Chance & Counters has heavy unflippable tables with shelves to store the games and cup-holders to help prevent spillage.  So, the most damage they’ve had to a game was when someone stole all the marbles from Hungry Hungy Hippos—presumably the thief couldn’t stand the noise!

Hungry Hungry Hippos
– Image from medium.com

Modern boardgames have also featured in print and other media channels.  For example, the literary and cultural commentary magazine, The Atlantic, recently reported how U.S. sales of boardgames grew by twenty-eight percent between spring 2016 and spring 2017.  They put this increase down to the rise in popularity of card games like Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler, and Exploding Kittens as well as what they initially refer to as “hobby” boardgames.  Although the article is written from a US perspective, it includes a nice commentary from Phil Eklund, head of Sierra Madre Games and designer of Pax Porfiriana, Greenland and Bios: Megafauna amongst others.  The interview with Phil Eklund is excellent and well worth a read; it includes discussion of Essen and Spiel des Jahres as well as discussion of a wide range of games including Power Grid, Biblios and El Grande rather than just the usual Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

– Image by BGG contributor Schaulustiger

Every report about the growth of modern boardgames hides something less cheerful:  the number of stores that have closed in recent time.  As demand for modern games increases, so does their availability at places like Amazon, and that increases the pressure on an already squeezed niche.  In the last year or so, several excellent and well established stores have closed including Shire Games and Northumbria Games.  With prices continuing to rise—a new big-box game is rarely below £50 these days—and the growth of crowd-funding, more and more gamers are looking for discounts where they can.  The boardGOATS are lucky to have three excellent outlets locally, Eclectic Games (in Reading), Thirsty Meeples and The Gameskeeper (both in Oxford).  Perhaps the Chris Evans interview will encourage more people to pay them a visit.

– Adapted from Image by Petras Gagilas (flickr.com)

Boardgames in the News: KickStarting a Boardgame Café with Radio 4

Over the last few years, boardgaming has become increasingly acceptable amongst the general public and one consequence of this has been the continuing rise of the boardgame café.  Boardgame cafés have come a long way since Thirsty Meeples opened in Oxford just three and a half years ago.  In fact, one online map has the number in the UK now totalling over forty.  There have been several articles commenting on their spread too, including an interesting recent article on Radio 4‘s consumer affairs programme, You & Yours covering crowd funding, boardgames and modern café culture.

Some of the boardgameing reports in the media have been quite poor, but this is one of the better articles.  The reporter, Bob Walker visits the two boardgame cafés in Nottingham, Ludorati and The Dice Cup, interviewing both staff and customers who are clearly having a good time playing a range of games including Munchkin Zombies and while Risk as well as the inevitable Monopoly get a mention.  More interesting is an interview with Peter Blenkharn from Inside the Box , a small company who are producing Sub Terra which has just raised £368,256 via KickStarter.  There are a number of other interesting statistics quoted, for example, it is apparently estimated that the board and card game market in US is worth $1.2 billion.  Bob Walker also talks to Matt Jarvis, editor of Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which was originally quarterly, but is now bimonthly due to increasing popularity.  Matt cites a recent Tabletop Gaming Magazine report which claims that tabletop games made over $100 million last year on KickStarter, more than four times what computer games achieved in the same period.  Much of this was raised by miniature games so the recent reprint of Kingdom Death: Monster alone raised over $12 million – the sort of figure that producers of Euro, or family games, would never dare to dream of – even the infamous Exploding Kittens only raised $8.7 million.  Nevertheless, it is clear boardgaming continues to go from strength to strength.

You & Yours
– Image from a2milk.co.uk

Boardgames in the News: The Eight Million Dollar Card Game

Crowd-funding has proven to be a real money spinner – KickStarter projects with lots of miniatures raising loads of money are not uncommon, especially if they include Zombies.  This is a different phenomena though:  in February, a small card game raised $8,782,571 from 219,382 backers, becoming both the most-funded game and the project with the largest number of backers in KickStarter History.  The game? Well, it is called Exploding Kittens and the backers are just beginning to receive their “rewards”.

Exploding Kittens
– Image from explodingkittens.com

Exploding Kittens is described as “a highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette”.  The KickStarter project goes on to say, “Players take turns drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten and loses the game” – so, not that strategic then.  Clearly it is a light, luck-heavy card game that would probably benefit from the involvement of alcohol and could  be fun in the right circumstances, but why does it have so many backers?  Even more so, why has it been so successful when the cost is $35 per copy for the KickStarter Exclusive deck (excluding postage) and similar games can be had for less than a third of that?

Exploding Kittens
– Image from explodingkittens.com

Obviously the target audience are not dedicated boardgamers – the project wasn’t even posted in the Tabletop Games Category.  The game was created by Elan Lee, Former Chief Design Officer for Xbox Entertainment Studios, and was the lead designer of “The Beast”, a promotional alternate reality game for Steven Spielberg’s movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”.  That isn’t the reason for  the game’s overwhelming success though.  The key is the tie in with The Oatmeal, an online comic created by Matthew Inman.  The comic began in 2009 and within a year had an average of 4.6 million unique visitors and more than 20 million page views a month.  With that sort of fan-base it is less surprising that the project was able to get nearly quarter of a million investors to become the third largest fund-raiser in the history of KickStarter.

Exploding Kittens
– Image from explodingkittens.com