Exploding Kittens has raised a lot of money on Kickstarter’s crowdfunding platform over the years, and it’s at it again with a campaign for a zany new tabletop game called Hand-to-Hand Wombat.
The company’s latest campaign has raised $409,000 from 7,339 backers (at the time of this writing) over the past three days. And on top of that, the company has sold a house for $1.
To juice the excitement in the campaign, the Los Angeles company decided to sell a mini house for $1, said Elan Lee, CEO of Exploding Kittens, in an interview with GamesBeat. It’s one of those one-person luxury houses on wheels.
“Giving away the house for $1 is step one of many insane, ridiculous items that we are going to sell on Kickstarter for $1,” Lee said. “We didn’t want to tell people about the first one. We actually just wanted it to happen randomly. That was just the tip of the iceberg. There are a ton more items of that caliber, and that level of insanity that we’re just going to be putting up randomly on our page always for $1.”
Lee’s company has been exceptionally good at stirring excitement on Kickstarter, and that’s why the company’s titular game has sold 18 million games to date. A former Xbox game designer and alternate reality game creator, Lee started the company with Matt Inman, comic artist and creator of The Oatmeal. Their team has made 30 games to date.
Over the next 26 days, Exploding Kittens promises more Wombat-themed extravagances to celebrate the company’s new game, Hand-to-Hand Wombat. Each outrageous item will be sold for $1 over the course of the campaign, but will usually appear without warning. Audiences will have to keep their eyes on the Hand-to-Hand Wombat Kickstarter page for more details, Lee said.
Hand-to-Hand Wombat is a game of deception. Kind of like Werewolves or Among Us, the tabletop game can be played with a variety of players. In a version with four players, one is a secret betrayer, a saboteur, whose object is to disrupt the other players from accomplishing their goals.
In a game of four, three players keep their eyes closed in a match that lasts 90 seconds. Each player has to ask for different-size rings that they can feel and place on a stack to build a pyramid. They have to put the rings in order to finish the structure and win. It looks like a bunch of donuts on a peg. But the saboteur will hand them different-size objects to mess them up.
At the end of 90 seconds, the accusations fly. Players can vote someone out for being the saboteur. But if they pick the wrong person, then the game continues. If it gets down to two players, the saboteur wins. If the non-saboteurs complete their towers, then they win.
“Your goal is to just stack all three towers in the right order, very simple, except that one person is trying to screw with you,” Lee said. “It’s a super simple game. It is one of those games that makes you laugh so hard your face starts to hurt. And you are unable to complete this very simple tasks because of the interactions of the hilarity of the unbelievable chaos going on.”
Lee added, “The whole mantra of our company is ‘We don’t make entertaining games, we make games that make the people you’re playing with entertaining.’ And so this game really checks off that box.
It so happened that Inman had created his latest cute characters, the Wombats, and they needed to find a home. So Lee said the game that had been in the works for a couple of years was a good candidate.
“Hand-To-Hand Wombat is rowdy, social fun,” said Carol Mertz, senior game designer at Exploding Kittens, in a statement. “We aim for this kind of experience with all our games, so we’re especially proud of the design of this one. It’s the perfect game to pump up the energy of your game nights — players will be laughing and shouting the entire time.”
Lee said the company is announcing the game more broadly today because it noticed that it has no trouble getting attention in the first three days of a 30-day Kickstarter campaign. But right about now, many campaigns stall and they become a struggle until they get close to the end. So Lee wanted to start announcing giveaways and get the crowd coming back starting with the fourth day. That’s an interesting lesson for other potential campaigns.
“We’ve long said that the only way we would go back to Kickstarter is for the right reason. And that reason is all is never money based. It’s always the word crowdfunding. It’s always the emphasis on crowd instead of funding,” Lee said. “We only go to Kickstarter for a crowd. This game was perfect because this game sells itself really well. When you see other people playing it. It is so fun.”
Lee said the exact game isn’t quite down, and the company wants to try out prototypes of various kinds on players. The team will collect feedback from the Kickstarter supports and tweak the game accordingly. The game has already gone through a lot of iteration.
Lee said the team almost called the new game Mortal Wombat. The company hasn’t been on Kickstarter since it launched Throw Throw Burrito.
“We thought it was time to go back and talk to that community again,” he said.
To back the Kickstarter project, you can visit the project’s website. Exploding Kittens was Kickstarter’s biggest project of all time.