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PARTY ANIMALS

Two years after Exploding Kittens blew up Kickstarter, designer Elan Lee and artist Matthew Inman are back with Bears vs Babies. We caught up with Lee to see how their small game of comedy cats turned into all out teddy-tot war

At the beginning of 2015, a small card game starring extremely volatile felines popped up on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

The brainchild of former Xbox video game developers Elan Lee and Shane Small, and illustrated by Matthew Inman – better known as the creator of hugely popular web comic The OatmealExploding Kittens was essentially Russian roulette with cards. Players drew a series of ridiculous cat types (including tacocat, overweight bikini cat and hairy potato cat – we can’t decide which is most disturbing) and actions allowing them to look at the central deck, avoid drawing or force other players to pick up extra cards. When a kitten was revealed, wielding incendiaries that would make Wile E. Coyote’s eyes water, that player had to find a way of defusing it (catnip sandwiches, kitten therapy and laser points all effective) or they blew up along with the moggy, eliminating them from the game. You wouldn’t guess it from the absurd feline theme it ended up with, but the game started off as something far tamer.

“Matt and I have some friends in common so we end up in the same room a lot,” Lee answers when asked how the trio behind the title came to be. “When I resigned from Xbox, I started working on a new game design called Bomb Squad with my friend Shane Small. I had been working on the game for a few weeks and carried a deck with me everywhere I went. I would often steal any spare moments my friends would tolerate to test and retest the ruleset.”

Equipped with nearly two decades of experience working on video games and movies – including heading up the creation of The Beast, the alternate reality game used to promote Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – Lee was clearly no stranger to creating unique ways of playing. What he needed to complete the package was a killer hook. Enter Matthew Inman, the final part of the trinity, and the theme that would rocket Bomb Squad to multi-million-dollar success.

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About Tabletop Gaming

Cover feature: Bears vs Babies: We chat with Elan Lee about following up Exploding Kittens with this hilarious monster mash-up set to be the summer’s biggest hit. GKR: Heavy Hitters: We take a dive into the world of Giant Killer Robots with senior concept designer Paul Tobin. Infection at Outpost 31: A beautiful adaptation of John Carpenter’s seminal horror film The Thing. Pro gaming special: How champions turned their hobby into a profession. First Martians: Designer Ignacy Trzewiczek guides us through his highly anticipated Adventures on the Red Planet. Tales from the Loop: We talk to the makers of the throwback RPG. The Ultimate Gaming Room: A look at what you should be cramming into your tabletop haven. PLUS • Cooking With Dice: Roleplaying with real-life cookery. • The Occult on the Tabletop: The influence of tarot cards and Ouija board. • Survive: Escape from Atlantis!: We look back at the beloved adventure game. • The Making of… Star Wars X-Wing • Painting Guide: Runewars • A Dungeon Master’s Guide to RPGs • Ten of the Best: 10 Budget Games for Under a Tenner • Introduction to… Pathfinder • My Favourite Game: Cry Havoc designer Grant Rodiek • First Turn: Acclaimed Citadels creator Bruno Faidut • Club Spotlight: Redditch Wargaming Society • Shop Spotlight: Southampton’s Board in the City • Played: 20 games and accessories reviewed

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