Exploding Kittens, Original Edition

Exploding Kittens, Original Edition

Name: Exploding Kittens Original Edition
Type: Card Game 
Publisher: Exploding Kittens
No of Players: 2-5 (2-9 with any 2 deck combined)
Size: 16.2cm x 11.3cm x 3.8cm
Weight: 225g
Age: 30 and up?
Price:  £16.99
Playtime: 15 mins
Rating: [usr 3.0]

A while back I reviewed the NSFW edition of Exploding Kittens (you can read about that here) and since I recently picked up the original SFW edition I thought I’d write a little something on it. I’m not going to go into a great amount of detail, it’s essentially the same game as the NSFW Edition and so you can read my thoughts on how it plays on the other post, instead I thought I’d just look at a few of the cards.

Exploding Kittens, Original edition, Contents

So, a quick look at what you get in the box-

  • The Rules
  • 56 cards

Just like the NSFW Edition the list of contents is pretty damn short, but that’s fine, it makes for a nice and simple game.  You get exactly the same number of cards, with exactly the same ratio of the 8 cards types in either edition.

So, what makes the Original Edition different from the NSFW Edition? Simply put, this version is a little more kid friendly than the NSFW Edition, the cards don’t have references to anything sexual or otherwise inappropriate and instead tends to rely on the absurd or the gross like this-

Rainbow-Ralphing Cat

or this-

NOPE- Exploding Kittens Original Edition

As with the NSFW Edition all of the art here is done by The Oatmeal and all are a little offbeat and odd but that’s part of the charm. If you aren’t amused by the idea of someone being force-fed a sandwich while having a sauce bottle with NOPE written on it then this game probably isn’t for you.

The whole point of the game is to avoid the Exploding Kitten cards and they are probably some of the most amusing of the set, especially if you own a cat.

Exploding Kittens, Original Edition, Exploding Kitten Cards

I can see my own cat being responsible for any of the catastrophes, from walking over a keyboard (which she does ALL THE TIME) to randomly chewing on some TNT and all with a casual nonchalant look on her face as the world burns around her.

So should you buy this version if you have the other (or vice versa), that comes down to whether you like the other and whether you routinely need to cater to more than 5 people, which I do. Ultimately it’s no different in play style to the other version and the only reason it’s scored a point lower is because I identify with the humour in the NSFW Edition a little more. Exploding Kittens is fun, it’s easy and none gamers can play it while having a few drinks and find it funny and stupid, which counts for a lot.

Making Foil Alt Art IDs for Netrunner

Netrunner Foils, Complete

I really like making things, I’m not particularly skilled at it but I get immense satisfaction from creating things to improve my games. I also really like alt art cards for games, anything that sets my collection apart from the norm. So, it should come as no surprise that when I saw this,  I wanted to give it a try.

First of all I needed to figure out if it was at all possible, based on my very limited skills. The descriptions and tutorials on the above link prove some details on the process, based on US materials and items, and explain most of the process for making the cards but I even so, it seemed a tall task.

Materials

The materials required are-

  • Magic the Gathering Foil cards
  • Acetone
  • Printer acetate
  • A printer (obviously)
  • Spray mounting glue
  • Some Photoshop software
  • Hi res images of the cards you want
  • A rolling pin
  • Some kitchen roll/towel
  • An old toothbrush
  • A ceramic tile or other clean and flat surface
  • Low tac masking tape or plumbers tape
  • Lots of newspaper to protect your work area

Going through the above list-

Cards– I got my MTG foils from my local game store, they had some in their penny card bin and let me have them for nothing. I had to search for about 20 mins through a few thousand cards but free is free. You can also pick these up on eBay or from any MTG card seller online but, as you are stripping the artwork anyway, get the cheapest you can. The sets you use do seem to matter, for me I’ve found that the cards from Shadows over Innistrad and Eternal Masters work the best.

It’s worth pointing out that not every single card in those sets works, some just don’t for some reason but, in my experience, most do and they certainly work better than any other sets I tried.

Acetone– I got this from eBay. Just search Acetone and buy the purest form you can, likely 99.9% pure. Try to avoid any that is specifically marketed as a nail polish remover as it won’t be strong enough and may have other particulates which dilute the purity. It makes sense to try and look for acetone that is specifically marketed to the scientific community as that is the most likely to be lab grade. I tried a few different types and in the end this is the best I found and it was £7.99  for a litre, posted-

Acetone, Netrunner Foils

Acetate– I actually had some acetate at home, from another project making stained glass windows for a model base but it wasn’t suitable and my first test print on it didn’t take. I went online, again to eBay as it seemed to be the cheapest source, and and after trying a couple of variants I ended up with a pack of 20 sheets for £7.89 posted.

Make sure you get the right kind for your printer, ink or laser jet (laser seems to be much cheaper) and you are looking for one that has a white strip on one side that indicates the side to print on. The thickness of the acetate also matters as thicker acetate may cause you printer to snag the sheets and smudge the images, I went for 100 mic thick. This is what I got-

Acetate, Foil Card Making

Printer– Pretty self-explanatory really. For my initial run I was using a HP Envy 120 and it was perfectly suitable for the job but i’ve recently changed to a HP Envy 5640 and it does appear to make slightly cleaner images.

Spray Mounting Glue– You need to be careful with this, it needs to be one that gives a very light coat without being blotchy or patchy and it needs to be 100% clear. I’m using 3m Photo Mount which I got from Hobby Craft for £10.00-

Foil Card making, Photo Mount

PhotoShop software– I actually used PhotoShop CC but MS Paint can be used to achieve the same goal. The downside of Paint is that it compresses the image and so it might not print at a high enough resolution.

Hi-Res Images- this was actually by far the most problematic part of the process for me, mainly because the cards I wanted to do, the alt arts of the core set ID’s for Netrunner, are all highly sought after and so people don’t want to scan and release the images in case they get counterfeited and sold online. Since FFG have never released the official images either, this took some work and I only managed to get good enough images when a person who has already been through the process sent them to me.

An alternative method is to find the artist on Deviant Art and find the original art, which will likely be good enough resolution, but then you’ll have to add all the game stats yourself, which is a significant amount of work and almost certainly requires Photoshop or some equivalent. A final option is to make foils of some of the fan made alt arts, like the Wayland one I’ll be showing, as hi res images of these are much more readily available and some of them are absolutely fantastic (just stay away from ‘Sexy Chaos Theory’).

You want the highest quality you can get. At the low end my files are about 600kb and they seem to work fine but the really good ones are around 38mb and that’s what you want if you can find it. Ultimately as long as it prints cleanly at 300dpi you should be good.

All of the other items are things I have in my hobby cupboard and so I didn’t have to go looking for them. Pretty much everything is readily available with the low tac masking tape probably being the least commonly available but, even so, virtually any hardware store should carry it and I got mine from B&Q as it’s used in the painting and decorating trade.

The Process

Hi Res Images

First up is obtaining the hi-res images and assuming you’ve done that they need to be loaded into your Photo editing software and resized to the necessary size for the card, in my case 63mm x 88mm, which is the size of a Netrunner card and, fortunately, a MtG card. Then you need to reverse the image so you have a mirror image of the card. This is because you will be printing on the acetate and then reversing it so the ink is protected between the acetate and foil background of the card. When that’s done, test it on paper, and it should look something like this-

Foil Card Making, Low res Gabe

As I said above, not how the text on Gabe is slightly blurry, indicating that this isn’t a high enough resolution image.

Cleaning the cards

Next you want to scrub the cards. To do this tape them down to a clean flat surface like a ceramic tile with something like low tac masking tape or plumbers tape. This will make sure you don’t get the acetone onto the edges of the card which will cause pealing and that you don’t end up denting the card when rubbing the ink off.

Card Making, Card Taped Down

Then dip an old toothbrush into a pot of your acetone and use it to scrub the visible card clean. The ink should come off nice and easily, as you can see below, and if you need to scrub any more than this then the card probably isn’t suitable. Try not to scrub too hard or you’ll scratch the card and it may become unusable.

Once the middle of the card is clean give it a wipe with a clean piece of kitchen roll and then carefully peel away the tape. If you are gentle and using plumbers tape you can actually reuse it for a number of cards. Then, using a clean piece of kitchen roll, carefully clean away the borders of the card. It’s worth using only outward motions so as to avoid getting any acetone under the edge of the card which can cause the foil to peel away. Again you can see what I mean in the video below-

If you get acetone under the edge of the card and the foil peels away it’ll end up looking like this-

Foil Card Making, Damaged Edges

But ideally your stripped card will look like this-

Foil Card Making, Clean card

Printing the images

As I said at the start you need to do a do a little prep work in Photoshop. This entails resizing the images to the size of a Netrunner card, reversing them so the writing is backwards and placing them all on the same page so you can print them out in a bulk lot and save wasting acetate. Once you are ready and you have set the files to print at 300dpi then print the sheet and make sure it’s dry before you start the next step.

Putting the Pieces Together

There are probably better ways to do this but this is how I did it. First I printed the images onto acetate, as I mentioned above you can fit a number of cards onto one page and so printing them all at once prevents wasting acetate. Give the page a couple of minutes to dry, just in case, and then CAREFULLY cut out the cards. Don’t bother being exact here, you just need to make sure each car dis on a separate piece of the acetate for the next step and so it’s worth leaving a clear boarder around each.

Once you have separate images cut out then tape one, face down (the writing should be backwards as you look at it and the printed side should be exposed), onto a sheet of paper being sure to not put tape over any part of the image. This will hold it firm while you attach the foil. Next line up a couple of pieces of card with the 2 edges of the image to form a corner boarder. This will help you line the foil up correctly and get a neat final card. Test this by placing the foil against the edges of the card guides like this-

Foil Card Making, Placed Card Test

Doing this will make sure that all of the relevant parts of the image will end up on the final card. Once you are happy remove the foil and carefully spray the printed acetate with your spray mount. I found that doing this from a height of 18-24 inches gave me the best final result but you are looking for a clean and even coating on the acetate that looks like a light mist. Any large blobs of glue will ruin the final foil and so the lighter the coating, the better.

Once you’ve applied the glue you need to work quickly. Apply the foil firmly but be careful to make sure it lines up with the guides you’ve put in place as this will make sure it’s straight. Most spray mount won’t allow for re-adjustment after applying the foil so you get one shot, be careful but quick. As soon as you’ve applied the foil then you need to apply pressure very quickly to remove any air from between the layers and reduce the chance of spotting. The easiest way I found to do this is to use a rolling pin. I applied all of my weight to the rolling pin and rolled it over the card in firm motions for a couple of minutes after placing the foil. The quicker you do this after gluing the foil and the more pressure you can add, the better the chance of a clean, spot free, foil.

Hopefully, if you followed the steps, you should end up with a foil that looks something like this-

Foil Card making, Finished Cards

This was quite a long process for me, I’d say probably 1 in 3 of the correct foils was good enough to use to make a card (you can cover a few small flaws with some cards because of very dark spots on the art, but it’s a bit hit and miss) and it took me several printings to get the art to the correct size and resolution to be good enough to use. From start to finish refining the process took me about 2 weeks, obviously that’s not working all day every day but I did some work on them most days during that period.

Patience was the key for me, something I don’t have in abundance, and the biggest thing I learnt was just how critical the right kind of foil can be. I went from spending over an hour trying to clean the wrong foils, with very limited success, to it taking just a couple of minutes with the right kind and getting a fairly good result most of the time, even if they weren’t all usable.

It was a really fun process though, I enjoyed seeing the evolution from my first attempt with a poor foil stuck down with Pritt-Stick, to the finished versions I have now, which look absolutely stunning. Going forward I’m going to scan a few more of the alt arts I have and see if I can make foils of them and I’m very keen to see if I can make a Scorched Earth that will be usable in a deck (provided it’s not noticeable when sleeved and shuffled in, something I’ve yet to check). Making the foils is quite time consuming and can be fairly costly, especially once you have to buy the base foils, but the overall effect is worth it, at least to me.

I have an alternative to MtG foils that I’m researching at the moment, that will reduce the cost and time per card significantly if it actually works and I’ll update the article if it does to give some further details. All in all making the cards isn’t for everyone but I enjoyed it and playing with a foil as my ID is always a talking point in games.

 

Pandemic Survival- Tournament Report

Pandemic Survival Banner

On Sunday 15th May, 2016 I took part in a Pandemic Survival Regional Tournament at LvL Up Games in Bournemouth, hosted by Bag of Holding. Pandemic Survival is a 2 player variant of the game designed for tournament play with a goal of being the first team to either cure all 4 diseases or to be the last team alive.

Changes to the common rules are-

  • No choice of Roles, every team has the same two roles.
  • Constructed city and infection decks (don’t shuffle you city deck, or even joke about it, apparently that’s not funny….)
  • Single infection deck shared by all players and read out by the TO.
  • Timed rounds.
  • No events that allow manipulation of the infection deck.

The format is pretty simple. Ahead of time the TO sets up the infection deck and city decks according to the scenario format, as supplied by Z-Man Games in the tournament kit. In 2016 my understanding that there were 6 different scenarios to choose from. Players, in teams of two decide which of the two roles they will play, the roles in the scenario I played were the Medic and Archivist but I strongly suspect that the roles vary based on the scenario chosen. All the tables are set up next to one another and each board is separated from the others by a screen (similar to an RPG DM screen) and has a little Outbreak/Cure counter visible so that everyone can see how close others are to winning or losing.

From there the game follows the format of standard Pandemic using rules only from the Pandemic base set with the only nod towards the expansions being, in my case, the use of the Archivist role. All teams start with the same cards for their hands so that the only variation between all teams is the skill level of the players which means that it is skill, and a little luck, that will decide the winners.

Disease Cakes
Tasty Disease Cakes provided by Bag Of Holding to keep us going!

Play starts with the same role for each team, in my case with the Archivist who was played by my teammate, and each turn is timed to 90 seconds, which means teams have a maximum of 90 seconds to decide a players actions and complete the moves on the board before city cards are drawn and the TO reads out the infection cards. As each city deck is identical it means that every team will draw epidemic cards on the same round but whether those epidemics outbreak is mostly down to how the players have managed their individual board, I say mostly because, as happened at my event, bad luck can cause outbreaks with no way of stopping them.

My teammate and I have played a fair amount of Pandemic, he owns all the versions, aside from The Cure dice game, and we are currently playing through Pandemic Legacy (which is awesome, play it if you haven’t already) and so we had a fairly straight forward plan for trying to win. I, as the Medic would discard city cards to fly around controlling the diseases as they reached 3 cubes on a city and so threatened a breakout while the Archivist picked up my discarded cards and working towards cures.

We managed to get the first two cures pretty quickly and with only a couple of outbreaks, both caused by the TO immediately drawing the exact same card the was drawn from the Epidemic card as he drew for infection. Nothing can be done to prevent this, players have no action between the Epidemic card and infection. This was the ongoing problem for us as there was only one Epidemic that didn’t have this happen and as we’d failed to control a single other infection that caused an outbreak we were running a little behind.

In the end we did well, having cured 3 diseases we finally went out. For us it was two epidemics in very quick succession which infected a city with 3 cubes and we chose to leave it for a single turn because we would have won on the very next turn and we couldn’t figure out a way to reach it (we did later but hindsight and all that). Unfortunately when the next epidemic was drawn there was a 75% chance that the 3 cube city would outbreak and that would have ended our game, which it did. A fun little addition is that when you go out of the game you have a little Bio-Hazard sheet to place over your board which adds nicely to the theme of the game.

Pandemic Survival, BioHazard Sheet

All in all the tournament took exactly an hour start to finish and the top team won by curing all the diseases winning a Pandemic Survival National’s round 1 Bye and a copy of Pandemic ‘The Cure’ each. It was a really fun session and something I’d be keen to try again.