Source: Exploding Kittens

Over the past several years being an expert toy tester, I realized one thing: Games really bring out my competitive side.

So, naturally, when I read that Exploding Kittens‘ Mantis card game has the tagline, “A colorfully cutthroat card game of rainbows and revenge,” I knew I had to test this one out. I mean, come on, the two sacred “R” words were mentioned: rainbows and revenge.

One of the biggest draws about this card game is its versatility. Mantis is a crowd pleaser for all ages: Kids will want to play it with their friends (it’s recommended for kids ages 7 and up), it’s a great option for family game night, and it also makes for a hilarious and colorful adult party game. I like that you can play as a small duo or with up to six players, and each round only lasts about 10 minutes, so the replay value is strong — and trust me, there’s no way you’re putting this game away for anything less than three rounds.

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One of the funniest parts about Mantis is that it’s based on the viral comic from The Oatmeal’s Matthew Inman called “Why the Mantis Shrimp is my new favorite animal.” A print out of the comic is included with each game, and while it’s not required reading for the game, you must read it simply for the laughs. Readers will be taken on a journey to learn about how these rainbow-colored creatures are more than meets the eye. The comic says that “aquariums don’t typically house mantis shrimps because they tend to slaughter every other creature they share a tank with,” and that is the energy I needed to take with me to play this game. (For legal reasons, that is a joke.)

Mantis | Source: Exploding Kittens

Inman describes Mantis as having the simplicity of UNO and the depth of Gin Rummy, and he’s not wrong. Another major win for this game is that it’s easy to lean and quick to play with only two rules: steal or score. The front of the cards each show a character in one of seven colors, featuring The Oatmeal’s quirky designs. Each player starts with four cards face up so every player can see what cards each other has.

Even though the cards in the draw pile are faced down, the back of the cards have colorful clues as to what is on the other side. So, if the back of the card is pink, purple, and orange, then the card will either be pink, purple, or orange. During each turn, players look at the top card of the draw pile and decide whether to steal matching cards from an opponent or score all of the matching cards in their hand. Three or more of one color can go into your score pile, and the first player to get 10 or more points wins! Players should remember that they have a secret superpower in being able to have a successful third of a chance knowing what card is up next in the draw pile. It’s easy to forget this step in a fast-paced game, but this is the strategy that will lead you to victory!

Mantis is the Mario Kart of card games: a potential friendship ruiner. Some people might need a couple of minutes to cool off after intense betrayal. Some might need a couple of hours. Or maybe that is just specific to my friend group and we need to chill. Either way, the short nature of each round really adds to the fun, because hard feelings between players are going to be carried over into each game. What can I say? You were promised a cutthroat game!

Also, shout out to Exploding Kittens who has launched its Youth Program outreach in celebration of this new game. The company’s program provides select summer camps and youth organizations with Exploding Kittens games, free of charge. With nearly 1,000 games already fulfilled since January, the company will be adding Mantis to the expanded program to get games in the hands of more kids. (Organizations looking to participate can join the waitlist.)

Part silly, part vengeful, but mostly just a genuinely great time, Mantis is a must-have on your game shelf.