By any chance do you have siblings? I do. Two older brothers. One whom I share a birthday with (a year apart) and the other who was a few years older. As you look at the title of this article, you may be asking yourself, “What does having siblings have to do with Hand-to-Hand Wombat?” I’ll tell you why. Hand-to-Hand Wombat from Exploding Kittens is the board game personification of having siblings. You say that you’re on their side, but you screw with them at ever chance you get. Or for some of us, you’re on the receiving end of that – in life and in the game. For any of that to make sense, let’s take a few minutes to talk about the game and how to play.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Since we haven’t talked about it here with the exception of our list of games about cats, Exploding Kittens, while the title of a popular game, is actually the name of a company. I’ve often had conversations with people about the game publisher, Exploding Kittens, only to realize they think I’m referring to the game of the same name. It tends to get confusing for them when I refer to another game in the same sentence. While their namesake product is what they’re best known for (obviously), there are actually a number of games, puzzles and collectibles in the Exploding Kittens catalog. So for the purpose of this article, if I refer to Exploding Kittens, I’m talking about the company that makes Hand-to-Hand Wombat.
Back to the game that reminds me of interactions with siblings… Hand-to-Hand Wombat. It’s a party game that plays 3-6 people. The idea is to successfully build Wombat towers. At least that’s your goal if you’re on the “Good Team”. You can probably guess that the object for the “Bad Team” is to destroy towers or keep them from being built. Place the Box Lid with three Spindles within reach of all players. Scatter all the bricks throughout the Boundary (that’s the official name of the box lid). Give each player a reference card, have a phone or other timing device on hand and place the score card alongside the play area. You’re almost ready to play.
The two teams are determined randomly by Wombat Cards. Before each game, select 1 Wicked Wombat (Bad Team) card and the remainder Basic Wombats (Good Team). Shuffle them and randomly give each player one. These roles are kept secret throughout the game and should never be revealed physically or audibly. There are additional Wombat Cards that can be incorporated as players get the hang of the game.
The goal of Hand-to-Hand Wombat has to do with the construction of the three towers using the bricks and pedestals in the box. Players on the good team score points for completing 2 or 3 towers whereas the bad team scores for 2 or 3 incomplete ones. The catch is that everyone has their eyes covered with one hand. That translates to only having one hand available for assembly.
Like assembling a tree puzzle, pieces are stacked from largest to smallest. There are bumps on the sides of the blocks to help identify the size. Keep in mind that in addition to working with one hand and having your eyes closed, you’re also battling a 90 second timer.
It’s pretty cut and dry for the good team by communicating with other players to say what needs to go where. But the bad team needs to be sly to find ways to be involved in the “helpful” communication while simultaneously secretly sabotaging the plans! Hiding a piece in the corner, putting them on the spindle in the wrong order or handing a “teammate” the (wrong) piece that they need are just a few examples of what a Bad Wombat might do. This right here is what my life was like with two older brothers. Relentlessly “helpful”. If you have siblings and experienced this too, please assure me that I wasn’t alone.
I digress… Getting back to the game: After 90 seconds, record the scores of the towers. If neither team has reached the winning goal of three, then players discuss which player they want to vote out. Players vote and the one with the most fingers pointed at them is out for the remainder of the game. But it’s important to still keep roles secret because the Bad Team can still win, even if they’re out.
For those of us who can’t hold a poker face, there’s enough happening in Hand-to-Hand Wombat that it isn’t as easy to divulge your secret role. It’s a quick-playing game and a nice alternative to that genre. Hand-to-Hand Wombat is available direct from Exploding Kittens or Target as well as local game stores. You may recognize their signature title, but be sure to keep watch of their website and social channels (Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram). In addition to Hand-to-Hand Wombat, they’ll soon be releasing details about a collaboration with Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller. Stay tuned for that. As soon as we can get our hands on a copy, we’ll be sharing an overview!
Did you know about the other games from Exploding Kittens?