It’s called a palIndrome, not a palAndrome.
Exploding Kittens‘ latest hit is about a tiny, cardboard Tacocat ping-ponging from one side of a game board to the other until it makes it to one of the finish lines. BTW, remember Tacocat? It’s one of the most popular characters from the original Exploding Kittens game, so it’s only fitting that it stars in its own game.
Tacocat Spelled Backwards is a game that plays off of being a palindrome, which as a refresher, is a word or phrase that is spelled the same forward and backward. Made for two players, gameplay takes about 15 minutes. I am obsessed that the game box (which is slightly bigger than my iPhone XS Max) unfolds into the full board, making it really portable and easy to set up and store. It comes with seven tiles and 38 numbered cards — and in true Exploding Kittens style, each card has a wacky and eccentric illustration, including cards like “Do geese see God?” (with two galactic geese) and “Ma has a ham” (paired with a woman walking a pet pig).
The instructions fold out like a map, but as the game suggests, it’s 2021 and videos are the *chef’s kiss* way to learn how to play games nowadays. Trust me: Scroll down this review a bit and watch the video before you play.
The game is a series of card-based duels, so grab your roommate, sibling, mom, or whoever you are quarantining with, and grab your cowboy boots, because it’s on! The first time you play, make sure to shuffle the cards well — I mean really well — because Tacocat Spelled Backwards is all about having higher and lower numbers, so having all of the same values near each other ruins all of the fun.
The overall goal is to have Tacocat reach your side of the board. Players will duel by playing cards of matching or higher values to defend or sacrifice their lowest card. When you’re on your final card, whoever has the lowest value card wins the round bringing Tacocat closer to their side.
Players will be dealt with a certain amount of cards based on what turn it is, indicated by what space Tacocat is standing on. You will first duel to see who will place a card down first, and the player with the higher card wins. Then, challenge each other with your remaining hand until you’re down to your last card. The player with the lowest value card moves Tacocat closer to their side.
This is where some strategy comes in: Do you sacrifice your highest card to win the duel, or do you save it for later to protect your lowest-numbered card? I tried shifting my gameplay throughout the different rounds, and while it was helpful to challenge the other player, some of it just comes down to sheer luck with your opponent’s hand. There are a few other nitty-gritty details, but you get the point!
After learning the rules, I was worried that this game lied about the quick gameplay — but that’s where the tiles come in! When Tacocat moves a space, place the tile where it was just standing, so next time it moves the opposite direction, it’ll skip over those spaces. So, the game pretty much sets its own time limit, which I think is genius. I had a blast playing this game and once you get the hang of it, rounds are quick, suspenseful, and hilariously manipulative. The only downside was the number of cards provided. I found that we took a lot of time to pause and reshuffle our discard pile, and I think having double the amount of cards provided will help move the game along even faster.
Want to take gameplay to the next level? There’s also another set of rules for more ways to play.
A mix of instinct, luck, and strategy, Tacocat Spelled Backwards is another home run for Exploding Kittens.