First, we exploded kittens. Then we fought the bears and the babies. Now they’re giving us crabs. You’ve Got Crabs is the latest game from Exploding Kittens creators Matt Inman – of The Oatmeal – and Elan Lee. It’s a team based game with simultaneous gameplay where players attempt to collect sets of like cards privately in their hand and then get their teammate to point and shout, “you’ve got crabs!” before opponents catch on to your ruse. The team with the most amount of crabs collectively by the time the pot runs out wins the game. If you are so inclined, you can purchase the Imitation Crab expansion, which is rubber crab claws and a single activation card that gets added to the deck.
Promotion for this game is another example of seemingly simple, yet brilliant, marketing we’ve come to expect from everything these two put together. The game was hinted at on social media with a Jaws-esque poster image that I would 100% be compelled to buy if it were ever made available for purchase and it released on Valentine’s Day. Once purchased, customers were even provided with a one time downloadable Valentine’s Day card making crabs giftable as a sign of affection.
The artwork is quirky and fun as always. Every card permutation is a forward facing crab altered to reflect the variation on the use of the word crab. For example, there is a Jewish crab, Crabbi, that says “Clawzel Tov.” He wears a wide-brimmed hat typically worn by Hasidic Jews and Payot, and you guessed it – he gets a blue background. Every card type is just as simple as that. Coloring in the game is very intentional. Similar backgrounds encourage confusion when you are trying to remember what your opponents are collecting. Color similarity is a difficult choice to make in with graphic design and illustration because of concerns for potentially color blind players, but it isn’t an absent minded misstep in this game.
I was sold on the box design alone. The simple red lid (don’t forget to sneak a peek of the inside of the lid) lifts up to reveal a drawer system reflective of a tackle box you might find on, oh I don’t know, a crabbing boat? This might seem extravagant, and you’ll start to wonder how much of the cost of the game went to the box over other components. However, all of the components stay in their place, they stay organized. I can shake this box with the weird crab hand mittens that come with an expansion I absolutely did not buy, and nothings gonna end up where it’s not supposed to be and nothing is really getting damaged. Both cards and the crab tokens come in resealable bags that you can continue to use for storage, if you want to.
Your first reaction to reading the premise of this game may be, “hey, wait a minute. I know this game. They didn’t come up with the idea.” You’d be correct. You’ve Got Crabs is based on the card game Kemps. The designers in no way deny this. You might feel a certain type of way about this too, like why would I buy this brand new game that is really a game I can play with a deck of cards I already own? I play the card game Palace very frequently with friends and family. Every time I sit down to play with someone new, I constantly have to relearn the rules to a game I thought I’d played a thousand times before. The histories of so many card games is unique and varying and interesting to talk about, but when it comes to playing them, I feel like I’m always compromising on the rules I originally learned. So by taking a game like Kemp, branding it with wonderful Oatmeal flavor and tweaking the rules, what Matt and Elan have done is make it easier to sit down and play a game we all claim to love and hold nostalgia for.
I don’t think this game plays any better or worse than with a standard deck of cards. It’s prettier, funnier, the rules are standardized, and the box is kick ass. The price point is exactly what expect from light weight party games, in the $20-$25 range. There is no Not Safe For Work (NSFW) version to buy, which I also appreciate. Penis jokes get really old after a while. Perhaps, what is most interesting about the three games Matt and Elan have collaborated on to date, is how they appeal to different markets of game players. Exploding Kittens is a mind game, Bears vs Babies is a character building free-for-all, and You’ve Got Crabs is all about communication. Liking one of these games does not guarantee that you will enjoy another one. So really, it’s whatever gameplay floats your boat.