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Written Review – Unexploded Cow

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For tabletop gaming Kickstarter can be both a blessing and a curse. For some it’s a brand new way to get games to the market, but for others it can be viewed as a tool to cut out brick and mortar all together. Regardless of how you see it, Kickstarter has brought us tons of awesome games and it will continue to do so without any doubt. One of these awesome games is Unexploded Cow, and I had the pleasure of getting into this game of bombs, steer, and humor.

What’s It All About?

Originally released by James Ernest and Paul Peterson in 2001, Unexploded Cow is a game about mad cows and landmines. Specifically it is set in Europe during the summer of 1997. England has discovered that they’ve got droves of cows gone mad and France has stumbled upon tons of unexploded bombs lying in a minefield. In the effort to knock out two birds with one stone, the idea of walking one problem into another was formed, and in Unexploded Cow that’s exactly what you’ll do.

Out of the Box and Setup

The campaign that was up on Kickstarter from Cheapass Games was an effort to give Unexploded Cow a full-color reprinting, complete with a brand new box. The Kickstarter was more than completely funded by its end, so we’ve got plenty to look at. Out of the box you will get:

  • 69 Full-Color Unexploded Cow cards
  • 12 City cards
  • 78 money tokens (24 100F, 18 200F, 24 500F, 12 1000F)
  • 2 blank tokens
  • 1 six-sided die
  • 1 full-color rule booklet

Each of the cards has been fully updated, and they look amazing. The cards are all printed on heavy card stock, and the quality is superb. The Kickstarter definitely did its job here, as none of the components feel frail or battered. Even the small Frank tokens are sturdy, which is great when you’re playing a game in which they get tossed and passed around a lot.

When you’re ready to set up a game of Unexploded Cow, you simply separate the Frank tokens into their respective denominations, and then deal each player 5,000 Franks. Then take the City cards and shuffle them together, turning over the top card and placing it on top of the deck. Finally you’ll take the rest of the cards in the main deck and shuffle them. Once you’ve got everything shuffled you’ll place both decks next to each other in the middle of the table. Each player takes three cards from the main deck, antes in 500 Franks to the pot, and the game begins!


The goal in Unexploded Cow is to have the most money at the end of the game. Players earn money by having their cows explode on your turn. Gameplay progresses through a series of turns in which players take different actions. These actions are Draw, Play, and Roll. It’s quite simple, but it can get real crazy fun very fast.

Each cow card has information on it that stands for different things. Here’s a look:

The number in the top right corner is how much money you receive when the cow blows up on your turn. Each cow has a name in the top left, and underneath that they will have a specialty. Some cows will have abilities based on their specialties. For example, a PFC cow can steal a bomb from another cow in your herd when it explodes, a General can hand the bomb to another cow if he were to get it, and Mechanics can choose to dismantle a bomb instead of letting it explode.  The number listed under the specialty is how much a player must pay in order to play the cow into their herd.

Some of the numbers in the top right corner can be negative, which is important to remember, but we’ll get into that in a bit. Some of the cards you’ll pick up are Event cards. These cards allow you to do numerous things depending on the card, and some have a price while others do not.

Finally let’s take a look at City cards. Each City card has a name, a point value, and sometimes an ability at the bottom. When one of your cows explodes on your turn you can pick up the top City card that’s showing. It’s a way of the City to show you their gratitude for not letting them blow up instead. Once all the City cards are depleted the game goes into sudden death which is a whole lot of fun.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the cards let’s go over what happens during a turn. On your turn you may Draw, Play, and Roll. When you draw you take two cards from the main deck and add them to your hand. After that you can play any number of cards from your hand as you have the money to do so. Cows are played in front of you into a herd, and Event cards are played then discarded. You’ll want to play cows down in front of you so that you can have some to go boom on your turn. Now, remember when I mentioned that some cows have a negative number in the top right corner for when they explode? That’s important because you can play cows into another player’s herd. Playing certain cows into your opponent’s herd will cause them to lose money, and even more. There are also Spy cows that will give you money when they explode on another player’s turn if they’re in their herd! Another cool thing about playing cows into another player’s herd is that the player must pay for the cow regardless if it is helpful or not.

Once you’ve played cards it’s time for your Roll step. You will roll a six-sided die and whatever the result, you will count from the rightmost cow in your herd to the left as many cows as you rolled. The cow you stop on will explode, and if it’s yours you’ll get money! If you roll a higher number than you have cows, counting continues to the next player until a cow explodes.

Play will continue this way until all the City cards are gone. Once the City cards have been depleted the game goes into Sudden Death. During this part of the game players will not draw or play any more cards. The only thing that players will do is roll the die to blow up cows. Once all the cows are gone, players total up their money and the player with the most wins.

The Verdict

After playing Unexploded Cow for myself I deeply regret not backing the Kickstarter while I could. You can still get a copy, however, as they are coming to retail and the price is the same as it was on Kickstarter at the $25 level. The new artwork on the cards is phenomenal and I laughed the whole time while playing. Of course the game has a little bit of grim play to it because you’re blowing up cows, but the fun factor is just too much to miss out on playing. If you get the chance to pick up a copy of Unexploded Cow for yourself you’d be doing yourself injustice by leaving it on the shelf. If you’re a fan of fun, humorous games that don’t take long to play I would strongly recommend this for you.