Hand-to-Hand Wombat

Hand to Hand Wombat, published by Exploding Kittens and designed in collaboration with the incredibly talented Cory O’Brien, is a team-based social deduction board game where players collaborate to build towers with their eyes closed, all while using their senses of touch and sound to figure out who is working with them, and who’s working against them.

After each round, one team scores, and everyone votes for who they suspect is the saboteur. But unlike traditional social deduction games, where voting is largely based on “vibes,” players can make their decisions based on the concrete information they’ve gathered while feeling each others’ hands.

This unique sensory approach to social deception allows experienced players to develop robust strategies, while offering less-experienced players the opportunity to focus on building skill at objective tasks rather than the often-confusing meta-conversation of traditional social deduction games. We’ve made social deduction less cerebral, more physical, and… well, more social.

On top of all this, we also added highly-experimental gameplay modes that ratchet up the intimacy of play, while also introducing added opportunities for accessibility. In one mode, players link arms to form the play area, using their bodies instead of a box as the bounds of the physical play space. In another mode, players keep their eyes open but build the towers under a blanket, adding intense eye contact as another method of communication and deduction.

I’m pleased that Hand-to-Hand Wombat was uniquely poised to be accessible to low-and-no-vision players, making it a great candidate for implementing added accessible tabletop design. While designing gameplay, we considered learning, tactility, auditory cues, and staggered difficulty ramping for the sake of player accessibility, as well as the tactility, sounds, durability, and visuals of the components for final materials.

You can read more about my experience and goals working on Hand-to-Hand Wombat here in an interview I did with MojoNation, or watch the developer interview with me, designer Cory O’Brien, and Exploding Kittens founder Elan Lee.