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Energetic party game Happy Salmon is being re-released “with an Exploding Kittens twist” after acquisition

Cats and fish - a match made in heaven?

Lively party game Happy Salmon has been acquired by the studio behind Exploding Kittens, with a new version of the game due for release later this year.

Originally released in 2016, Happy Salmon is extremely simple in concept. Each player holds a deck of laminated cards, with each card showing one of four actions: High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo and the titular Happy Salmon.

Players can flip through their cards one at a time, hoping to match with another player - when they do, both players high-five, bump fists, swap places or perform the Happy Salmon (slapping each other’s forearms like a flapping fish) to discard their card. The first person to discard all their cards, wins.

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Although simple on paper, Happy Salmon’s animated gameplay has made it a favourite of the Dicebreaker team and led to a shape-throwing sequel, Funky Chicken, that can be combined with the original for a mix of dance moves and limb-bumping. If that’s not enough, the whole game comes packed in a fabric bag shaped like a fish.

Exploding Kittens’ acquisition of Happy Salmon from publisher North Star Games marks the first time the studio - known for its eponymous card game, as well as dodgeball card game Throw Throw Burrito (which recently saw a sequel) and other party games - has picked up an external title to publish. Happy Salmon co-creator Ken Gruhl, who developed the game alongside designer Quentin Weir, has joined the studio as senior game designer.

According to a press release from the company, Exploding Kittens is “reimagining Happy Salmon with an Exploding-Kittens twist” for a re-release this November. The current edition will remain available for the time being, the publisher confirmed.

Happy Salmon party board game box and cards

Exploding Kittens head of creative development Zach Schiff-Abrams indicated that Happy Salmon would not be the last external project acquired by the company, saying: "We want to develop new games and brands, whether that’s through our internal team, working with external designers, or by acquiring IP and talent like we did with Happy Salmon."

The announcement also shed some light on Exploding Kittens’ expansion beyond the games created by former Xbox game developer Elan Lee and The Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman, who together designed and illustrated Exploding Kittens for its record-breaking Kickstarter campaign in early 2015.

Among the more than a dozen designers mentioned as contributing to Exploding Kittens’ upcoming projects were The Mind and Wavelength designer Wolfgang Warsch, Klask inventor Mikkel Bertelsen, and Eric Lang, the designer of Blood Rage, Marvel United and Ankh: Gods of Egypt who departed the post of game design director at CMON in 2020.

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