Cheapass Games always has creative premises for their games, whether it's zombie fast food workers (Give Me the Brain!), sous chefs trying to scale a skyscraper while a demonic rabbit tries to knock them down (Devil Bunny Needs a Ham), or faking stories about foreign travels (Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition).  The company went to 1997 for Unexploded Cow, where players try to solve two problems with a common solution -- mad cows in England and unexploded cows in France -- and make some money in the process.

At the start of the game, a City card is flipped over, everyone gets 5000 francs, antes 500 francs to the pot,  and players draw three cards.  On a player's turn, that player draws two cards and can buy cows (for the price on the card) and add them to their own herd.  All cows have a value (if they explode), and some have special skills: stealing a bomb from another cow in the herd, passing a bomb to another cow in the herd, blowing up themselves and the cows on their left and right, or defusing a bomb for 200 francs.  A player can also play events (some of which have a cost) or play cows into other herds, forcing a player to pay that cow's cost and possibly suffering from a bad cow (which costs a player money when it exploded) or a spy (which "works for" the player who put it in another herd).
Once a player has played all the cards they want to play, it's time for the bomb roll!   The player rolls a six-sided die and goes clockwise from the right side of their herd, into other herds if the roll is high enough.  If one of the the current player's cows explodes, the player earns the money for the cow (or pays the cost for a bad cow) from the pot, scores the current City card, and gets the benefit from the city.  If a cow in another herd explodes, that player gets the money from the cow (again, from the pot), but not the City (unless it's a spy, in which case the spy's owner gets the money and, if the current player, the City as well).  If the roll is higher than the number of cows in play, or goes back around to the starting cow, no cow explodes and the turn ends.  If the player rolls a six, the die is passed to the next player clockwise, who makes the bomb roll.  And if the pot ever runs out, everyone antes 500 francs again on the next turn.

When the last City card is claimed, players start taking turns making bomb rolls, beginning with the player who has the most points in City cards.  The game ends when there's no money left in the pot, or when there's one cow left (who gets whatever's left in the pot).  Players than add up all their money, and whoever has the most money wins!

Unexploded Cow is silly fun.  While there's not a whole lot of strategy (buy good cows for yourself, send bad cows to other herds), event cards and the variety in the bomb rolls keep the game from being anywhere near predictable.  The deluxe edition has the colored cards that the original Cheapass Game eschewed, but the artwork is funny and every card has all the information about each cow readily available.  The game plays quickly, and everyone involved should have a good time (as long as they don't think about the fact that they're blowing up cows).  Here's to bovine madness and a quick buck, er, franc with Unexploded Cow!

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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