Critical Play: Bluffing, Judging and Getting Vulnerable…

The game I chose is Cards Against Humanity, designed by Josh Dillon. The game is sold by Cards Against Humanity LLC but also can be found on various online platforms. The target audience of this game is players over 17 years old. I think more specifically a group of adults who are comfortable with each other and have a similar sense of humor as the game.

The game suggests playing with at least 4 people to over 20 people. To begin the game, each player draws ten white cards. In each round, one randomly chosen player begins as the Card Czar and reads the question or fill-in-the-blank phrase on the Black Card out loud. Everyone else passes a white card, face down, to the Card Czar to answer the question or fill in the blank. The cards that were passed to the Czar get shuffled. The Czar then shares each card combination with the group by re-reading the black card or filling in the blanks with each card. The Czar then picks their favorite and whoever played that card gets to keep the Black Card (gaining an awesome point). After the round, a new player gets chosen as the Card Czar and everyone should draw back up to ten white cards. One interesting rule is that players can gamble by submitting an extra white card and betting one awesome point. The player relationship is interesting. As the name implies, the Card Czar of each round has a lot of power as they decide who gets the point every round. No one else has a say in deciding the winner of the round. Additionally, since the cards get passed face down and shuffled, the Czar and players usually don’t know who submitted the card, which creates more equality and mysterious tension between the players.

This game works because it’s a light-hearted humorous game that a lot of friends enjoy playing. It often makes people laugh out loud. I think at the heart of it, the phrases are the card are very creative and there are not many opportunities for people to sit around make “dirty jokes” on daily basis. Therefore, I think the game provides cathartic emotions, which makes the game not only work but fun. The cathartic fun is the main type of fun that the game provides. The game also provides fun through judging and guessing. There are a lot of unknowns and players don’t have a lot of decision-making power but that unexpectedness makes the game very fun and unique. It is fun to try to guess who put down the card that made everyone laugh and it is also fun to see everyone’s reaction as the Czar goes through the choice process.

Cards Against Humanity and Quipplash on JackBox are my favorite games. Even though they both belong in judging games with anonymous answers they are different in many ways. Mainly, Quipplash requires the players to be creative. Most of the answers are generated by players whereas Card Against Humanity provides pre-written answers. Quipplash is also exclusively run on JackBox which has a lot of built-in mechanics like the question reader or timer. Since there is a built-in reader, no one has to be the Card Czar as in Cards Against Humanity and every player has the ability to contribute to the voting. The creativity required of the players and the majority voting system to decide the winner for each round are two big differentiators of the two games.

I don’t find that vulnerability is very important in playing Cards Against Humanity because the answer cards are written for you and players understand that. Submitting a card may feel like it requires vulnerability to some players as they might not feel comfortable with the answers that they submit. However, this can be circumvented by only identifying the winner and not requiring other players to identify the card that they turned in. Another element that might require vulnerability is judging as the Czar has a lot of power and has to choose one card and some people might not feel comfortable with that. However, I think the game is good at setting a jovial and unserious atmosphere. The game also does a good job of making the game low stakes for the players.

Frankly, I think the only improvement that I can think of is implementing a timer. I have played this game with players who take a long time to make a decision (either as a normal player or the Czar) and I think that can take the fun away from the game. Sometimes, I wish the game had more room for creativity and individuality; however, I think that takes a very important part and fun away from this game, which is low stakes and low pressure.

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