Critical Play: Bluffing, Judging and Getting Vulnerable…

Name: Cards Against Humanity

Designers: Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsof, Max Temkin, Eliot Weinstein

Platform/genre: analog, card game, judging game

Often compared to Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity is a card game with a more mature flavor of prompts and responses, having a formal age rating of 17+. The rules are simple: players have a hand of response cards (7 white cards) that they replenish after each round, and with each round, one person is the Card Czar. The Card Czar reads a prompt card aloud (1 black card) to the group, and other players play their chosen response card face down. The Card Czar then reads the responses with the prompt aloud, and chooses one they think is the funniest. The player who wins then receives the prompt card as a point, and the role of Card Czar gets passed around the circle. Games can have a minimum of 3 players, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to the maximum number. The goal is to simply have fun and laugh; there are no explicit win conditions for the game. Through different games, I’ve found that a general measure for a stopping point is to set a maximum number of rounds, and then have players total up their points at the end to determine the winner.

The way that players interact with each other and the Card Czar can vary greatly, depending on how well the players know each other. I’ve personally found that a group of acquaintences tend to go for more general humor in their responses, while games with close friends are full of inside jokes and funny references. Playing this game with people you already know allows the players to tailor their responses to the Card Czar’s own sense of humor, while playing with strangers lets you gradually get to know each person’s sense of humor. Sometimes, you want to respond with an outrageously funny card! Other times, more “brutal humor” is the way to go. This dynamic in the game makes fellowship the core type of fun. You get to know others more through their sense of humor, and the point system doesn’t matter as much as the fun everyone is having. It can also be considered a game that provides the abnegation type of fun, as players can just put their lives aside for the moment, and just engage in making the funniest phrases they can. It is certainly a good game to let loose and laugh with other people 🙂

The simplicity of the game, combined with the variety of prompts and responses, makes the game easy to pick up, and lots of fun to get creative with. The cards in particular, with their often inappropriately funny combinations, make it a great party game where no one has to go too in depth about themselves. At least for me, Cards Against Humanity evokes a sense of playful fun, like when you’re young and discover how to swear for the first time (maybe it’s just me?). You don’t need to go too deep, though amongst friends there may be responses that feel more like a tough burn rather than a hilarious idea. In comparison to similar games, such as Apples to Apples, the game is targeted for an older audience, and it succeeds in that by having more mature themes that games with younger audiences wouldn’t have. The different card packs can incorporate a larger range of topics that other games couldn’t due to different age ranges. It is better than similar games in this regard, but there aren’t any formal rules against responses that make players extremely uncomfortable. Being a game that relies on everyone’s sense of humor, there is always the chance that one response can be extremely offensive to a person. There isn’t one easy fix to this, but perhaps one area of improvement is to make a formal “way out” in the game for someone to express their discomfort, or even create packs that are focused on more lighthearted humor.

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