Critical Play – Cards Against Humanity

Game: Cards Against Humanity

Created: Cards Against Humanity LLC

Target Audience: Young Adults, 17+

Player Count: 3 – 20+

Player Actions: Ask question from black card; play white cards in response; black card player chooses which white card(s) is funniest and awards it the round victory.

Rounds: Every round, 1 player (usually rotating clockwise from round to round) plays a black ‘prompt’  card from the deck and reads it. Other players play 1 white card (or more, if designated by the black card) to respond to the prompt or fill in the blanks on the black card. The player who played the black card then reads the white cards to the group and decides which response they like most, rewarding whoever played the response the round’s black card as a victory point, ending the round. This usually goes until a player has accumulated 5 points.

Interesting Occurrences: If a player is close to victory, other players may begin trying to figure out which white cards that player most likely played and avoid awarding them points, regardless of if they are the funniest.

Kinds of Fun/Fun Elements: Arguably a mix of narrative, expression, and challenge. The “expression” kind of fun is created by how players pick which white cards they would like to play to make for a funny combo with the black card based off of what they personally think will be funny or otherwise enjoyable. This directly contributes to the “narrative” kind of fun as players experience and laugh at the hilarious scenarios, jokes, and stories that are created through playing the game. Challenge comes in as players compete against one another to play the “funniest” white card and do so more frequently than their rivals to secure an ultimate victory.

The game works because it gives players the resources to pull off making funny and even somewhat inappropriate jokes without requiring extreme wit, charisma, or creativity from the players. To this point, the game’s website even reads: “Cards Against Humanity is a fill-in-the-blank party game that turns your awkward personality and lackluster social skills into hours of fun! Wow.”

The primary issue with the game is that the deck can become old after just a few playthroughs. The game could thereby be improved by adding more cards to increase the number of possible funny combinations and keep the deck updated and relevant to its target audience of young adults.

The primary way Cards Against Humanity stands out from other games in its genre is by embracing a pop-culture-relevant and “inappropriate” sense of humor to excite and bewilder players. This edgy humor makes it appeal especially to young adults and teenagers and has formed the crux of the game’s marketing strategies (i.e. labeling the unassuming, all-black game box “The Big Black Box”).

I think the game is better than others in its genre for people like me: college students, young adults, etc. And it can definitely be considered worse for those outside its target audience such as children or potentially older adults for which the humor may be unfunny or too inappropriate. Another thing that makes it stand out is how easily it allows players to be funny by directly equipping them with all the resources needed for a good joke (black/white cards), all they have to do is put them together. This does come at the cost, however, of personal agency and creative expression, which games like or Tee K.O. more effectively facilitate by allowing players more freedom in creating responses to prompts. It may be worth experimenting with allowing players to draw or write their own responses to black card prompts.

As the prompts and their responses are already written for the players, personal stakes are low and you do not need to get very vulnerable for this game.

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