Critical Play: Cards Against Humanity


Cards Against Humanity is a physical party game created through Kickstarter by Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsof, Max Temkin, and Eliot Weinstein. The game is essentially a grown-up version of Apples to Apples where players try to make the funniest joke to a given prompt based on the cards in their hand.


The game is clearly targeted for an adult audience given the raunchy jokes. More specifically, the game appeals to those with somewhat of an immature side based on the types of jokes being made, as well as the messaging on their website calling the game “stupid” and showing off “other dumb stuff [they] did.” The game appeals more to male audiences, reflective of the entirely-male founding team, again based on the type of outlandish, inappropriate, sometimes non-politically correct humor.

Core Elements

The game is comprised of 3+ players with no real upper bound, adding to the appeal of it as a party game where many can be included. The gameplay is simple, defined by two actions: responding and judging. When not the judge, each player chooses from their deck of cards what they think is the funniest response they can make to the judge card, and as judge players are responsible to choosing which response is the funniest. The player that has the funniest response as chosen by the judge is awarded a “point,” signified by them keeping the judge card next to them, although the interesting part is that “winning” in this game is mostly irrelevant. It’s essentially house rules for when to cut the game off, whether at a certain point threshold, or more often when everybody gets bored. Another interesting mechanic is the anonymity wherein players don’t know who played which card, reducing the likelihood of alliances, ensuring fairer gameplay, and producing fun moments where a more “reserved” individual plays the most outlandish card. As a final formal element to focus on, gameplay is kept relatively quick by deciding for players what the prompts and responses are and limiting each player to a certain amount in a deck, rather than replying on players’ own creativity or waiting for indecisive players to choose from dozens of options — both of which are highly variable.

For my playtest, I played with 5 of my friends, ultimately ending when we got bored. The “winner” ended up having 5 prompt cards, but nobody was too invested in actually winning the game.

Type of Fun

Ultimately, these game elements produce a kind of casual fun that allows for banter and socialization to naturally come about. Given the pacing, there’s room in between rounds for chatter between individuals, as well as frequent callbacks to jokes from earlier rounds, allowing for players to bond. The gameplay itself is more entertaining than engaging with few players usually caring about points and more just there to passively play, opening itself up to extremely casual “gamers.” This extremely low barrier to entry is the major appeal of the game, as well as its ability to turn awkward conversation into naturally structured, slightly less awkward conversation.

Drawbacks/How to Improve

The game does eventually get repetitive, especially if you’ve played with that deck before. Seeing repeats really takes out of the surprise element of the humor and makes it feel more mundane. Also, since there isn’t a clear point total to go to, in most experiences I’ve had, including the one I had for this assignment, players play until they’re sick of the game, rather than at a natural stopping point leaving them wanting more. To remedy this, you could create house rules that set a clear point total to end or a timer of when to stop playing, although this goes against the natural, casual flow of the game where nobody really cares about winning. Ultimately, the main way to prevent the game from being repetitive is to digitize the game and constantly have new prompts and responses entering and exiting circulation. This could allow for the game community to help participate as well and make the game better to come back to.

Level of Emotional Intimacy

In comparing Cards Against Humanity to other games meant to get players to reveal things about themselves, players don’t really have to get vulnerable at all. Since all the prompts and responses are pre-written, there’s no need to create original content. Players usually choose on their own to open up because of conversational proximity, but there’s been times in the past where cliques hold the conversation and outsiders simply spectate. There’s no driving mechanism in the game bringing players closer on a deeper level, instead, the game just wishes that because you’re playing a game, you also happen to talk. This is fine and can generally work if players desire to grow closer and socialize, but in no situation will players go as deep as in a game like We’re Not Really Strangers where the core mechanics are to reveal things about yourself.

Rating: 3.5/5 — good to occasionally play but not something that’d ever be a go-to

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