#oneaday Day 907: A Party Game for Horrible People

I had my first chance to try out Cards Against Humanity tonight. If you’re unfamiliar with Cards Against Humanity, you can find out more and even print your own copy here.

Cards Against Humanity is a project that was initially funded through Kickstarter last year, but which has since gone on to make its money via direct sales of its core set and expansion. Unusually, though, the game is distributed under a Creative Commons licence, which means you’re free to download and print a copy yourself if you have the appropriate equipment to do so. It also means that you’re free to tweak, change and otherwise mangle it as you see fit so long as you don’t then decide to sell your modified version as an original work. Which is nice.

Cards Against Humanity is a very simple concept. The Onion AV Club described it as “Apples to Apples for the crass and jaded” and indeed the concept is almost identical: each turn, the “card czar” player (which changes every turn) draws a single black card that features a question or fill-in-the-blank phrase — this is the equivalent of Apples to Apples’ green cards — and players then submit a white card, each of which contains a word or phrase that could potentially fit whatever is printed on the black card. The card czar then shuffles them around so they have no idea who submitted what, and then reads them all aloud. After this, they choose which one is “best” by whatever arbitrary criteria they wish, and give the black card to the winning player as an “Awesome Point”. Play then continues until… whatever you like, really. You could play to a score limit, a certain number of cards or, as the game suggests, until the “Make a Haiku” card comes up. The exact rules are deliberately open-ended to encourage experimentation and a feeling of simply having stupid fun rather than rules lawyering. It’s a party game, not SRS BIZNZ.

It’s extremely simple and easy to play, and works with groups of four or more people. While the rules that determine who “wins” a hand are deliberately vague and arbitrary, after a few turns it becomes clear that there is a degree of psychology in play rather than simply everyone rushing to put down whichever card has the word “penis” on it. Does the current card czar find dick jokes funny, or would they rather you tried to do something clever? Would a surreal and incongruous answer make them laugh? Assuring victory is much more than simple luck, and sometimes you need to know when to give up on a hand and just submit your “worst” card for consideration in the hope of getting something better next time.

Cards Against Humanity is gloriously politically incorrect, but only occasionally explicitly obscene. A lot of the dark humour in the game comes from certain combinations of cards and the interpretations thereof rather than cards that are simply outright offensive. That said, there are plenty of white cards that are deliberately provocative — “Firing a rifle into the air while balls-deep in a squealing hog” is one particular favourite — but these are spread throughout more “mundane” offerings to balance things out rather than making the game a tiring journey through everything taboo. There are plenty of amusing pop culture references in the cards, too, though a few are a little too American for international audiences.

Cards Against Humanity is a great party game, then, that deserves to sit alongside titles like Balderdash and Eat Poop, You Cat! as a Fun Thing To Do After (or perhaps Before, depending on how late your host cooks) Dinner. I recommend getting some friends together and giving it a shot yourself as soon as possible, as there was plenty of mirth and merriment tonight, to the extent that one participant (whose blushes I shall spare) laughed so hard their drink came out of their nose.

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Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

6 thoughts on “#oneaday Day 907: A Party Game for Horrible People”

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