Before we begin, you should know something – this is about as far from a sweet and lovely party game like Apples to Apples as you can get. It must be admitted, but I’m not really that much of a fan of the genre; the furthest I’ve ventured into that territory are titles like Dixit and Liars Dice, but never before has a box filled with cards been so aptly named and thoroughly enjoyed. With Cards Against Humanity, you’ll scrape the very bottom of the barrel of taste and get quite the insight into the minds of your friends and colleagues.
Designed by a group of friends over in the USA, CAH easily counts as one of the most horrible yet brilliant gaming experiences I’ve had. The concept is simple: players begin with a selection of White Cards in their hand that could have pretty much anything written on them: from seppuku to Santa Claus, police brutality to dead parents, they’re concepts or things taken from a myriad different worlds. Be it geek culture, the news, ancient history or the just plain weird (“Chainsaws for hands”?), you’re sure to have a stack of cards before you that will definitely make you laugh – and possibly wince. Often both.
Once everyone has their starting hand, one player is chosen as the Card Czar. Their responsibility is to take a Black Card that may contain a statement with a blank space (or spaces) or perhaps a question that needs answering. The other players then choose responses from their White Cards, attempting to make an answer as funny (or downright horrifying) as they can. The Card Czar then shuffles all the cards, reveals all the answers and finally chooses the one they liked the best. The Black Card then goes to the chosen winner, scoring them an Awesome Point… and that’s about it. There are a few other rules but nothing that really needs much explanation.
Oh, apart from the end. When everyone has had enough, a final Black Card is pulled, demanding that players choose three of their White Cards to construct a haiku. Of course, there aren’t enough syllables on most of the cards to do that, but that really doesn’t matter – you just do it anyway, trying to make things as meaningful and deep as possible. Even if you’ve got stuff about Lady Gaga, Nazis and Teaching robots how to love. It’s that kind of game.
Be warned: the potential for offense in Cards Against Humanity is IMMENSE. However, if you’ve got the right group of people around it can seriously be a brilliantly fun time. Hell, it’s barely a game, but the interaction between players, the utter disbelief when someone pulls out a truly horrific answer… it’s brilliant. Knowing your audience (ie: the Card Czar for that round) often helps but won’t guarantee that your answer will be chosen every time. Often the oddest White Card will just tickle someone’s fancy but don’t let it get to you – there’s always another round. And there’s ALWAYS another round… you can easily play this for hours or just have it as a quick ten minute filler. The choice is yours.
Of course, being an American-designed game, there’s a heavy influence from the US in a lot of the cards, but even so CAH isn’t alienating for non-citizens. In fact, if there’s a card that you don’t understand, you’re allowed to chuck it away – but you have to admit you don’t get it first and open yourself up to ridicule from everyone else. Again, you need to be playing with the right kind of people – those who can’t take criticism should stay well away!
The game comes is simply presented but looks really quite striking in its black and white box, however, if you want to get your hands on a copy you’ll have to be quick. Print runs sell out in next to no time, so it’s a good idea to follow @CAH on Twitter or sign up for their emails to find out when the next copies are due but seriously – it’s well worth it. In the meantime, if you want to give it a try anyway, you can head to cardsagainsthumanity.com and try out a Print and Play version for absolutely free but know this: you’ll want the real thing the moment you finish.
Cards Against Humanity was designed by Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsoff, Max Temkin and Eliot Weinstein – all of them delightfully horrible people – and was originally released in 2009. You can play with anything from four people and up (I’ve had excellent games with ten or more) and copies are available from their official site as well as Amazon.com for $25. The First Expansion is also available as well as a set that modifies it for use by Canadians, eh. Now… how about a UK-centric edition…?