Game Review: Cards Against Humanity

Already, in my second review, I regret establishing a rubric to grade the games that I play. Some games simply don’t fall into the appropriate headings. So consider that grading system repealed. I never want to be beholden to the system when a game that doesn’t fit comes along. And that’s what I’m going to be talking about today, the popular funny-word-shouty game called Cards Against Humanity.

Image Taken from Amazon

This game.

Yes. I invented the genre classification of funny-word-shouty game and I’ll use it quite liberally throughout the article when making comparisons. “But you don’t shout anything out in Cards Against Humanity”, someone might angrily point out. Well you’re right, but the core concept of every game that I’m going to classify as a funny-word-shouty game involves promoting (or provoking) fun and humor through the use of words or actions especially via other players. Some of them involves shouting things out, some of them don’t, but they all have the same end goal with their style of play. Perhaps I could have come up with a better genre title, but I’d rather write about the games than build complex taxonomies. Does that appease you? “Well, yes.” Good. Then lets get started.

The whole funny-word-shouty game genre seems to have emerged in the mid 1800s with the extremely well known game Charades. Charades, as far as I can tell, is the mother game of the whole genre. The omnipresent acting game that everyone should know about is all about being both competitive and silly at the same time, which highlights the great thing about this genre; it means that you don’t need to winning to be having fun. Every single one of these funny-word-shouty games core conceit is fun for the sake of fun. See if you agree with me.

Image taken from www.obeygiant.com

^ What he said. ^

Another influence for my subject this week is certainly Mad Libs, the game-book where kids install their own nouns, verbs, and such into stories to humorous effect. Mad Libs presented a shift in the genre, for 100 years the game had been played physically with people moving around and acting and guessing. It moves us into a more sedentary lifestyle of sitting around a table rather than standing in the living room. Which is great for board gamers, because we love to sit.

The next few games I’m going to mention are obvious influences for Cards Against Humanity and they’re much more alike than the originators of the genre. They are: Balderdash (With the right group, it can be even more offensive today’s topic), Pictionary (the funny-word-shouty game that in my opinion best represents the genre), and finally Apples to Apples. Apples to Apples is so similar to Cards Against Humanity they may as well be identical cousins. They differ in very few regards, of course their text is different and they look different but in the important gameplay aspects they’re almost the same, the biggest most egregious difference is… only one of these games has a real win condition.

The Cards Against Humanity rulebook is literally one page and only half of that is actual content. And that’s great! I love games that take seconds to teach someone. It means we can get to the game all the faster. My problem comes when there isn’t a way for the game to end. “Hey Jerk”, someone out there is saying right now, “I like that Cards Against Humanity doesn’t make me stop playing, it’s not the boss of me, I’m the boss of it.” Good point anonymous name caller, games are often bogged down by the ideas that their creators instill into them. Like last week with the game Ikusa, they forced a convoluted dice rolling system into a game that could have been simpler. If they asked players to come up with a fighting mechanic, I bet nearly every polled player would have come up with something simpler. Some people don’t like to stop playing games, and that’s absolutely up to them. I love them for it, but at some point… during my first ever game of Cards Against Humanity, going into the second hour or play, I found myself thinking ‘why can’t this game just be over?’

“I’m going to come to your house and beat your brains in! Cards Against Humanity is my favorite game in the whole world, bro!” Settle down, man! I’m not saying you have to stop playing. Just build a fatigue buffer into the system. That is my main issue with the game; the people who play it just never want to stop and it seems like everyone wants to play. I don’t know how they captivated their audience like they did, but they targeted a fiercely loyal and obsessive demographic. The same groups of people that love other mediocre things that are good at the start but quickly peter out, like Family Guy, Starbucks, and every single restaurant chain on the planet. And just like those things, I never find myself wanting more after the first serving.

Image taken from Wikipedia

Especially this one.

Is this a personal problem? Quite likely, but this is also a review filled with opinion. So suck it up, crybaby. “Brodudeski, you didn’t read the House Rules section of the rulebook! They talk about ending the game over there!” Ahem, bro, they talk about ending the game after everyone is tired of playing, not because someone has won. “Then just make up your own rules, making shit up is totally ham!” Sure, I could, and I certainly would if I owned the game and organized a group to play. But that isn’t me, I’m never the guy whipping it out at a party and it would be rude on top of presumptive of me to enforce my own rules on the situation. So it’s really up to the truely ham bros out there to elicit their own changes. I’m pretty sure they won’t. “Me and my bros at the frat house play every night, all 15 of us!” Really? And what do you guys do while you wait? “Wuh?” You know, because having 15 people play Cards Against Humanity just becomes an incredible time sink of listening to people read cards that quickly lose their humor. “Dude, it’s hilarious every single time.” To each their own.

I can’t put this under the review headline when I’m just complaining about one poor aspect of their design, so I’ll shove a couple of things in here that make me smile. I love the fact that they put their game online for free, good stuff. I really wish more companies would take on that try it before you buy it mentality. Also I loved the first hour and a half I played of this game. It’s funny and dark and worth a try. “That’s what I like to hear!” You’re welcome.

Bottom Line

Cards against humanity is a funny-word-shouty game that will make or break a party, and nothing in between. It catches attentions and it holds them for an inordinate amount of time.

If you want my suggestion, play until someone wins 3 cards, then just play again if you’re not sated. Otherwise it becomes a Möbius strip of mildly humorous word diarrhea with half the players eating it up and everyone else just hoping someone else is brave enough to leave the table first.

 

95% unrelated Post Script! – Our friend Mariko over at Artsy wants everybody to know that the Say Yes Cover art up there is a work by Shepard Fairey. You can see/read/learn more about him over at their dedicated page https://www.artsy.net/artist/shepard-fairey Check it out!

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