Published on September 11th, 2013 | by Nicole Jekich
Why Cards Against Humanity?
The Evolution of the Party Game Genre
For those late to the party game party, Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is like Apples To Apples for horrible people. That is actually the game’s selling point. Despite the game’s exploding popularity on Amazon.com and conventions, CAH is a sticky subject among gamers. With rules and win conditions that are completely subjective to the people playing the game, many serious gamers look down on CAH and group it with other, “lesser” party games. Another issue is that this is not a game to take home for the family, nor should it be played loudly in a public setting as it is a game for “adults” that relies on juvenile, dark humor and is best suited for a party environment.
The base game comes in a black and white box filled to the brim with cards. There are 90 black question cards and 400+ answer cards in the base set for $25: cheap, compared to other board games’ prices. Due to simple “draw a card, play a card” gameplay, adding more cards does not throw the game off balance- it just adds more horrendous and quirky answers to the mix. A first, second and third expansion each containing 112 cards: 25 black cards, 75 white cards and 12 blank cards to help add to the collection are also available. Those who braved their PAX2013 line also received a unique expansion and the creators are always looking to expand and add relevant cards. I love that Cards Against Humanity offers their print and play version for free and encourages players to add their own cards to the mix. The creators want the game to change and fit the people who are playing.
The attraction and popularity of party games comes from the desire for simplistic gameplay. Draw a card, play a card is the most basic of gaming rules that many games, like Fluxx and Carcassone, have used successfully. Cards Against Humanity is also simple. Each player starts with ten white cards in their hand. A starting player, named the Card Czar, draws a black card and reads the statement aloud. The rest of the players look through their cards, usually giggling uncontrollably, until they find the answer which they feel will impress the Czar. After collecting all the answers (and not peaking!), the Card Czar reads the answers aloud and picks his favorite. The player responsible for that submission, if he or she is coherent enough, claims their prize: the black question card, good for one point and a turn of gloating. Players draw back up to ten cards and the Czar title is passed to the next person.The game continues until a player reaches a predetermined number of victory points or when the host needs to kick all their laughing friends out.
While gameplay remains the same from game to game, the variety comes from the people that come and bring their sense of humor to the mix. The strategy is knowing what the Czar would find funny. Sometimes the most inappropriate answer wins, but maybe this time “Tom Cruise” or just plain “Balls” is what the Czar finds funny. Cards Against Humanity also offers house rules in their rule book to add to the game and players are welcome to add their own twist to make the game fun, which include adding cards that are topical (“Miley Cyrus twerking” must be a card somewhere).
When I am in at a party and am offered to play with a group of friends, I am willing to sit on a pillow and act like a teenager, giggling at penis jokes and inappropriate stereotypes for a couple hours. However CAH is not a game I would play anywhere or overly often. I have heard horror stories of strangers playing together during public board game meetups and the humor made people not playing the game uncomfortable. Also, playing the game too often turns the game stale: reserve Cards Against Humanity for party situations and relive why this game is entertaining.
While it wasn’t the first game of its kind, Cards Against Humanity was the first widely successful party game for adults and helped spawn a flood of party games into the market. While writing the August and September Kickstarter articles, I saw a handful of CAH-style party games that continued to harp on poop, sex and other impolite situational humor. I am hoping that this party game fad continues to grow, but I also hope it evolves into a genre of board games that relies on more than just shock value. Perhaps we can build a party game that is actually made to help start conversations between strangers or offers a more dynamic challenge while still being approachable by newbie gamers.
I really want to set the record straight about Cards Against Humanity. I’ve played this game a handful of times and each time, I have been among a large group of both strangers and friends. It is not for everyone and isn’t for every situation, but I encourage those to try the game out to help learn what type of games you like playing.
*If you want a fun introduction to what Cards Against Humanity is like, try out this CAH Quiz by Abegail: