Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: Cards Against Humanity

TL;DR: Cards Against Humanity is a party game in the same manner as Apples To Apples, but for people who spend too much time on the Internet. Though a "winner" can be crowned, "winning" is not the point of CAH; having fun (and coming up with the worst things imaginable) is. Though entirely dependent on having the right group of people, CAH can be a hoot and a half if you have the right mindset.

Cards Against Humanity seems like one of those late-night drunken ideas founded between friends that sound awesome but ultimately never come to fruition.  Except this did come to fruition, and it's hilarious.  It came about in 2011 but even now in 2014 there are still some people who haven't had a chance to play it yet and it's always a treat when you get to introduce someone to the joy of CAH (as I got to do this past New Year's Eve).

If you've played Apples to Apples, then you know how this all works, but in case you haven't, it goes something like this.

Every round, one player is the Judge (of the Dredd or Doom variety) and everyone else a Player.  The Judge draws a random Black Card which has a question or "fill in the blank" phrase.  Something like "What's That Smell?"  All the Players then select a White Card from their hand (a player's hand can be as little as five cards and as much as ten cards, depending on house rules) and play them face down in the middle of the table.  The Judge shuffles the cards (so as to not show bias), reads through each one of them ("What's that smell?  Old people!") and picks their favorite, based on whatever criteria they deem fit.  Whoever played the chosen card is the victor that round and they are handed the Black Card as a "point"  Games go to seven points or ten points or until the deck of Black Cards is exhausted, whatever the party wants.

Pretty straightforward.  Yet the fun in the game comes in the possible combinations of Black and White Cards that come up, and with a full base set, and up to four expansions (plus or minus a Holiday expansion), the number of combinations is staggering, leading to nigh-infinite re-playability.

These combinations can range from the fairly benign ("What's that smell?" "Yeast.") to something appropriate for Reddit's /r/wtf ("What's that smell?" "The Gulags").  It's all up to the puerile minds of those involved, and that's where one of two big caveats comes in for CAH: The amount of fun you will get out of CAH is dependent on the type of player involved in the game.  If you bust CAH out after Sunday School, you will probably find stone-faced silence and a general lack of geniality (seriously, some of these cards are awful in and of themselves, nevermind how awful they are when combined with certain categories).  However if you know your audience, you may find yourself literally hurting from laughing so hard.

The second caveat is something I've run into a couple times, and from conversations with others they have run into this as well: No matter how game you or your comrades are, you may find yourselves having to explain certain cards, which can be awkward.  I've personally had to explain everything from what "Gulags" are to what "The Glass Ceiling" is, and there's nothing quite like the face of an eighteen year old girl when you have to explain what that is (welp, now I'm on an NSA watch list).  Also, CAH can be unwieldy if the group is too large.  I find placing an upper limit of eight people is best.

However, if you already know what "The Glass Ceiling" is, and you are still giggling at "What's that smell?" "The Gulags", then this game is for you.

You horrible, horrible person.

John H. C. Staton is a software developer, Ph.D. candidate, former college hockey and football player, father and raconteur.  He enjoys board games, dressing up like a Viking, and raiding small villages (not necessarily in that order).  He's trying to start up his own website,  It may or may not be available when you read this, but he swears it's going to be cool when it's done.