Cards Against Humanity is Shit, Here are Better Alternatives
This article was originally published back in January 2016. Depressingly much remains unchanged CAH is still out there on the high street like a turd that won’t flush. It seemed a suitable time to unearth this piece in light of the prominence Black Lives Matter has reached and it really highlights CAH and how it should now be consigned to a river somewhere along with monuments to slavers, racists and any dickheads that think it’s still relevant.
Cards Against Humanity is Shit, Here are Better Alternatives
Okay, okay, this is a controversial title and I assume many of you are already compiling angry retorts for how dare I criticise this gem of a game that enables you to say rude things you wouldn’t normally be able to because of polite society. First of all, the rudeness and shock value thing is a bit lazy and the excitement soon stutters out after you see the same card a few times or the same pat responses from the same group of people. Other terribly accomplished critics have already criticised the lazy shock value of CAH. Here are links to them because while they drew flak for what they said, they’re not wrong at all.
The thing is, “lazy” is possibly the best word for the game. It’s hardly a game. You’re barely even making jokes; you’re grasping what humour you can from the cards in your hand, something that Rando Cardrassian can often do better than you. Some groups forget the ‘card czar’ role and just put in the most obscene card that screws over anyone with a relatively basic card or they keep the card czar but ignore the context of the question card entirely. I admit I like to grade by context and announce this. One of my friends took utter joy in gaming the system by realising that she needed to play to her audience. It takes work to make it a tolerable game and even then it’s something a random card flip can easily depose, it’s just so basic. That’s what I’m getting at here when I say Cards Against Humanity is shit.
This isn’t to say I haven’t had fun with the game. My deck has many, many hand-written or custom cards that we’ve added. Still, there are games with similar mechanics that if you liked Cards Against Humanity but hunger for something better, you would do well to check out. Following’s a selection of them and my take on how much more of a game they are (as that’ll be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the reader) and the levels of obscenity, given that those are the two primary features Cards Against Humanity has going for it.
This is an odd one, as it’s the game which apparently helped to inspire Cards Against Humanity. It underwent a new edition via Kickstarter, something I backed to a print & play level. The cards are all, “Opinions” and “Culture”, looking aesthetically pleasing with bold colours for the opinions and little pictures for the culture cards. There are actually a bunch of different games to play with these cards.
The basic version has each player draw culture cards and an opinion each. You assign the four cards from your hand to the opinions you reckon match them for that player. They could be things like, “Kid Tested, Mother Approved,” or “Which will save the world?” People take turns judging the cards in front of them and bickering can ensue if they think the judge should have chosen Sesame Street instead of The Internet. Other game modes include guessing when in a timeline of culture cards other peoples’ cards were invented, making a ‘quilt’ of opinions and culture cards that are all compatible with the cards touching them or a more traditional CAH style judging game.
It’s more gamey than CAH, not really as crude, but part of that depends on the players. It’s print & play which is handy as it’s quite pricy to import.
Dixit is beautiful and really in need of its’ own review. Each turn one player looks at their hand of whimsical, surreal art and picks one; giving a vague clue about what their card is. Everyone else puts in a card which could refer to the clue and people vote which one they think you put in. You get points if only some people guess your card, but none if everyone or no one picks it. You have to be vague, you have to read the people around the table and try to interpret meaning from weird, gorgeous artwork. It’s adorable, but the clues can be as weird, obscure or obscene as you want. It involves more effort than Cards Against Humanity but makes for a gentle, all-ages game. If you hate Dixit, you literally have no soul.
This is a recent Kickstarter purchase, one which arrived on time (take that, Two Rooms and a Boom!) The gameplay involves a lot more decks than CAH, which can seem a little daunting, but it’s able to be just as obscene with more creativity, even for lazy bastards who consider actual games too much effort compared to CAH.
Everyone has a hand of five ‘Connector’ cards and on your turn you draw a ‘Story’ card. That tells you which cards to draw so it could be, “Opening, Character, Event, Object” and the three in order make very little sense. You then use Connectors to make the sentence flow, even if it’s a weird one. Sensible sentences don’t matter, as long as it scans right. After each connector you can draw from the Character, Event or Object decks to add more at random to it. This could make the sentence worth more points as each card is a point, or you could ruin the sentence completely. If you get stuck, other players can dive in with their Connectors, although if they get your points, they won’t redraw Connectors until the end of their turn, so their own sentence might have less to go on. You can see examples of gameplay here.
It’s about as simple as CAH once you get over the many decks and there’s an adult “party” expansion which had easily visible red cards and for the Kickstarter was provided for free. This way you can play it with friends with sensitive dispositions or with souls as filthy as that hole you keep salesmen and stray animals in.
Another Kickstarter game (admittedly many are, here). This does involve getting up and moving which has often been beyond us by the third hour or so of drinking and playing CAH. In this game you all grab a couple of character cards and a couple of situations. These provide you with the scene which needs acting out. The basic level makes it pretty much obscene charades. The more stressful and fun version however, has the combinations mixed up and each player acting out the set they draw in 30 seconds without mentioning any of the words on the cards. So in my case it was Shredder going to the loo and realising too late that he was out of toilet paper. The person who put that combination of cards together is, “God” and they hate charades. They have to do whatever they can to stop the others guessing within the time limit. If that works, they win both cards. If someone still guesses then the actor and guesser score a card each.
In my case, Morgan was, “God” and tackled me to try and stop people guessing. We added the rule that no physical violence could be used. Some people just made loud noises, bad guesses or in Vinnie’s case, just stood in front of Rosie Dean who was trying to act out Bill Murray getting an icepick lobotomy. Given his size and hers, it was difficult working out what was happening behind him.
It’s more gamey than CAH and requires movement. It’s about as obscene, but without having to desperately cling onto numbing controversy like a Frankie Boyle comedy set which has gone on too long.
Despite having some similar-ish mechanics, this is probably further away from the basic structure of CAH, but I think it still deserves a place. This game’s ‘normal’ mode is actually a co-operative game. The titular machine is a commonplace item which predicts your death in a vague way using a drop of blood and printing a normally one or two word response. There are short stories and YouTube videos set in the world, all because of a bit in Dinosaur Comics several years ago.
In the card game, you play assassins who have to live in this world. You have a target you create or randomly pick from a booklet. You draw their method of death and a series of ‘gifts’ which are vague tools you have. Collectively you work out what the tools can be, using them to manufacture the death they received on the card. Each card is a step and each step has a difficulty you collectively assign. If yours falls through you need to replace it with a random draw from your resources and come up with something while the counter ticks down. Kill four targets and you win.
As an example, Emma, Saffy and I had to kill a superhero made of cinnamon. Don’t question it, that was the contract. He loved motivational speeches and his method of death was ‘Ruler’. As this can be interpreted however you want, we used the gift cards as follows:
Paper – An invite to an island “resort” for a motivational speech
Weapons – We threaten the despot who rules (yeah, see where we’re going) the island to work for us
Machinery – We give the despot a giant fan to disperse the cinnamon hero.
We failed with ‘Weapons’ so we drew a new card which was ‘Robot’ and suddenly had a robot to threaten the ruler with instead. That worked and the superhero was no more. There’s a quickfire version which is a bit more CAH-ish.
There’s a lot more creativity than CAH and a lot more game here. It’s good fun though as you all work together to dispose of several people with your wits and some well-placed gifts.
This is one of the closest versions of CAH, specifically involving fandom pairings. You all have a hand of ten characters from the popular culture, or blank cards. The active player puts one character down, “Fox Mulder,” for instance. Then everyone else puts in the character they feel the most fitting. The judge picks and people can argue their fandom pairing. They might pick, “Dana Scully” for traditional reasons or, “Sasquatch” as it’s a cryptid, or, “The Alien from Aliens” as he loves aliens and that could work. Then someone puts in, “The Monolith from 2001” and their explanation is so bonkers the judge decides they have to win. The reasons why a character is best suited for another are great and terrible. The blank cards are wildcards where you can say whoever you want which might work for or against you in the battles.
It’s another game which is a nightmare to get over here but at least is print & play. The one flaw I’ve found is that the designers evidently have some specific fandoms which my friends and I don’t share. We need to tune it a bit and add a few things from our own pool of reference.
This game is pretty similar to CAH, but needs some basic debating ability even if it’s about the logistics of the T-800 romancing all of the Golden Girls. Depending on the players it can be pretty filthy, like someone festering in a Eugene Victor Toomes style nest made from printed out fan fiction and their own fluids.
This is the most recent of these games which I’ve played and along with Fantastic Storytelling is one of my favourites. Superfight is a game of hypothetical battles between people. On your turn you draw three characters and three modifiers, then lay a combination of one of each down, adding a second modifier from a deck just as a bit of a wild card. As an example, it could mean that you’re using Batman who breathes fire (from your hand) but is also on stilts (random draw). You debate the merits of that character against whoever’s the current victor. A lot of the time it’s fairly evident and as some of the modifiers are negative, you might be arguing why your character dying of dysentery might make them more reckless in their fighting style. You might play a card which steals Bruce Lee’s golden gun and now your opponent only has Bruce Lee (who admittedly is still a formidable opponent). The debates are simple and almost schoolyard. Would Willy Wonka with a time machine and control over magnetism be able to stop Pikachu with x-ray vision riding a flying narwhal? Let’s face it, these are the important arguments.
There’s more of a game here, but it’s got that same simple basis as CAH, just argue about things that ultimately mean nothing and feel like a big winner when your Pikachu beats up Time Lord Willy Wonka. There’s an adult expansion for the game, along with a kid friendly one so whatever your poison, this game can do it.
Well of course I had to put an RPG in here. This admits it’s a stupid game for stupid drunk people. So we’re onto a winner. You all write random names and traits on five bits of paper, chuck them in a hat and draw out four to make your character. One is their identity and the others are all traits. You then have to stop Dr Magnethands from destroying the White House from his moon base on Christmas Eve. It’s a short, dumb RPG which looks like a hoot to play. I’ve yet to play this myself, but reading the rules it looks like the right thing for short, drunk fun. There’s an expanded version of it called Dr Magnethands’ Cardvalcade where you rummage through all the board games and put five cards each into a deck where character traits are pulled from.
Actually, pretty much anything by Grant Howitt is good for drunk play, something even he admits.
I’m sure there are others which I haven’t played or heard of. Please add your favourite drunk/low effort games below. Alternately email editor Mike@whodaresrolls.com with your outrage about my criticism of Cards Against Humanity.
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