If the saccharin sweetness of holiday cheer is getting you down, the perfect antidote may be Cards Against Humanity.
Cards Against Humanity is an indie card game touted as "a free party game for horrible people." Originally created as a New Year's Eve party game by a group of friends, the game was later financed through the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter and released worldwide.
Cards Against Humanity features politically incorrect humour of the South Park variety and is designed to both delight and offend in equal measure. This is definitely not a game for children. The game content features graphic sexuality, racial references and a free-for-all mocking of religious piety.
The game play itself is quite similar to the well-known (and family friendly) game Apples to Apples. Each round, a player is randomly chosen as "Card Czar." This player chooses a black card such as: "What never fails to liven up the party?"
The other players then choose one of their white cards to answer the question. For example: "That thing that electrocutes your abs" or "Lumberjack fantasies." These are very tame examples, as most of the cards in this game are too shocking to print in this review.
The Card Czar then acts as judge and picks the white card he or she thinks is the most fitting. The player who played that white card then gets an "Awesome Point." The player with the most Awesome Points at the end of the game is declared the winner.
The key to winning a round of Cards Against Humanity is to have a good understanding of the Card Czar's sense of humour. Just how outrageous and/or offensive would that player like your answer to be? What will make them laugh?
Creativity and wit are rewarded in this game. But if you misjudge the Czar's sense of humour, or cross the line of acceptable satire in their eyes, you will not score points.
In addition to standard game play, there is a list of variations or "house rules." My favorite is Rando Cardrissian, in which a random white card is dealt each turn on behalf of a fictional player. If that white card wins the round, we congratulate "Rando" and mock ourselves for being less creative.
Cards Against Humanity can be purchased in boxed format either online or at your local games shop. Or, you can download a free PDF version of the game from cardsagainsthumanity.com and then print the cards yourself.
I downloaded the free PDF version and printed my set online at Staples.ca
It cost me $14 to print the full set on 80 lb. glossy card stock. When I picked up my printed sheets, they looked great and I felt both hip and thrifty for printing my own set. But then I had to cut out all 550 cards. I found this tedious. Near the end of the cutting, I blatantly ignored the lines and the cards became less and less truly square.
In hindsight, I probably should have bought the pre-printed set. The commercial set features larger playing-card-sized cards that are properly cut. And, if you buy a pre-printed set, you can choose the Canadian Edition, which includes additional bonus cards with Canadian references such as "Don Cherry's wardrobe."
Cards Against Humanity is a great party game for your circle of closest friends. I would not recommend playing it with your in-laws or with work colleagues, and even your most urbane friends may mutter the phrase: "Oooh, I just picked up a really offensive card."
Cards Against Humanity has also published two expansion packs that you can buy online for $10. And they have recently published a Holiday Expansion Pack that you can buy online for $5 or pay-what-you-want.
There are also some unofficial expansions being circulated such as the Star Trek pack. There is even a Winnipeg expansion pack floating around on the Internet. It includes intriguing cards such as "No Guy Maddin film would be complete without _________ and __________" and "Burton Cumming's moustache." I look forward to playing it with my friends in the New Year.
Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.