Why Cards Against Humanity isn’t even a real game

GAMES by Devin Pacholik


Cards Against Humanity isn’t a real game. There. I said it.

A couple of points: first, many Prairie Dogs enjoy Cards Against Humanity, so don’t think this column is part of a bleeding-heart, politically correct commie conspiracy. Second, I was an early buyer of CAH and I’ve introduced others to the game. I had a few laughs — forced from my body with the initial shock value — but once the laughs dried up I realized how dull the game is.

Don’t know how to play Cards Against Humanity? Let’s look at the website.

“Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.”

Pretty basic. The player who played the black card chooses the “best” (read: usually most offensive) answer for points.

For example, using actual game cards, one white card reads “______: kid-tested, mother approved” and a player could fill in the blank with “Reluctant anal.” See? Implied incestuous rape. Ha? Ha? Other topics include degrading the mentally challenged, racism, sexism, etc.

So, is CAH a source of hilarity or a pack of hacky, cringe-worthy material?

I need to make two points to qualify my anti-CAH stance: 1) I’m a stand-up comedian. 2) I’m a board/card game lover.

Being a comedian, I believe all topics are up for discussion. Some issues are beyond my comedy skill set. I’ve caused cold silences with bad jokes and been taken to task by offended audience members for crossing lines of taste. Being called out is an important part of my comedy. I have to stand behind my jokes in front of strangers. I have to be original to make challenging topics funny.

With CAH, there’s no challenge in the joke making, other than the very real risk of playing with assault victims or the other groups at the receiving end of the “jokes”. Players shrug their shoulders and play the cards they’re dealt. You’re not rewarded for creativity; you’re rewarded for random, aimless filth.

There’s nothing to be proud of here. It’s comedy-by-numbers.

To my second point: I love games.

I spend about $50-100 per month on board and card games when I’m at my best (or worst, depending on how deep you are into the hobby). Some of my friends with extreme board game addictions make those numbers look like chump change. Yes, I hang out with board game snobs, but we’re in a Golden Age of Gaming right now. Cards Against Humanity is an unfortunate celebrity of the period.

There are much better party games — Catch Phrase, Telestrations and Pictomania, to name a few. You play these games using genuine wit without a box of premade gags curating the experience. Your friends and family will laugh — hard — and revel in moments of brilliance. Players get all that fun without the components forcing them to dump on marginalized groups.

Okay, so maybe your friends have thick skin. You don’t care about originality; you just want mindless amusement.

That’s exactly what you get with CAH: brain-dead card laying.

So stupidly uproarious are games of CAH that often you won’t actually converse with those playing at the table. You’ll be so wrapped up in the naughtiness of the “Hitler” card again and again that all discussion ceases.

CAH is a party killer, in my experiences. Around the third time you see the “Hitler” card on the table, it’s not funny anymore and the night fades away.

Great games heighten the group dynamic, not smother it.

Cards Against Humanity is an incredibly successful company in the modern board gaming world. These people are brilliant marketers — like the time they sold boxes of real poop to people during last year’s Christmas season. I have friends who shell out for new CAH expansion packs every time they come out as the humour from the last box set inevitably dies.

Good for Cards Against Humanity for being great at selling cards. If only they were better at making games.