We all have a copy. If you are a gamer the odds are you have seen, played, if not own a copy of, Cards Against Humanity. The crude card game has made its way into the mainstream, with people who don’t usually play seeking out a version of the game. It is controversial, it is rude, it makes you laugh and cry (with laughter), and yet most serious gamers reject it. The question I have is: why?
This is a question when that perplexed me when I first heard it. Cards Against seemed to be all inclusive. Heck, I’ve even played it once with my Grandmother (and I have the image of her saying “Shitting Out the Perfect Cumberland Sausage” etched into my long term memory forever), and my sister who rarely plays games. Why all this hate from gamers?
To be completely honest, I think it is for two reasons. One of these is valid, and can be considered a reason Cards Against Humanity should be struck off most lists. The other is less valid, and is probably a reason it should stay, for a short while at least. Let’s tackle these one at a time.
It’s Not A Very Good Game
Okay, that title may be a little bit sweeping but, generally speaking, Cards Against Humanity Is not a very good game. In order to be able to say this with confidence, we need to look at how a game is judged and by what else is on the market.
CAH (I’m writing this on my phone and getting it to recognise Cards Against Humanity as a phase is difficult, so I’ll just use CAH for now) has next to no mechanics, no gameplay, limited replayability, and seems like just a cash cow. It appears to be a game that is crude for the sake of being crude, and that, as a theme, has a limited shelf life. CAH seems to have a ‘best before’ date that is limiting to playing the game over and over again.
Ask a gamer or board game fan (doesn’t even need to be hardcore) what their favourite games are and you’ll get a selection. None, however, would mention Cards Against when there are so many other possibilities out there. Compare Cards Against to Catan, or Ticket to Ride, or Carcassone, or Agricola, or other entry level/gateway games and you soon realise what a non-game it really is.
If you ask a group of gamers, casual or serious, what they consider their best game is I would prepare to bet the majority would not even consider CAH. Instead they are more likely to mention names like Codenames, Spyfall, or Captain Sonar. Cards Against Humanity is just is never really thought of. The same with card games. Cards Against would never have a chance against Game of Thrones, Arkham Horror (or any LCG really), or even the likes of Munchkin.
It is a Very Good Game
This may seem like a contradiction, but CAH is not only a very bad game, but it is also a very good game. Cards Against Humanity has, in its own way, started a whole new era of popular games, bringing adults who never played games before to see games in a new light.
In a few posts now I have mentioned the concept of a gateway game, or an Entry Level game that gets someone addicted to gaming. Cards Against Humanity is that game for a whole host of new gamers. These are people who find they like the game and, through playing said game, they discover there is so much more out there. I know people who have gone from Cards Against into Catan (that being said, I also know people who went from Cards Against to Strip Poker, so maybe that isn’t the best example). I know people who have launched a love of gaming off the back of less than Cards Against, and that has to be admired.
Cards Against, through being so insane, managed to launch itself into the limelight. It has become mainstream which, for a fringe culture like gaming, can be uncomfortable. It used to be “Oh, you play board games? So you must love Monopoly?” but now has become “Oh, you play games? I play Cards Against Humanity as well!”
Actually, to be fair, both of those situations still happen. Monopoly just needs to crawl up in a hole and be buried alive with Ludo, Cluedo, and Stratego (I have nothing against the latter, but the rhyme was too good to miss).
It’s crude and works in exactly the same way South Park does. If it insults everyone then it kind of insults no-one. That being said, it will always be offensive, and if people find it offensive I definitely would not recommend the game.
Where We Stand?
This blog, Start Your Meeples, is ultimately a personal blog so I will end this post with a bit of a personal opinion on Cards Against Humanity because, hey, you’re reading this so I have your captive attention to bathe my own egomania. This is the verdict:
Cards Against Humanity is alright.
That’s it. It’s not great. It’s not amazing, but it’s not horrifically bad either. As someone who grew up on South Park, Family Guy, and Team America there is very little that can shock me from a crude perspective. That being said, Cards Against doesn’t have much else to it. It is overly simple, with no objective and no real reason to play once you know the cards well enough. We have played it around six times in total, and purchased one expansion, and it is – well – okay.
That being said, the first few times we played were amongst the funniest gaming moments of my life (up there with Scrawl). We have had some amazing moments with friends, with family, and with people we barely know. The company as well do some incredible work which cannot be ignored. They raise a lot of money for charity and do a lot of good. You can read about one of their campaigns here.
And I think that sums it up in a nutshell. Cards Against Humanity is not a game in the traditional sense, and should never be considered one. Instead, it is an experience. You may buy the game, but never play it more than once or twice. Don’t ruin it for yourself by getting to know the cards too well. Instead, play it and move on. Use it to launch yourself on a journey of card game discovery.
So what are your thoughts about Cards Against Humanity? I am sure there are a lot of gamers out there who love the game and a lot who hate it – let me know your thoughts below.