I did something similar to this article a while back on the subject of Minecraft and the various titles that followed in its wake, some time shortly after an explosion of some of the less exemplary Minecraft-ish games. Under a similar umbrella find Cards Against Humanity, whose irreverent and unapologetically offensive game caught the world’s attention, and many people looked to its simplistic format and said something to the effect of: “I can do that, but what if this time…”
Cards Against Humanity
Let’s not beat around the bush here, CAH is not a new format, they just made it more crass. You’ll often hear it described as Apples to Apples for bad people, which I must admit is the first time I’d heard of Apples to Apples, but even that game has its roots in Madlibs, the simple format of filling blanks in a passage with random words for the comedy value. Dixit has a similar format in the blind-voting format, but using inoffensive, frankly beautiful artwork, so if you’d like a slightly tamer version then Dixit is well worth your time.
Being under a creative commons licence also opens the field for copycats, clones, and custom expansions, most of which are shameless in their naming scheme (Crabs Adjust Humidity is a definite favourite though)
Ripoffs, Crabs Adjust Humidity,
Bucket of Doom
Bucket is a firm favourite at GeekOut Shrewsbury Meets.
Aping the basics of the format but shoving it into a bucket instead of a box, Bucket of Doom is one for those with a creative and improvisational penchant. On each person’s turn they read a life threatening situation, and then everyone (including the card reader) chooses one of the obscure and apparently useless items in their hands to attempt to survive. I shan’t share some of the answers we’ve assembled over the last year, although perhaps building a pyramid of grandads by hurling Werther’s Original toward the ground as you fall from a plane without a parachute is the safest from the favourite memories.
Winners each round are voted for by the group, with the person who read the card casting the swing vote in ties. There are variants that include using multiple items to resolve a problem (the MacGyver rule), I’ve also played a houseruled variant in which the game ends when your hand of survival items is depleted, and you never replenish, making creativity more intense as the game goes on.
I love Bucket of Doom, but having only played Funemployed once it remains my favourite, maybe because I lost so badly. Players have a hand of qualifications, and the turn player is the boss querying those qualifications for a randomly chosen job offer. To keep things interesting the centre of the table has a pool of qualifications that players have a chance to make a grab for, exchanging it for one in their hand. Once each player has presented their case for the job, the “boss” rebuts them with another qualification card presented as a flaw. The successful applicant gets the point.
If this all sounds a little dry, then the jobs include President, Secret Agent and Mad Scientist, and qualifications include Flaming Sword, Emotionally Unstable, and Nothing Left To Lose. The conversations that have come about as a result of this game present some far darker scenarios than even CAH can muster some days.
From the twisted minds behind Cyanide and Happiness is one of the tougher attempts at the format, but it comes complete with all the abrasive comedy you might be familiar with from their long-running (wow, thirteen years) web comic strip. The cards are comic panels, with players trying to build the funniest strip. The turn player flips a card from the draw-pile, adds a card from their hand to create a set-up, and the remaining players compete to give the best punchline. Red-outlined cards are automatically punchlines, so if they pop out when the turn player flips at random, then everyone else chooses two from their hand to set it up.
This might be the most complicated shot at the format, and with more to assemble I have to say it is perhaps the least humorous, but that may have more to do with who you play with and how much they’re concentrating on the game. Certainly I’m more than willing to give it another shot, but I think it’s something one has to be in the mood for.
CAH are a far more socially conscious company than the eponymous game might suggest, allowing anyone to take their formula and run with it, and using money in a series of ridiculous projects that raise awareness of bigger problems in the world and charitable organisations that help to resolve them. They have also sprouted a genre from a series of disparate inspirations and given the board gaming community a collection of ice-breakers to drag any unwitting soul into the fold.