Cards Against Humanity
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|Designers||Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsof, Max Temkin, Eliot Weinstein|
|Publisher||Cards Against Humanity LLC|
|Release date||May 2011|
|Players||4 – 20+|
|Cards||550 (1.0), 600 (2.0)[a] (base set)|
|Playing time||30 min – 90 min|
Cards Against Humanity is a party game in which players complete fill-in-the-blank statements using words or phrases typically deemed as offensive, risqué or politically incorrect printed on playing cards. It has been compared to the Apples to Apples card game, originated from a Kickstarter campaign, and has received media acclaim. Its title references the phrase "crimes against humanity", reflecting its politically incorrect content.
Cards Against Humanity was created by a group of four Highland Park High School alumni, including Ben Hantoot and Max Temkin. Heavily influenced by the popular Apples to Apples card game, it was initially named Cardenfreude and involved a group of players writing out the most abstract and, often, humorous response to the topic question. The name was later changed to Cards Against Humanity, with the answers pre-written on the white cards known today. Co-creator Ben Hantoot cited experiences with various games such as Magic: The Gathering, Balderdash, and Charades as inspiration, also noting that Mad Libs was "the most direct influence" for the game.
The game was financed with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and influenced by a previous crowd-funded campaign for a book on the design of the Obama campaign. The campaign started on December 1, 2010; it met its goal of $4,000 in two weeks. The campaign ended on January 30, 2011, and raised over $15,000; just under 400% of its original goal. With this additional money raised towards the game, the creators added fifty more cards to the game itself.
To start the game, each player draws ten white cards.
According to the rule book provided with the game, the person who most recently "pooped" (a form of primitive randomization) begins as the "Card Czar" (or "Card Tsar") and plays a black card, face up. The Card Czar then reads the question or fill-in-the-blanks phrase on the black card out loud.
The other players answer the question or fill in the blanks by each passing one white card (or however many required by the black card), face down, to the Card Czar.
The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers and shares each card combination with the group. For full effect, the Card Czar should usually re-read the black card before presenting each answer. The Card Czar then picks the funniest play, and whoever submitted it gets one "Awesome Point".
After the round, a new player becomes the Card Czar, and everyone draws back up to 10 white cards.
The part of speech of a white card is a noun or gerund, including both single words and phrase constructions. Black cards are either fill-in-the-blank statements or questions. Both white and black cards break these rules on rare occasions.
The rules do not state how to win the game—the object being simply to have fun.
The rules in Cards Against Humanity are flexible and can be altered with the many house rules (which are listed in the rules) that players can incorporate (e.g. winning cards are chosen democratically, ability to trade points for cards, points given by ranks, etc.). The official rules include additional provisions for gambling previously won "Awesome Points" for the right to play additional white cards during a round.
Release and sales
After six months of development, Cards Against Humanity officially released in May 2011. A month later, it became the number one game on Amazon.com. Since its release, CAH has gradually become more popular and has seen a rise of sales throughout the years. The Chicago Sun-Times estimated that CAH earned at least $12 million in profit, and according to the company, customers have downloaded the PDF file 1.5 million times in the year since they began tracking the numbers. Despite co-creator Max Temkin stating in a 2014 interview that he did not want retail shoppers to 'cheapen our brand', the game and expansion packs are currently being sold in select Target retail locations, as of January 2017.
In October 2011, the game was exhibited as part of the "Big Games" area of the annual IndieCade games festival in Culver City, where the release of a first expansion was officially announced. In November 2011, the expansion was released. It sold out in three days. The first expansion contained 100 new cards and 12 blank cards.
The base game cards are licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 license and can be officially downloaded at their website.
Black Friday promotions
Since 2013, the creators of Cards Against Humanity have held satirical promotions on Black Friday. In 2013, an "anti-sale" was held in which the game's cost was raised by $5 USD. Despite its higher price, the game went on to maintain its best-selling status on Amazon and experienced a minor spike in sales during that period.
In 2014, to "help you experience the ultimate savings on Cards Against Humanity", the game and its expansions were removed from the online store and replaced by "Bullshit"—boxes containing sterilized bull feces, sold at $6 USD each. Over 30,000 boxes were sold.
In 2015, the game's online store was replaced by an order form with an offer to "Give Cards Against Humanity $5" and receive nothing in return. The offer was justified by claiming that "the greatest Black Friday gift of all is buying nothing. We're offering that for the rock-bottom price of $5. How can you afford NOT to seize this incredible opportunity?", and that what the money would be used for would be announced "soon" 11,248 customers spent $71,145 on the offer during the campaign. The money was ultimately divided equally among the Cards Against Humanity team members, who were asked to report back what they spent their money on. Many of them made donations to different charities.
For 2016, the creators began to live stream the excavation of a "Holiday Hole", located in Oregon, Illinois, and stated that they would continue to dig the hole as long as they continue to receive donations. The creators did not state any reason for the hole nor any planned use of the money, and explicitly ruled out charity in a FAQ by asking the reader, "why aren't YOU giving all this money to charity? It's your money." $100,573 was collected. Later in the week, the hole was filled back up and reseeded.
Prior to Black Friday in 2017, a brand of potato chips known as Original Prongles (a parody of Pringles) were spotted in multiple Target stores, with packaging featuring a pig mascot and the slogan "Once You Pop... That's Great!". On Black Friday, the Cards Against Humanity website was redirected to OriginalProngles.com, which announced that the creators of Cards Against Humanity had exited the gaming industry in favor of snack food, with a commitment to "bold flavors and bold thinking". In a FoxNews.com interview, Max Temkin and Josh Dillon (who referred to themselves as Prongles' "chief flavor officers") stated that Prongles and its pig mascot were inspired by U.S. president Donald Trump, adding that "if you love President Donald J. Trump, we guarantee you will love the tangy onion and thick cream flavors of Original Prongles. That's why we promise to Make America CRUNCH Again™! [sic]"
Expansions and additional products
Cards Against Humanity comes as a base set, with six separate commercially available expansions, nine themed packs, and one additional accessory. There are also 3 international editions and 20 limited availability releases.
On July 28, 2015, Cards Against Humanity announced a design-themed expansion pack, featuring 30 cards that were created by famous designers riffing on comedian George Carlin’s legendary “seven dirty words.” All proceeds were donated to the Chicago Design Museum.
In July 2017, a special edition of the base game, Cards Against Humanity For Her, was unveiled, in support of EMILY's List—a U.S. political action committee that aims to help elect female pro-choice Democratic candidates to office. As a satire of the "pink tax", it is exactly the same, except $5 more expensive and with a pink-colored box.
Political involvement and the Nuisance Committee
In August 2016, Cards Against Humanity released two "America Votes" packs for the two presidential candidates: Vote for Hillary Pack and Vote for Trump Pack. Each pack contains 15 cards of jokes about the candidate. Designer Max Temkin said that the proceeds for both packs would go to Clinton's campaign regardless. The group began posting billboards under a political action committee called the Nuisance Committee. Temkin named the PAC after his grandfather who was a Jewish POW in World War II, who formed a "nuisance committee" to try to annoy their Nazi captors without getting killed. In September, the group posted a billboard in Chicago with the words: "If Trump is so rich, how come he didn't buy this billboard?". In October 2016, the Nuisance Committee posted a billboard in Dearborn, Michigan which was printed in Arabic text on a black background, reading "Donald Trump can’t read this, but he is scared of it". An Overwatch-themed Anti-Trump billboard was also posted in Orlando, Florida.
In mid-November 2017, the creators announced a campaign, Cards Against Humanity Saves America, in protest of the Trump administration and Donald Trump's proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, arguing that Trump was "a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a $20 billion wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing." It was revealed that the creators had purchased vacant land along the border and "retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built". It was also announced that those who make a $15 donation for the campaign would receive six "surprises" throughout December, including additional cards and a map of the aforementioned land plot. One of the surprises was the redistribution of the money paid, including 10,000 refunds, and issuing $1,000 cheques to 100 donors they determined to be the most in need.
The game was praised as "Simple, yet well-executed" by the Chicago Tribune "Puzzler", "pretty amazing" by The A.V. Club, and "the game your party deserves" by Thrillist. However, in December 2015, the game received a rating of 6.48/10 in reviews on BoardGameGeek. The score earned it a ranking of 146 in party games.
Reviews note the similarity between Cards Against Humanity and the 1999 family card game Apples to Apples. The A.V. Club interview calls the game "a sort of Apples To Apples for the crass and jaded." Criticism for the game stems from its enjoyment primarily depending on the number of players participating as well as many reviewers' concern that its politically incorrect content may offend certain audiences.
In a letter of complaint to The New York Times Magazine, writer Dan Brooks argued:
Like America's most successful brands, Cards Against Humanity positions itself against the masses, when in fact it is mass taste distilled. It is the product of a culture in which transgressing social norms has become an agreed-on social norm ... Cards Against Humanity isn't really transgressive at all. It is a game of naughty giggling for people who think the phrase "black people" is inherently funny ... The awful thing is that it works. The reliability of Cards Against Humanity as an activity most people will enjoy only makes it more depressing to those of us immune to its charms. It is, in the end, a party game for horrible people. But who else is there to party with?
- Version 2.0 of Cards Against Humanity expanded the base set to 600 cards.
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