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||3 – 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 1999 card game Apples to Apples and originated from a Kickstarter campaign in 2011. Its title refers to the phrase "crimes against humanity", reflecting its politically incorrect content.
Cards Against Humanity was created by a group of eight 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 (a pun on Schadenfreude) 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 was 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.
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]"
In 2018, the creators held a "99 Percent Off Sale", selling random items (such as a used 2015 Ford Fiesta, medieval weapons, and even cash) for 99% off, with a new item every 10 minutes. The creators stated that the promotion was "100% real and possibly a very bad idea."
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.
|Pack||Release date||Total cards||White cards||Black cards||Notes|
|Cards Against Humanity 1.0||550||460||—||90||—||The original game. No longer available (superseded by the 2.0 version)|
|Cards Against Humanity 2.0||600||500||—||100||—||Base set's newer version, expanded to 600 cards (50 more than before). It also has over 150 new cards that replace outdated jokes.|
|Canadian Edition||550||460||—||90||—||Replaces some American-centric jokes with ones targeted toward Canadians.|
Only available in Canada
|(Bulldog)||UK Edition||550||460||—||90||—||Replaces some American-centric jokes with ones targeted toward British people.|
Only available in the UK
|(Emu)||Australian Edition||550||460||—||90||—||Replaces some American-centric jokes with ones targeted toward Australians.|
Only available in Australia and New Zealand
|1||First Expansion||112||80||8||20||4||No longer available (superseded by the Red Box)|
|4||Fourth Expansion||112||70||8||30||4||No longer available (superseded by the Blue Box)|
|♦||Red Box||November 2016||300||230||—||70||—||Contains the same cards as Expansions 1, 2 and 3 (without blank cards)|
|▲||Blue Box||November 2016||300||220||—||80||—||Contains the same cards as Expansions 4, 5 and 6 (without blank cards)|
|●||Green Box||November 2016||300||245||—||55||—|
|⬟ (with Black Waves)||Absurd Box||November 2018||300||255||—||45||—|
|Smaller Themed Packs|
|The Bigger Blacker Box||51||21||40||—||10||An empty storage case that can hold Cards Against Humanity and every expansion; also contains blank cards, the Box Expansion, 10 card dividers, foam filler, and a card hidden under the inside paper lining of the lid|
No longer available (superseded by the New Bigger Blacker Box)
|New Bigger Blacker Box||November 2016||53||23||40||—||10||Larger version of the previous Bigger Blacker Box; contains everything in the Bigger Blacker Box except foam blocks and dividers, also contains a procedually generated card and a card hidden under the inside paper lining of the bottom as well as within the top cover.|
|(Snowflake)||2012 Holiday Pack||2012||30||23||—||7||—||Profits donated to the Wikimedia Foundation|
|(Santa hat)||2013 Holiday Pack||2013||30||21||—||9||—||Profits donated to DonorsChoose.org|
|(Bauble)||2014 Holiday Pack||2014||30||24||—||6||—||Profits donated to Sunlight Foundation|
|90||90s Nostalgia Pack||30||23||—||7||—||1990s themed|
|Canadian Conversion Kit||26||21||—||5||—||Contained two instruction cards with suggestions on how to swap out American cards from the US base set with Canadian ones|
No longer available (superseded by the Canadian Edition base set)
|(Abstract symbol)||Design Pack||30||30||—||—||—||Fully illustrated by different graphic designers; profits donated to the Chicago Design Museum|
|(Crisscrossed knife and spoon)||Food Pack||30||24||—||6||—||Co-written with Lucky Peach magazine|
|(Hitachi Magic Wand)||Fantasy Pack||32||26||—||6||—||Profits donated to Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders charity|
|(D-pad)||Geek Pack||30||24||—||6||—||Previously released at PAX East and PAX Prime in 2013 and 2014|
|(Star of David)||Jew Pack||2015||30||25||—||5||—||Originally released as the 2015 Holiday Pack, with 150,000 copies sent to people signed up for "Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah"|
|(Rocket)||Sci-Fi Pack||December 2016||30||23||—||7||—||Profits donated to Worldbuilders|
|Science Pack||30||23||—||7||—||Profits donated to the Science Ambassador Scholarship|
|@||World Wide Web Pack||30||21||—||9||—||Cards written with anonymous users of Reddit; profits donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation|
|Your Shitty Jokes||November 2016||50||—||40||—||10||Blank cards|
|(Marijuana leaf)||Weed Pack||July 2017||30||25||—||5||—||Profits donated to the Marijuana Policy Project|
|(Three blood drops)||Period Pack||July 2017||30||24||—||6||—||Comes with a few surprises for your special time.|
|(Sperm)||Dad Pack||June 2018||30||24||—||6||—||Released for Fathers Day 2018. The pack comes in a choice of 9 fake DVD cases.|
|(Plastic Cup)||College Pack||30||24||—||6||—|
|(Star)||Saves America Pack||30||23||—||7||—|
|(Buttocks)||Ass Pack||November 2019||30||27||—||3||—||Includes cards written by Sir Mix-a-Lot.|
|00s||2000s Nostalgia Pack||November 2019||30||25||—||5||—||2000s themed.|
|(Pride Flag)||Pride Pack||July 2018||30||25||—||5||—||profits donated to Howard Brown Health.|
|(Smiling Sun)||A Few New Cards We Crammed Into This Bundle||10||7||—||3||—||Part of the Hidden Gems Bundle (Amazon Exclusive).|
|(Christmas gift)||Seasons Greetings Pack||30||23||—||7||—||Part of the Hidden Gems Bundle (Amazon Exclusive). Features 18 cards originally released in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 Holiday Packs, plus 12 new Christmas themed cards.|
|Limited Release Packs|
|Reject Pack||24||16||—||8||—||Each co-creator picked three cards that were rejected from print|
|Reject Pack 2||34||24||—||10||—||Given out for attending Concert Against Humanity at Gen Con 2015|
|House of Cards Against Humanity||25||16||—||9||—||Based on House of Cards
10,000 copies (sold out in 45 minutes)
|(A meeple)||TableTop Expansion Pack||15||12||—||3||—||A $20 contribution reward for the TableTop Indiegogo campaign. It also came with a white pin with the words "+20 to making TableTop" on it|
|PAX Prime 2012 Goof Pack||14||9||—||5||—||Given out to replace misprints in v1.2; also included new cards (since included in v1.3)|
|PAX East 2013 Promo Packs||10||8||—||2||—||Pack A|
|PAX Prime 2013 Promo Packs||44||37||—||7||—||Randomly given out booster packs|
|PAX East 2014 Promo Packs||27||22||—||5||—||Randomly inserted booster packs within packets of oatmeal|
|PAX East 2014 Panel Pack||10||8||—||2||—||Given out for attending the Cards Against Humanity panel|
|PAX Prime 2014 Panel Pack||10||5||—||5||—||Given out for attending the Cards Against Humanity panel|
|PAX Prime 2015 Food Pack Pre-release||30||24||—||6||—||Contained one different card from final release, given out inside a popsicle in three different flavors (cherry, coconut and mango). The packs were distributed from a re-purposed ice cream truck with Cards Against Humanity insignia (Cards Popsicle Humanity). Each of the three Food Pack parts were sold for $3.|
|(A person opening a safe)||Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa Safe Opener Card
Being the crazy person who opened the safe.
|1||1||—||—||—||12 copies found in the safe on Hawaii 2 island|
|Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa Sloth Card||1||1||—||—||—||250,000 copies found in the safe on Hawaii 2 island|
|(Paper shopping bag)||The Retail Pack||5||3||—||2||—||Special pack of cards only available through independent brick and mortar retailers approved to sell the game|
|Hanukkah LOL Pack||7||7||—||—||—||Only been printed 3 times|
|Fascism Pack||17||15||—||2||—||A $30 contribution reward for the Secret Hitler Kickstarter campaign; in an exclusive foil pack|
|(Radiation Symbol)||Trump Bug Out Pack/Post Trump Pack||25||22||—||3||—||Packaged with the Donald Trump Bug-Out Bag|
|Retail Product Pack||20||19||—||1||—||Silver Pack Sold at Exclusive Target Stores (Includes $1 bill inside package)|
|Please Do Not Buy This Product||1||1||—||—||—||69-inch box containing a single, metallic foil card.|
|Mass Effect Pack||14||10||—||4||—||Cards based on the video game series Mass Effect|
|Hidden Compartment Pack||July 2017||15||15||—||—||—||Special pack of cards only available through Target's in-store display of CAH and Exploding Kittens demo.|
|Vote for Hillary Pack||August 2016||15||12||—||3||—||Hillary Clinton–themed; originally released as part of "America Votes with Cards Against Humanity" during the 2016 US presidential election|
|Vote for Trump Pack||August 2016||15||12||—||3||—||Donald Trump–themed; originally released as part of "America Votes with Cards Against Humanity" during the 2016 US presidential election|
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?
In 2014 a 19-year-old from Boston, who identifies as a transgender man, posted a picture burning the card, "Passable transvestites." After the post quickly spread, game creator Max Temkin apologized, saying "I regret writing this card, it was a mean cheap joke. We took it out a while ago".
A 2016 analysis of the game showed a strong racial bias in the cards. One-fifth of the original card deck included answers involving race. Of those cards, only 11 percent of white cards were racially charged compared to 60 percent of black cards, 60 percent of Hispanic cards, 80 percent of Asian cards, and 100 percent of Native American cards. Cards were coded as "racially charged" if they spoke to a historical or contemporary oppressive event or stereotype, for example, “The Trail of Tears,” “The hard working Mexican," or "Helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis," all of which are actual cards from the deck.
The game has also been criticized for its use of misogyny, rape, and child abuse for humor. Cards such as "Child abuse," "This year's mass shooting," and "Holding down a child and farting all over him" remain in the original deck of the game. Jokes involving rape were pointed out early in the game's history and were subsequently removed, but "Surprise sex!," "Copping a feel," and "Coathanger abortions" remain in the game.
- Apples to Apples – similar game that influenced Cards Against Humanity and other card comparison titles
- Joking Hazard
- Under the Gun Theater § Past productions
- Version 2.0 of Cards Against Humanity expanded the base set to 600 cards.
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