By John Lyle Belden
In the last couple of years, people have gotten caught up in the outrageousness of a simple card game. Folks who wouldn’t otherwise bother with bringing out a game box at a party, who left card games like rummy or Uno behind with their childhood, found themselves eager to be both amused and shocked by Cards Against Humanity.
The concept is easy to grasp. Players all draw from a deck of cards that each have a person, place or thing named on it. One player, who is the “judge” for that round, draws and reveals a single card from a deck of cards printed with phrases with fill-in-the-blanks. The other players each give the judge a card (face down) that might fit the topic card. The judge then decides which player gave the best or most amusing answer, and the next round is played with a new judge. As the title “Cards Against Humanity” suggests, many cards, which include sexual and scatological references, are as disturbing as they are funny.
But it might surprise some CAH fans that this style of party game is hardly a new concept, best exemplified by the 1999 hit Apples to Apples. Easy to find in stores, with thousands of cards in its licensed variations – and more safe to play with kids – the game has players playing their Red Apple cards, with nouns, to match Green Apple cards, with adjectives. Of course, with devious enough players, Apples to Apples games can also push the boundaries of political correctness. For instance, you could play “Adolph Hitler” on “Visionary” – accurate, though no one cared for his visions. Our favorite winning combo in a game I played was “Helen Keller” for “Touchy-Feely.”
The enterprising dark souls who came up with CAH (which can also now stand for Crabs Adjust Humidity, a renegade version of the game now making the rounds) were not alone in using the Apples template to set up their game. It’s illegal to copy directly, which means you have to get inventive:
- “Crappy Birthday” declares the rotating judge to be the birthday boy or girl, and the single set of cards are potential bad presents, of which the receiver must pick the worst. Since one person’s get-that-away-from-me is another’s I-want-that-now, the game now has a “Happy Birthday” variant.
- “Snake Oil” has the judge drawing a card that is his or her persona – a cheerleader, undertaker, or Santa Claus, for example – and the others use their cards to come up with innovations they need to sell. The anonymity factor is taken out, but if a group are good enough friends, hopefully one won’t be too guilty of playing favorites.
- “The Big Bang Theory Party Game” includes quotes and odd things said on the hit sitcom, played out in Apples to Apples style. No actual knowledge of the show is necessary; this is not a trivia game. The game mechanics add a “Bazinga!” card that changes the goal card that everyone played their cards to match, and also adds scoring chips that allow the second-, third- and fourth-best answers to also get points, rather than just choosing only one winner each round.
These are just a few of the variations. Note that none of the three above or CAH (either version) are by the same company that produces Apples to Apples. Personally, I’d recommend getting the big “apple crate” version of the original game to get yourself and your friends hooked. Then, try the others. If your tastes and friends are like “R”-rated movies, go for CAH. Perhaps pick up the Big Bang version, and use its scoring chips to make Apples more interesting.
Only one warning: These games get so addictive, your party guests might lose all track of time until every card in the box is exhausted. You better get extra snacks.