Why Cards Against Humanity is bad game design
Have you ever played Cards Against Humanity? You know, the game that always seems to get brought up in your circle of friends at someones place? Well, I have a somewhat controversial opinion about it.
Cards Against Humanity sucks.
I don’t mean its so called “edgy humor” gets boring after a short period of time (it does) but that there could be a better explanation for why I am not a fan of this game and why I believe, in general, its bad game design.
In order to seek out the problems of this game, we need to first understand the rules of the game. The rules are as follows:
- Each player draws 10 white cards
- One player draws a black card
- The black card is read aloud with blank space(s)
- Each player submits a white card to fill in the blank
- The player who drew the black card reads each white card aloud replacing the blank space(s) of the black card
- The player who drew the black card picks their favorite white card
- The player who submitted the winning white card gets a point
Pretty simple ruleset. Anyone can pick up the game and play it in a matter of minutes. So whats the problem?
Problem 1: Subjectivity
Let me paint this picture by describing a common scenario while playing.
You are playing with a group of friends, and one of them has to draw a black card and decide which of the white cards laid down is their favorite. Your hand kind of sucks and you’ve been throwing away cards the past few rounds to try and draw something good. However, the black card drawn matches perfectly with one of your cards. “Finally”, you think to yourself, “I can get a point!“. You lay down your card and wait for the player to read them aloud. They read your card aloud and are mildly amused. “I have a chance” you tell yourself with some excitement. The only excitement you’ve had all game. Then, it happens. What I like to call the Trump card. Its the card that will always get a laugh. The card that will always win. The player reads the card aloud and everyone laughs. You know you’ve lost. The player picks the Trump card and you lose the round. “Dafuq” you say out loud. “What does ‘dead prostitutes in your basement’ have anything to do with Batman’s utility belt?”
There lies one of its problems. Subjectivity.
It doesn’t matter if your card is the funniest, or the most clever. It doesn’t matter if it fits the black card perfectly. All that matters is if the reader thinks its funny.
Problem 2: Restricted Answers
Subjectivity in and of itself isn’t such a bad thing but what makes it worse is that you are beholden to your own cards. You are restricted to play what you think will get a rise out of your friends. The shitty white cards in your hand is the ceiling to success in this game of subjective humor.
Imagine playing a whole game without the Trump card. You know, the dead prostitutes or something like that. Imagine looking at your hand and then looking at the black card and thinking to yourself, I got nothing. You are not excited to see your card pulled. You kind of want the round to be over. There is no hope. This is a throw away round. You are not having fun. Or maybe you are but this game isn’t helping.
Solution: Bring in Objective Rules and Open Answers
There is another game that actually does this. It has a very similar set of rules but it does two things differently: The rules for winning are objective and the answers are determined by what you write down from the sick thoughts in your head. That game is called “Things” or as we like to call it, “Things in a box”. The rules are as follows:
- Each round a player draws a card
- That player reads that card aloud
- Every other player writes down an answer on a piece of paper
- They toss their answer into a pile or some box in the middle
- The player who drew the card reads each answer aloud, twice
- They can not be read again so memory is important
- Each player tries to guess who wrote which answer
- You are awarded a point for being correct
- If your answer was guessed correctly, eliminated for the rest of the round
- The round ends until one person is left or until the rest of the players suffer alzheimers and forgets the rest of the answers
This game is very similar to Cards Against Humanity except, points are awarded by guessing who wrote what. Its fun guessing who wrote what as well as trying to trick the other players into guessing the wrong person. There’s even a little more strategy involved. There is no subjectivity to it. You are either right or wrong. So you won’t feel cheated when you fail to earn any points for that round.
You are also not restricted to what answers you can play. You can write anything you want. The answers are not limited to what you have in your hand. This opens up the game to be more creative. If your friends are anything like mine, you can expect some pretty hilarious answers and it would put Cards Against Humanity to shame in its vulgar humor.
Here is an even better way to add enjoyment. You can add a side pot of points for the funniest answers to have some bragging rights at the end. Winning the game is fun but winning the game and having the funniest answers is even better.
Now, you have a game that encourages jokes making the experience that much more enjoyable.
Cards Against Humanity is bad game design mostly for the way it makes you feel at the end of a round you lose. When I compare losing in “Things” vs losing in “Cards Against Humanity”, I feel like I had more fun in the former. I don’t feel cheated. I don’t feel like I was restricted. I don’t feel like I was at the mercy of the reader. I feel like I had a fair chance but most importantly I actually want to play again. That is simply what makes a good game.
So no, I will not play Cards Against Humanity with you.