So You Have A Cards Against Humanity Set…
Normally, I write about video games, but today I want to talk about a card game.
Cards Against Humanity is an awesome game for terrible people. The third expansion of Cards Against Humanity was released this week, and I know that I will be spending the next few weekends wearing out my new cards by putting them in horrible combinations.Over the past year, I’ve run many different games for many different types of people. The game is easy to learn and takes very little set up, so it is great for parties or anytime more than three people are hanging out together. Even though it is a simple game to play, I have found little shortcuts, tips, and house rules that I’ve learned through experience that I’d like to share with you.
If you aren’t aware of Cards Against Humanity, you answer the questions on the black cards with the white cards in your hand. When it is your turn, you get to judge which answer best fits the question. There is a free download and print version on their website, but I’d suggest you pick up a copy here. In fact, pick up all the expansions while you’re at it. Wait until Amazon has them in stock though. The core game will cost $25, and $10 for the expansions, but the impatient will pay three times that amount on eBay. If you sign up for their newsletter they’ll keep you in the loop of when they restock, as well as special offers (more on that later).
If the core game is sold out, look at buying the three expansions. Combined they’ll give you almost as many cards as the core game and it will come out to a little over the same price. Ideally though, you’ll want to start with the core game.
Everyone Remembers Their First Time
For your first game of Cards Against Humanity, follow the rules laid out in the instructions. Get an understanding of how the game flows, and more importantly what stops the game. The box says between 4 and 20 can play at…one…time, oh I just got that. Well assuming that’s not a subtle weed joke, I like to keep my Cards Against Humanity sessions to an ideal 5-6 people. Any more and the game slows down to a crawl.
For your first game, try to get people that have the same sense of humor as you do. Don’t test this game out with strangers who could be easily offended, since the only thing that slows down a Cards Against Humanity session faster than too many people is a religious/political/abortion debate in the middle of a hand. Have fun exploring your deck with your friends. When you run out of white cards though, stop. The white cards are your punch lines, and like all good punch lines, you get diminishing returns each time you use them in a night.
Occasionally you will get a black card that requires more than one answer. Normally, with only one answer you can gather up the cards and shuffle them. I usually have the judge look the other way while the other players place their cards face down. In this case, people need to know the order in laying down their cards. The best way I have found is to demonstrate it visually. For example: “Lifetime presents ‘blank’ (I set my left hand on the table), the story of ‘blank’ (I set my right hand on the back of my left hand). You will see people putting their hands on top of each other before they put their cards down, but it does work.
Curate your deck
This is probably the one piece of advice that will ensure that you have many great games. The guys who made Cards Against Humanity have some great and disturbing ideas, but not all the cards are winners. My friends and I would never use the “Judge Judy” card, and the psych student in me loves the “Object permanence” card, but no one else knows what it means. The rules state that if someone doesn’t know what a card means they can admit their ignorance to the group, but that either causes the player to not care about the admission or just play the card anyway and hope for the best. Not every card is going to line up with your sense of humor, so sorry “Riding off into the sunset” I think you’re great, but I haven’t found the right black card for you yet.
The goal of a properly curated deck is to make sure you’re not sitting round after round with the same cards. As you play more games, pay attention to what cards people say they don’t like. If you hear it enough times, get it out of there. I have a full expansion box full of cards that just won’t get played or I find myself explaining over and over. This goes for both white and black cards, but give them a chance first. I have won with “Geese” more times than I care to admit because its kind of like bidding one dollar on The Price is Right. For this alone I keep it in my deck.
Every time I play with new people, I give the same speech. I deal out my cards, but instruct the players to not pick them up. I explain that the black cards will ask a question, and the white card will try to answer the question or fill in the blank. After the premise is explained, I then flip over the top black card (I usually put “______, that’s how I want to die.” at the top because that is a good introduction). After reading the card out loud, I then invite the players to pick up their cards. They already have the question in their head and picking up a full hand of potential answers will cause everyone to laugh and cut the tension of learning a new game. It also serves the game better as it provides the set-up first instead of the punch lines.
After the question is asked, I shuffle the answers in my hand and read the question each time with everyone’s cards. Reading their full statements out loud brings more life to the game. I usually have someone else who has played many times sitting next to me, so the new players get another example. I also ask them that they read the answers as a whole. It’s funnier to get set-up/punch, set-up/punch, set-up/punch, rather than set-up/punch/punch/punch. It normally takes one complete round before people get comfortable with the flow of the game.
We never play to the goal of seven black cards. We just play until we get to the end of the deck and then add up our black cards to determine the winner. Cards Against Humanity is not a competitive game, and declaring a winner every 20 minutes just slows the game down. Besides, the best part about Cards Against Humanity isn’t winning or losing, but getting your mother in law to say the words “A big black dick”. These are the general rules that I use:
- Everyone must vow to say the words out loud. (See the aforementioned, mother-in-law example.
- Having 7 white cards is ideal. However, if you’re playing with more than 6 people, bring the number of cards down. This way you’re not burning through white cards.
- A player can sacrifice a black card to allow ALL players to discard and redraw. This allows everyone to get some of the chaff out of their hands and try to get the all important “Geese” card.
- Instead of playing a card from your hand, you can elect to instead just play the next card from the answer pile. Ever notice how often people will say “Oh, this one is perfect!” after they’ve already drawn a card? This gives them a chance to shut up about it already.
- With each expansion, you get a certain number of blank black and white cards. Don’t use them right away. Instead what I do is get a pack of note cards and write my ideas down on them. Then I can play with real Cards Against Humanity cards to see how well they fit in. I do this for both white cards and the black cards which I find way more difficult to write.
- When you find something you want to go with, do not write it directly on the card unless you have clear handwriting. I use a label maker for my blank cards.
- While I’m talking about blank cards, don’t be afraid to throw in a few inside jokes. It will spice up your games when you have a close knit group of friends. Keep them separate from your deck though. Sure you and your friends love that phrase “Fuckin’ them Pop-Tarts™ up!” but that same card will clog up the hand of someone who is not in on the joke.
- Spread out your expansions. Get a few uses out of the core game, and then start rotating new cards in.
- Since you are dealing with hundreds of cards in a night, invest in a card shuffler. Be sure and shuffle your deck after every game so you don’t get clumps of the same cards in your next game.
- Get signed up with Cards Against Humanity’s news letter. You’ll be informed when the new expansions come out in addition to limited edition card offers. They have had a card pack specifically for Canadians as well as a holiday 2012 card pack. These limited time or limited region offers are the only time to get these cards, and unless you’re on their newsletter or following them on Twitter, you could be missing out.
That’s it! Maybe you’ll follow my advice, maybe you won’t. Just enjoy the game the way you want to enjoy it. I want to hear from you though. If you have any other tips, house rules or any of your custom cards, be sure to put them in the comments.