I’m no Matt Morgan, and I want to get that out of the way up front. Our resident Hobby Gaming expert knows the ins-and-outs of every game out there, while I don’t really know my Magics from my Gatherings. See, I don’t even know that’s one game, that’s how out of it I am. So when a card game manages to seep through into my consciousness, you know that it’s moved far past “early adopter” stage. “Cards Against Humanity” is one of those games, and it’s poised to break into the mainstream, big time.
We’ll get to how it’s played in a second, but the game has been sold out for months in the US, so when I saw a girl carrying a box on Friday…I was so tired, I neglected to ask her where she got it. Saturday at FanExpo, though, I was on a mission. I checked every booth, and at every booth I heard the same thing: we’re sold out. There were some rumors that the creator of the game had been at the Con the previous day, but no one knew for sure. Finally giving up, I decided to head to local gaming destination Snakes & Lattes’ pavilion to see if there was a copy available to try at least… When lo and behold, there was Daniel Dranove, one of the four creators of Cards Against Humanity, sitting in front of a large stack of Canadian editions of the game. Naturally, I decided to interview him.
“We never expected to sell it,” said Dranove, a relatively innocuous looking guy given how laugh out loud raunchy some of cards in the game are. “We were a bunch of friends out of middle school playing games over a decade together.” From there, the group of 25 year olds started modding their own games, including a game that “kind of sucked” called Hypertheticals.
The second game they developed? “Cards Against Humanity,” which the group put online for free. As interest grew in the game, the gang headed to Kickstarter to try to make a physical version. They asked for $4,000, and do to the support of the Kickstarter community, got over $15,000 by the end of their campaign. “We were originally planning on doing a printing in cardboard boxes, like sports cards boxes,” said Dranove. But with the extra funds, the group was able to treat CAH as if it was “real game.” Then it was to Amazon to sell the game, which helped, but there was one moment Dranove credits the most for the game’s success: a fan took a photo of the game – a self printed copy, as you can still download and print the game for free online – and posted it on the front page of Reddit.
It’s also interesting to note that one of the most distinctive aspects of CAH, other than the content and gameplay, of course, is the graphic design. Simple, neat, and completely recognizable in the center of a slew of other table top games, CAH is certainly more than just a simple cardboard box. “We got Max Temkin and Ben Hatton, two really good designers,” said Dranove. “It’s very simple… But from a design perspective it’s never simple. It’s a cool looking set!”
As for the success of CAH, Dranove never expected a game he made with four friends would become his full-time job. “It’s better than any job I’ve ever had,” said Dranove.
But that begs the question, for those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about, how do you play Cards Against Humanity? “We’ve got tons of white cards, and black cards,” said Dranove, walking us through the game. “The white cards have funny phrases, but it’s not a full sentence, it’s a noun. So, ’land mines’ is a white card, ’parents,’ or ’jerking off into a pool of children’s tears’. Those are white cards. Then we’ve got black cards, that are fill in the blanks, like, ’A class field trip is completely ruined by BLANK’. You take turns filling in the black cards, and you’ve got a hand full of white cards, and you answer with whatever is funniest. So, ’A class field trip is completely ruined by land mines’. The questioner choses their favorite answer, and that person wins the round!”
The game has proved so popular that they’ve already released an expansion set with new black and white cards, and will be announcing a second expansion set soon. “We’re living all over the country now, but when we write the expansions, we get everybody to fly in and stay in a house that we rent out for a couple of days,” said Dranove. “We got this nice place, and then spent the whole time inside arguing about what poop jokes to put in the game.”
He added that for the second expansion, the group got in a, “Sour mood… We have a lot of violence, and sex, and death in this one,” noted Dranove. “The Heat Death of the Entire Universe, Turning Into A Blueberry… That’s some of our white cards.”
We then asked whether they’d be interested in doing a theme deck, or some sort of licensed property. “We want to do themed expansions, but the challenge is not just to come up with a poop joke, it’s to come up with something funny that also works with all of the questions,” said Dranove. “We have all the cards up in our heads, but even for us it’s a slow process.”
Because of that, further expansions won’t be coming any time soon, but it’s on the radar. “We want to do a nerdy one,” said Dranove. “We were called the Nerd Herd in high school!”
You can buy “Cards Against Humanit”y – or download or print it out for free – on their website.