Cards Against Humanity's Creators Share Six Games to Tear Your Family Apart
The warm, fuzzy feelings of the holiday season last until the exact moment you’re forced into the same room as your loved ones for hours on end. In such close quarters, even an innocent game of Go Fish or Battleship can devolve into an intrafamily war—and that’s before you break out the dreaded Monopoly board.
There are, of course, games that don’t even pretend to be wholesome. Take Cards Against Humanity. It’s a bawdy take on Apples to Apples in which the question “What’s that smell?” can be answered with “A beached whale,” “All-you-can-eat shrimp for $4.99,” and hundreds of other card phrases and pop-culture references that are far less safe for work.
For the past two years, the game’s eight creators have pooled their pitch-black senses of humor to create card combinations so mortifying that you can almost feel your grandmother’s disapproving gaze as you read them. But the best way to win, says co-creator Eli Halpern, is to push grandma’s feelings aside and “dissect human psychology to the point where nothing is funny anymore and you feel neither happiness or sadness.”
Although its premise may strike your relatives as singularly depraved, Cards Against Humanity isn’t the only game with the power to perturb and alienate. Eli and fellow co-creator David Munk shared with us six other games guaranteed to turn friends into frenemies and frenemies into strategic corporate partners.
1. Story War
Story War is a battle of wits in which the most creative storytellers reign supreme. In each round of the game, players are dealt brightly illustrated cards with a new mythical character, powerful item, and fantastical setting. “They must ingeniously incorporate these devices into a narrative that convinces the judge that their character has triumphed in battle over the others,” Eli explains. “If this isn't the game to destroy friendships, I don't know what is."
The premise of Hanabi sounds innocent enough: “Race against the clock to build a dazzling fireworks finale.” But don’t take the game lightly, warns Eli, as “the slightest misstep can cause everything to explode and do irreversible cosmetic damage to your face.” (He’s kidding—we think.) Players must organize their firework cards numerically and by color, but “the catch is that no one can see their own cards—only those of the other players.” It all comes down to soliciting hints from around the table to figure out what you’re holding. “It’s a great way to lose all trust and respect for the mental faculties of your friends and familiars.”
Based on the culturally pervasive books and HBO series, the Game of Thrones board game “lets you take control of one of the great houses and vie for the fate of Westeros right on your dining-room table,” David says. “It plays like a more complex love child of Diplomacy and Risk—two celebrated members of the Family-Destroying Hall of Fame.” The game may take hours to wrap up, but therein lies the seeds of opportunity. “With an average play time of more than 180 minutes,” David explains, “you can look forward to suppressing your seething resentment for hours.”
The Resistance bills itself as “a very intense social deduction game.” Eli helpfully translates that to “a fancier version of Mafia or Werewolf.” There are resistance operatives who pit themselves against an evil empire, and then there are imperial spies hellbent on sabotaging the resistance. “The game fosters a general atmosphere of suspicion necessary for all friendships to flourish,” Eli says.
In Betrayal at House on the Hill, your group wanders together through a haunted mansion discovering rooms and collecting items—“until,” says David, “one of you inevitably turns against the rest in dramatic fashion.” Just to keep things interesting, there are 50 different betrayal scenarios that involve everything from alien abductions to killer plants. “Be prepared for this game to sow seeds of animosity among your friends—seeds that will grow and blossom into hate bushes that will bear the sweet, sweet fruit of broken friendships."
6. An Account of Peter Coddle's Visit to New York
You won’t have much luck finding a mint version of this vintage game, which dates back to 1890. It follows a country boy’s shenanigans in the Big Apple, and Eli describes it as “basically Mad Libs with the sensibility of Cards Against Humanity—if Cards Against Humanity existed in the Gilded Age.” With card phrases such as "an intoxicated clam," "a Dutch farmer," and "a vast oyster stew," the game seems to be a not-so-distant relative of Cards Against Humanity. Just to be safe, let’s make sure they don’t spend too much time in the same room.
Emily Wachowiak is a Chicago-based writer and editor.