Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.
The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.
Cards Against Humanity
- Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people.
- Now version 2.0! Over 150 new cards since the last version.
- It contains 500 white cards and 100 black cards for maximum replayability.
- Includes a booklet of sensible game rules and preposterous alternate rules.
- America’s #1 gerbil coffin.
Eight high-school friends who created a profane, hilarious game are all grown up and have a thriving business. It has grossed millions. Only none of its creators is quitting his day job. What gives?
The creators of Cards Against Humanity are back for their annual Black Friday stunt, and this one is delightfully dystopian. Starting at 11 AM ET today and lasting for the next 16 hours, the human writers on the CAH team are facing off against an artificial intelligence to see who can create the most popular new pack of cards, based on how many people pay for more $5 packs. You can upvote or downvote your favorite cards for each side on CAH’s website before buying, and you can also watch the humans struggle to come up with new iterations in real-time over live stream.
On the line are $5,000 bonuses for every employee if team human comes up victorious, or heartless termination in the event the AI takes the top spot. We don’t think CAH actually plans to fire their writers if they lose, but it is a clever stunt nonetheless to drum up the human vs. machine narrative at a time when automation may pose a very real threat to millions of jobs in the coming decade, writing included.
It follows the company’s tradition of pulling Nathan For You-style capitalism parodies on the most commercial day of the American calendar year. Last year, CAH held a 99 percent off sale on a series of outlandish items like a 17th-century halberd and a 2015 Ford Fiesta with just 25,000 miles on it. (The company reportedly did ship some of the items in the sale, at least those that were sourced from its own office.) In 2013, the company raised the price of its card packs by 100 percent, just because it could.
“Black Friday probably represents the worst things about our culture,” Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin said in a statement last year. “It’s this really repulsive consumerist frenzy right after a day about being thankful for what you have. So it’s always seemed like a really good subject for parody to us.”
“Cards Against Humanity built a real neural network using a model created by OpenAI”
And in keeping with CAH’s absurd commitment to the gag, the AI isn’t just some random text generator. It’s a legitimate neural network, borrowed from the open-source GPT-2 model created by AI research company OpenAI and trained specifically to write CAH cards. The GPT-2 model is already trained on roughly 40,000 books worth of internet text to ensure it can reliably predict and fill out the next word or punctuation mark in a sentence with realistic effect. But then CAH went further and trained it using tens of thousands of its own cards.
“This was done by taking that pre-trained network and then training it further on the text of 44,000 white cards. That includes all (roughly) 2,000 cards in the official game, another 25,000 internal brainstorming cards that never made it into the game, and 17,000 unofficial cards from fan-curated lists,” reads the in-depth explanation of the AI on CAH’s website.
“We stopped the training once it could “consistently” produce cards matching the grammar and tone of the game,” it goes on. “We did this so it didn’t draw too much from already-written cards while still leveraging as much cultural information as possible.” After that, CAH ran a straightforward filtering algorithm to ensure it could pluck out AI-generated cards that matched its standard format and to avoid ones that were too similar to existing cards.
As it stands right now, the human team is narrowly beating out the AI by just $700 or so, with some gems like “Sucking all the oil out of the planet and fucking off to Mars” and “That whole Jeffrey Epstein thing.”
Cards against humanity how to play
Draw ten white cards each. You can only look at your own hand of cards. Leave the rest of the white “answer” cards and black “question” cards separated into face-down stacks.
You need at least four players to play Cards Against Humanity. There’s no upper limit to how many people can play, but it’s most fun with 6–8 players.
Play the first black card. The official rules say that the “person who most recently pooped” is the first “Card Czar.” (This might give you an idea of what the game will be like.) If you prefer, the person with the next upcoming birthday can go first instead. That player starts the round by turning over the top card in the black “questions” stack. Read the card aloud and leave it face-up on the table.
Have each other player choose a white answer card. The Card Czar waits while each other player chooses one card from their hand. The goal is to pick the funniest answer to the black question card, or the answer the Card Czar will like most. Put the selected white cards in a face-down pile. If the black card says “Pick 2,” choose two white cards from your hand. Keep them in the order the Czar should read them.
Shuffle and read aloud the answer cards. Now the Card Czar picks up the white answer cards and shuffles them, so no one knows who put down which card. Reread the black answer card, then read the white cards one by one, putting them face up on the table.
Choose the best answer. The Card Czar chooses their favorite answer to the question. The player who played the winning card gets one “Awesome Point.” The easiest way to track points is to give the black question card to the winning player.
All players can talk while the Card Czar is deciding, and try to influence the decision.
Set aside all the white cards from that round into a discard pile.
Start the next round. Each player draws back up to ten white cards. The person sitting to the Card Czar’s left becomes the Czar for the next round, picking a new black card.
Alternatively, you can appoint whoever won the last round as the new Czar. This doesn’t work well if there’s a newcomer in the group since it’s harder to win rounds if you don’t know the Czar’s style of humor.
Play until you’re sick of it. This is a casual, non-competitive game, and people usually play until they get tired of it. If you want a more defined endpoint, play until one player gets five points (or 7–10 for a longer game). Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
One fun way to end the game is to use the “haiku” black card for the final round. You don’t need to find the actual card: it just says “Make a haiku.” The other players each choose three cards from their hand to use as an answer.
Some players stop drawing new cards when they announce the end but keep playing until they run out of cards. This leads to (even more) absurd nonsense answers.
Cards Against Humanity was created by a group of eight Highland Park High School alumni, including Ben Hantoot and Max Temkin. Heavily influenced by the popular Apples to apple card game, it was initially named Cardenfreude (a pun on Schadenfreude) and involved a group of players writing out the most abstract and, often, humorous response to the topic question. The name was later changed to Cards Against Humanity, with the answers pre-written on the white cards are known today. Co-creator Ben Hantoot cited experiences with various games such as Magic: The Gathering, Balderdash, and Charades as inspiration, also noting that Mad Libs was “the most direct influence” for the game.
The game was financed with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and influenced by a previous crowd-funded campaign for a book on the design of the Obama campaign. The campaign started on December 1, 2010; it met its goal of $4,000 in two weeks. The campaign ended on January 30, 2011, and raised over $15,000; just under 400% of its original goal. With this additional money raised towards the game, the creators added fifty more cards to the game itself.
A black “question” card and a white “answer” card
To start the game, each player draws ten white cards.
According to the rule book provided with the game, the person who most recently pooped (a form of primitive randomization) begins as the “Card Czar” (or “Card Tsar”) and plays a black card, face up. The Card Czar then reads the question or fill-in-the-blanks phrase on the black card out loud.
The other players answer the question or fill in the blanks by each passing one white card (or however many required by the black card), face down, to the Card Czar.
The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers and shares each card combination with the group. For full effect, the Card Czar should usually re-read the black card before presenting each answer. The Card Czar then picks the funniest play, and whoever submitted it gets one “Awesome Point”.
After the round, a new player becomes the Card Czar, and everyone draws back up to 10 white cards.
The part of speech of a white card is a noun or gerund, including both single words and phrase constructions. Black cards are either fill-in-the-blank statements or questions. Both white and black cards break these rules on rare occasions.
The rules do not state how to win the game—the object being simply to have fun.
The rules in Cards Against Humanity are flexible and can be altered with the many house rules (which are listed in the rules) that players can incorporate (e.g. winning cards are chosen democratically, ability to trade points for cards, points given by ranks, etc.). The official rules include additional provisions for gambling previously won “Awesome Points” for the right to play additional white cards during a round.
Release and sales
A stack of Cards Against Humanity boxes at Fan Expo Canada 2013.
After six months of development, Cards Against Humanity was officially released in May 2011. A month later, it became the number one game on Amazon.com. Since its release, CAH has gradually become more popular and has seen a rise in sales throughout the years. The Chicago Sun-Times estimated that CAH earned at least $12 million in profit, and according to the company, customers have downloaded the PDF file 1.5 million times in the year since they began tracking the numbers.
In October 2011, the game was exhibited as part of the “Big Games” area of the annual IndieCade games festival in Culver City, where the release of a first expansion was announced. In November 2011, the expansion was released. It sold out in three days. The first expansion contained 100 new cards and 12 blank cards.
The base game cards are licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 license and can be downloaded at their website.
Black Friday promotions
Since 2013, the creators of Cards Against Humanity have held satirical promotions on Black Friday. In 2013, an “anti-sale” was held in which the game’s cost was raised by $5. Despite its higher price, the game went on to maintain its best-selling status on Amazon and experienced a minor spike in sales during that period.
In 2014, to “help you experience the ultimate savings on Cards Against Humanity”, the game and its expansions were removed from the online store and replaced by “Bullshit” boxes containing sterilized bull feces, sold at $6 each. Over 30,000 boxes were sold.
The 2016 Holiday Hole being dug
In 2015, the game’s online store was replaced by an order form with an offer to “Give Cards Against Humanity $5” and receive nothing in return. The offer was justified by claiming that “the greatest Black Friday gift of all is buying nothing. We’re offering that for the rock-bottom price of $5. How can you afford NOT to seize this incredible opportunity?”, and that what the money would be used for would be announced “soon” 11,248 customers spent $71,145 on the offer during the campaign. The money was ultimately divided equally among the Cards Against Humanity team members, who were asked to report back what they spent their money on. Many of them made donations to different charities.
For 2016, the creators began to live stream the excavation of a “Holiday Hole”, located in Oregon, Illinois and stated that they would continue to dig the hole as long as they continue to receive donations. The creators did not state any reason for the hole nor any planned use of the money, and explicitly ruled out charity in a FAQ by asking the reader, “why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.” $100,573 was collected. Later in the week, the hole was filled back in and reseeded.
Prior to Black Friday in 2017, a brand of potato chips known as Original Prongles (a parody of Pringles) were spotted in multiple Target stores, with packaging featuring a pig mascot and the slogan “Once You Pop… That’s Great!”. On Black Friday, the Cards Against Humanity website was redirected to OriginalProngles.com, which announced that the creators of Cards Against Humanity had exited the gaming industry in favor of snack food, with a commitment to “bold flavors and bold thinking”. In a FoxNews.com interview, Max Temkin and Josh Dillon (who referred to themselves as Prongles’ “chief flavor officers”) stated that Prongles and its pig mascot were inspired by U.S. President Donald Trump, adding that “if you love President Donald J. Trump, we guarantee you will love the tangy onion and thick cream flavors of Original Prongles. That’s why we promise to Make America CRUNCH AgaiN
In 2018, the creators held a “99 Percent Off Sale”, selling random items (such as a used 2015 Ford Fiesta, medieval weapons, and even cash) for 99% off, with a new item every 10 minutes. The creators stated that the promotion was “100% real and possibly a very bad idea.”
Expansions and additional products
Cards Against Humanity comes as a base set, with six separate commercially available expansions, nine themed packs, and one additional accessory. There are also three international editions and twenty limited availability releases.
On July 28, 2015, Cards Against Humanity announced a design-themed expansion pack, featuring 30 cards that were created by famous designers riffing on comedian George Carlin’s legendary “seven dirty words”. All proceeds were donated to the Chicago Design Museum.
In July 2017, a special edition of the base game, Cards Against Humanity For Her, was unveiled, in support of EMILY’s List—a U.S. political action committee that aims to help elect female pro-choice Democratic candidates to office. As a satire of the “pink tax”, it is exactly the same, except $5 more expensive and with a pink-colored box
Political involvement and the Nuisance Committee
In August 2016, Cards Against Humanity released two “America Votes” packs for the two presidential candidates: Vote for Hillary Pack and Vote for Trump Pack. Each pack contains 15 cards of jokes about the candidate. Designer Max Temkin said that the proceeds for both packs would go to the Clinton campaign regardless. The group began posting billboards under a political action committee called the Nuisance Committee. Temkin named the PAC after his grandfather who was a Jewish POW in World War II, who formed a “nuisance committee” to try to annoy their Nazi captors without getting killed. In September, the group posted a billboard in Chicago with the words: “If Trump is so rich, how come he didn’t buy this billboard?”. In October 2016, the Nuisance Committee posted a billboard in Dearborn, Michigan which was printed in Arabic text on a black background, reading “Donald Trump can’t read this, but he is scared of it”. An Overwatch-themed anti-Trump billboard was also posted in Orlando, Florida.
In November 2018, the Nuisance Committee posted billboards against incumbent Illinois representative Peter Roskam.
In mid-November 2017, the creators announced a campaign, Cards Against Humanity Saves America, in protest of the Trump administration and Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, arguing that Trump was “a preposterous golem who is afraid of anything. He is so afraid that he wants to build a $20 billion wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing.” It was revealed that the creators had purchased vacant land along the wall and “retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built”. It was also announced that those who make a $15 donation for the campaign would receive six “surprises” throughout December, including additional cards and a map of the aforementioned land plot. One of the surprises was the redistribution of the money paid, including 10,000 refunds, and issuing $1,000 cheques to 100 donors they determined to be the most in need.
The game was praised as “Simple, yet well-executed” by the Chicago Tribune “Puzzler”, “pretty amazing” by The A.V. Club, and “the game your party deserves” by Thrillist. However, in December 2015, the game received a rating of 6.48/10 in reviews on BoardGameGeek. The score earned it a ranking of 146 in party games.
Reviews note the similarity between Cards Against Humanity and the 1999 family card game Apples to Apples. The A.V. Club interview calls the game “a sort of Apples to Apples for the crass and jaded.” Criticism of the game stems from its enjoyment primarily depending on the number of players participating as well as many reviewers’ concern that its politically incorrect content may offend certain audiences.
In a letter of complaint to The New York Times Magazine, writer Dan Brooks argued:
Like America’s most successful brands, Cards Against Humanity positions itself against the masses, when in fact it is mass taste distilled. It is the product of a culture in which transgressing social norms has become an agreed-on social norm … Cards Against Humanity isn’t really transgressive at all. It is a game of naughty giggling for people who think the phrase “black people” is inherently funny … The awful thing is that it works. The reliability of Cards Against Humanity as an activity most people will enjoy only makes it more depressing to those of us immune to its charms. It is, in the end, a party game for horrible people. But who else is there to party with?
Brooks’ editorial received attention from media sources such as The A.V. Club and PJ Media.
In 2014 a 19-year-old from Boston, who identifies as a transgender man, posted a picture burning the card, “Passable transvestites.” After the post quickly spread, game creator Max Temkin apologized, saying “I regret writing this card, it was a mean cheap joke. We took it out a while ago”.
A 2016 analysis of the game showed a strong racial bias in the cards. One-fifth of the original card deck included answers involving race. Of those cards, only 11 percent of white cards were racially charged compared to 60 percent of black cards, 60 percent of Hispanic cards, 80 percent of Asian cards, and 100 percent of Native American cards. Cards were coded as “racially charged” if they spoke to a historical or contemporary oppressive event or stereotype, for example, “The Trail of Tears,” “The hard-working Mexican,” or “Helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis,” all of which are actual cards from the deck.
The game has also been criticized for its use of misogyny, rape, and child abuse for humor. Cards such as “Child abuse,” “This year’s mass shooting,” and “Holding down a child and farting all over him” remain in the original deck of the game. Jokes involving rape were pointed out early in the game’s history and were subsequently removed, but “Surprise sex!,” “Copping a feel,” and “Coathanger abortions” remain in the game