By AMANDA CASTRO-CRIST
When my husband and I first became friends, one of the many things that drew me to his family was game night.
No type was off-limits. The years passed in a blur of boards, cards, laughter and the occasional curse word. Guitar Hero, charades, Monopoly, sardines, Cranium, marbles, Risk; as long as someone knew the rules, we played it.
The one constant was my mother-in-law, Vicky. She joined us and managed to create an environment of fun and learning held together by the sometimes-twisted sense of humor we all share.
After she died, game nights stopped almost completely. But as the years passed, we slowly began playing games again. A new game, Apples to Apples, appeared.
In the game, players draw red cards containing nouns, pronouns or phrases. One player, the “judge” for the round, also draws a green adjective card.
Players choose a red card they think best fits the adjective. The person whose answer is deemed “best” by the judge wins the green card and becomes judge for the next round.
As I’ve said, our collective sense of humor sometimes is a bit dark, so you can see how the game would bring lots of laughter and groans. But it’s PG at most – something we would play with the younger siblings.
Then we found Cards Against Humanity.
The game is like the older, demented, sometimes profane brother of Apples to Apples. The idea is the same, but black replaces green while white replaces red. Black cards sometimes contain questions, with white cards acting as answers.
Other times, white cards fill in the blanks of a well-known phrase or jingle on a black card. The “judge” is now a “Card Czar.”
The game was released in 2011 and is sold only online. The original set comes with 90 black cards and 460 white cards.
Expansion packs keep the game current by adding people, events and other bits of popular culture. Those who would rather not pay for shipping and handling can download the game in its entirety for free from www.cardsagainsthumanity.com and print their own cards.
This game is not for the easily offended. The tagline on the website states, “Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.” It’s true.
Many of the questions and answers seem harmless enough, but it’s the combination of the two that take the game over the line. “What’s that sound?” could be “Sarah Palin” but it just as easily could be “Harry Potter erotica.”
No one or thing is spared. Politicians, celebrities, ethnicities, diseases, sexual orientation, foods, crimes, sex acts, recent tragedies and body parts are just the beginning. Blank cards in the expansion packs let you add your own awful questions and answers.
The game is what you make it and who you play it with. Many times, we laugh until our stomachs hurt not necessarily because of the cards, but the way the Card Czar read them. A suspension of delicate sensibilities is crucial to enjoying the game, especially if you want to win.
While I’m prone to try to answer as literally as possible, winning the game usually means taking off the gloves and answering with what would be considered the worst in normal conversations.
As horrible as the game can be, it’s the laughter we share that now makes it one of our go-to games. With all the expansion packs and seemingly endless cards, it’s not unusual for the game to go on for hours.
It reminds me of those long game nights with Vicky. I can picture her attempting to convey disapproval and trying to contain her laughter at a particularly offensive combination, just like she would when one of us would crack an off-color joke during Trivial Pursuit.
If you decide to try it, my advice is to play it with people you know well and who understand that while “Barack Obama” may be the answer to “What keeps you up at night?” in the game, you only played it because you knew the person reading it would do so hilariously and award you the card.
After all, there are a ton of other things that could keep you up at night. Like “testicular torsion.”