Cards Against Humanity has become a mainstay of dorm life. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and be a little raunchy while you’re at it, but it’s not for everyone and it can certainly get old.
Whatever the reason you have for putting this classic card game back on the shelf, here are some games, in no particular order, to play instead of Cards Against Humanity. These games have been chosen for their player count and ease of teaching to others, as well as the ways they do what good games do: encourage players to be creative and have fun.
This game may remind you of charades because of the need to act things out, but that’s where the similarities end. Each player is dealt 10 cards from which they pick their favorite five. All the chosen cards get compiled into the play deck and the rest are returned to the box. Each player gets one minute to get their team to guess as many cards as they can, and they can use as many words, sounds and gestures as they want — for the first round.
After all cards have been guessed, the next round begins with the same cards but this time, only one word can be used. That word can be repeated as many times as desired, but no sounds or gestures are permitted. Then in the third round, no words can be used but gestures are highly encouraged. And extra rounds can be added on top of that including: only sounds, only facial expressions or whatever else you can think of.
Beyond being open to interpretation, the game is college budget friendly. While it can be purchased, the cards are publicly available to be printed and cut out if you’re feeling thrifty. Or, you could even copy down the list of cards and cut them out to create your own deck/hat of subjects. Monikers asks everyone to get creative, get silly and think outside the box, and is overall a wonderful alternative to Cards Against Humanity.
A Fake Artist Goes to New York
Just like Monikers, this can be purchased as an official set or played with nearby resources. This is a hidden-role game, meaning one person will be the fake artist trying to fit in and everyone else will be trying to figure out who it is.
This is a drawing game that may work great on your run-of-the-mill dorm whiteboard, but would also be great on paper. Each player gets a marker with a unique color and then a card that they keep secret. One player’s card will say that they are the fake artist and everyone else’s will have the same thing written on it. That “thing” is what the artists will be working to draw together.
The players will take turns drawing one line ― a line meaning that they do not lift their marker ― until everyone has added two lines. The fake artist will also go but they will not know what is being drawn. After everyone has drawn two lines, a vote is conducted and if the fake artist receives the most votes, the real artists win. However, the fake artist then gets one guess at what the drawing is, and if they guess correctly, they win instead. So a dilemma is formed in trying to keep the image abstract while also trying to demonstrate that you know what the drawing is. A Fake Artist Goes to New York demands creativity and originality, making it worth a try over Cards Against Humanity.
Once again, this game can be played with an official set or can be made with things you have around. Each player will have four cards: three with flowers and one with a skull. A round starts with all players putting one card of their choice face down in front of them. Then, you go around the table with each player either placing another card or saying a number representing how many cards from around the table they think they can reveal without hitting a skull.
Doing this starts the bidding and anyone at the table can raise them by saying a higher number. Once the highest bidder is determined, that player must first reveal all of their cards; if any is a skull they lose. If not, they reveal anyone else’s card from around the table, one at a time, counting as they go. If they can reach the number they bet they could, they get 1 point. But if they reveal a skull at any point, they immediately stop and have one of their cards discarded at random. If they lose all four of their cards, they are out of the game.
Additionally, each time they lose a card ― the chance to lose their skull ― their only way to get others out gets greater. The first player to 2 points wins. Skull is bluffing in its purest form and may be more of an alternative to poker than Cards Against Humanity. But with rules this simple, there’s no easier way to learn your neighbors’ poker faces.
This is the only game of the four on this list that requires purchasing the game (unless you are quite crafty). In Wavelength, one player sees a card with opposites on it such as wet and dry or clean and dirty. They spin a needle to a random point between these and secretly reveal it to themselves. They then provide one word to their team to use to guess where the needle is on the spectrum between the opposites.
This is the beauty of the game. With the needle usually finding itself in the gray area, a surprisingly intimate understanding of each others’ thought processes is needed to deduce what the person means. Where does “socks” go on a scale of wet to dry? How dirty is spaghetti? Wavelength is another social game that will make you forget that you were supposed to be keeping score because of how interesting and entertaining it is. More importantly, what other game will make you concerned about how wet your roommate thinks socks are supposed to be?
I hope this helps you find something to play with those around you: dorm neighbors, new club members, a study group or whomever you want to play a game with. Lastly, something to keep in mind if you are so inclined to purchase any of these is that game stores exist in Madison and the surrounding area (such as Netherworld Games on West Mifflin St.) that may be worth looking into rather than ordering from large companies!
Honorable Mentions: Cockroach Poker, Medium, Dixit, One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
Jeffrey Brown is an Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal. He also writes for the Beet.