Monday, July 20, 2015

Old Days, New Days

Here's a comment I just banged out for a io9 article asking how a field has changed over the years. I'm posting it here as well because Kinja never sponsors my comments; maybe more eyes'll reach it on my home turf.

In my early days of hobbyist tabletop gaming, 25 years ago, there was a established structure to the whole industry that supported it. Most hobby games were produced by full-time companies with a few dozen employees (Avalon Hill, TSR, GDW, White Wolf) with both full-time offices and contracted free-lancers. Designs were produced in-house, finished product was distributed through local game stores or mail-order catalogs. The only source of information on games and their designers was through physical access to them (meeting/playing at a convention) or information filtered through a handful of monthly professional print magazines (Dragon, White Dwarf), usually house organs for the company that published them. All of which enforced a top-to-bottom flow of influence. And the industry was still reacting (arguably over-reacting) to the twin precedents of Dungeons & Dragons’ sudden early-80’s faddish popularity and the Satanic Panic that followed. Between that and the delay in audience/designer communication, design trends were slow to advance, innovation was seen as risky and product tended to ne self editted to keep it family-friendly. There was also a lower fan-directed level of the hobby, of fanzines, APA’s, amateur press magazines and small-press game publishers, more willing to experiment, but also severely restricted by the high costs of formatting and printing, and the difficulty of getting access to the distribution network.

Then the Internet happened. A lot of grognards thought it would kill the hobby, but instead it's made it thrive better than it ever did before.

Those venerable old companies mentioned above are now out-of-business, collapsed under the weight of their own high-volume/low-variety business models, and there are no more print magazines. In their place are hundreds of small imprints, individual designers and artists supporting a constant flow of day-to-day communication through blogs and various social media (game designers have particularly taken to G+). PDF stores and desktop publishing have almost entirely eliminated production costs so anyone with the time can publish a game, and even those who want to offer dead-tree product can make use of Print-on-Demand services and Kickstarter to mitigate costs. 3D printers are on the way to doing the same for physical components. In the Role-Playing field, several Open Source systems have given venues for aspiring writers to market content (heck, a whole new genre, OSR, sprung from one Open Game License). With so many dedicated gamers finally able to talk to each other directly, deep critical examination of game design has expanded and innovative designs have taken off (Fate, Burning Wheel, sooo many boardgames).

On the surface, hobbyist tabletop gaming is superficially the same as it was decades ago, but the structure supporting and producing it has changed entirely. For much the better, I think.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Orson Welles School of Game-Mastering

Go watch This Video. It 'll make you run better role-playing games.

It's a documentary short, "F for Fake (1973) - How to Structure a Video Essay." I'm ... not entirely sure what the creator means by the term "video essay." Like most creations discussing the process of creation, unspoken assumptions and undefined terms clutter much of the landscape.

"Its just a typical variation of the Obtuse November Horse theme ... y'know, like anyone would recognize." 

Regardless of its intention, there's two great ideas in this essay with great applications to tabletop role-playing. (granted, more for a narrative style of play; the ideas may fit poorly with a game in a more old-school sandbox style.)

First is "Therefore/But." In any sort of chronicle built from scenes, its an easy mistake to just string those scenes along in an "...and then..." chain, where the order of progression doesn't matter and nothing really builds. Walking your character through town encountering a series of NPC's, experiencing their quirks and pumping them for rumors then trundling on to the next can feel like a trudge through a daily errand list, no matter how colorful those NPC's are. But if every scene has a consequence, a "Therefore ..." or a "But ..." at the end that changes how the character will interact with the next scene, it turns the events into a building drama. Put another way, "Therefore" equals Opportunity, "But" equals Consequence. You approach the Bailiff, offer him a drink, therefore (opportunity) he considers you an ally in his coming bid for re-election. You cross the neighborhood to talk to a pickpocket you know, end up saving him from some drunk mercenaries, but (consequence) get marked for later vengeance by the mercenaries.  Tie some strings between the Opportunities and Consequences of few scenes like that, you get conflicts to resolve and a narrative direction to follow, rather than just a series of incidents.

Consequence or Opportunity? Depends whether or not you're in the truck.

Second is "Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch..." The resolution of a story is almost always enhanced by the anticipation of that resolution, so you want to tease out the resolution a bit to maximize that anticipation. How do you tease it out? By jumping to another story just as the first one hits a milepost, and then teasing out the resolution of the second story by switching back to the first story, or even yet another story. Keep that up, and the audience gets to enjoy a lot of anticipation. In a role-playing context, this means you don't introduce the Evil Mastermind, set up a fight against the Evil Mastermind then defeat the Evil Mastermind all in one go. Much better to have some other evolving situation (daresay, something spawned by a Consequence or Opportunity) press into the gaps between those big beats. The Evil Mastermind appears ... but the Mayor wants to cut the Superhero Team's funding! The Evil Mastermind launches his great attack ... therefore the Mayor says superheroes are a menace! In this particular example, you're also trading between different flavors of challenge, the direct physical menace of the Evil Mastermind and the more mysterious machinations of the Mayor, contrasting them against each other. This is particularly salient to role-playing because, thanks to the objective-directed war-gaming origins of the medium, staying focused on the current crisis through to its bitter end is precisely how most scenarios were traditionally structured. Of course, advice intended for authorship isn't going to translate directly to the communal narrative-building of role-playing, but its a fruitful idea to start from.

I'm pretty sure this is all "Scriptwriting 101" and probably some version of it has already appeared in a dozen smart and hip gaming texts already, but this video lays out these great ideas directly and concisely.

This post felt incomplete without at least one more picture, so here's a context-defying psychedelic witch.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dreamation 2015: The Post-Con Summation

Note, I just posted this on G+, but for the handful of folks who follow me here and not there, here's a re-post.

First, much thanks to the folks I shared a room with: Mikael Andersson, Ephraim Gregor, Jeff Lees and the travelling Swedes, Angelika and Cristoffer Rusthoi. You were all cool people I was happy to spend time with and made what could have been a cramped situation instead pleasantly snug. Thanks especially for putting up with the hacking and sneezing from the cold I carried with me.

Thursday: I arrived just in time to catch the evening demo of All Quiet on the Martian Front in the Miniatures room, run by Joseph Johnson. I liked the WWI-era vehicle models and I’m a fanatic for anything inspired by War of the Worlds, but unfortunately I found actual game play terribly unbalanced; the single opposing Martian tripod barely suffered a dent as it speedily demolished my American tank squadron, plus a second squadron of reinforcements I was granted to try to make the game more satisfying. That’s definitely in the tradition of Well’s original story, but it’s not very interesting to play out in turn-by-turn inevitability.

Fun detail: in the fiction those tanks are all steam-powered, because gasoline engines and martian heat rays turned out to be too volatile a mix. 

Afterwards I jumped into a tournament of Pitchcar, a dexterity game where wooden pucks are competitively ricocheted by strategic finger-flicks around the twists, turns chutes and ramps of a three-dimensional track. In the three-lap race I finished very nearly last but enjoyed it all the same. Then, after a spot of video pinball, I called it a night.

Not pictured: scrambling under the table to find your car when you inevitably fling it off the track.

Friday: Up early to play Lasers & Feelings run by Alden Strock, a rare chance to experience one of John Harper’s super-elegant RPG designs as a player. I was “7-Krax-7”, the Android Pilot all about Laser-based solutions with an obsession for breaking speed records. Other players were the sexy Riker-esque scientist (played by sexy Riker-esque game designer Tim Rodriguez), the Savvy Engineer who achieved acting captain status via rock-paper-scissors, the Dangerous Doctor with a galaxy-sized moral blind spot and the somewhat reformed aspiring despot Alien Scientist. Our crew romanced giant crustaceans, fought pirates, broke the letter of Consortium law in the name of the spirit (and convenience of the moment), flew so fast we arrived before we departed and declared a war then surrendered in record time.

In the afternoon slot, I ran Stars Without Number for four players using my new “Sweetwater Shores” scenario. The PC’s landed their battered ship of dubious recent history at an anti-matter refinery / black market hub for desperately needed repairs and soon ran afoul of the various factions manifest in the station. Gang wars were started, psychic artifacts unearthed and the decadent ruling class ejected into deep space. A grand and satisfying time was had by all.

Of the two covers available, I prefer this one.

In the evening, I ran into the delightful Natalia Granger and played a couple of her fun demos of the card game Spellcaster. Then it was back down to the miniatures room to try Warmachine for the first time, presented by Kirk Brunstetter. A much more satisfying experience than the last mini game (my Cygnar warband maneuvered around the opposing Khador team until finally seizing an opening to take out their warcaster) followed by some interesting conversation about how the minis hobby is starting to change and diversify much like RPG’s did a few years ago.

Saturday: Up early yet again to jump into Questlandia presented by Evan Rowland. I and four other players (Evan chose to run this potentially GM-less session as a director rather than playing himself) brewed up a Kingdom set on a far-off planet largely ignorant of its ancient colonial origins. Technological remnants were viewed as magic, priestly orders maintained them but only those with noble blood (laced with hereditary nanotech) could actually operate the devices. But, the blood had degraded and now was spreading as a STD through the commoners and sending society out of balance. The personal drama between a traditionalist monk, the monk’s sickly heiress student trapped in a bio-suit, the heiress’s estranged courtesan, that courtesan’s relic-hunting brother and a amoral scientist (played by the same guy who was a amoral scientist in the Lasers & Feelings game) turned out to be the trigger that precipitated the collapse of the kingdom. Our legacies would be a bittersweet rise of survivor nations and teachings twisted by the centuries. I enjoyed the game and the world-building it spawned; I like any game where big sweeping setting construction is part of the fun (in fact I always feel a little deflated when such games step back down to the mere character-scale perspective). Still I think there are parts in Questlandia open to refinement. Some of the processes could be more elegant; there’s a lot of tracking bits. And I felt strain from maintaining a vast Kingdom-wide perspective while still playing a single mortal-scale character. I found myself wishing for Microscope’s approach of making up quick character’s relevant to the current situation, rather than having to keep justifying why my Bio-suited heiress kept pinging from one pivotal encounter after another. Still, I’ll happily play Questlandia in its current form again.

In the afternoon, I was back in the miniatures room again. I didn’t originally plan to keep sliding up to the battle tables, but there were always slots available at the minis games and I found the parlor-like atmosphere and craftsman’s attitude (as opposed to role-playing’s more Auteur-minded tone) refreshing. This time it was Bolt Action, WWII tank battles presented by Joseph Johnson. It was a fast-playing game, letting I and two other players march through four simple scenarios in under 90 minutes. Zipping my Allied Shermans down the streets of a North African village, trying to roll out of cover to blast German Tigers before they did the same to me was quite satisfying; it was also fun just playing with the large-scale, highly detailed tank models.

In the early evening, I decided to try out the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game for the first time (unfortunately, the program doesn’t tell me who was running it). I’d heard it described as a condensed role-play experience, and was curious to sample its appropriateness for some folks I know looking for an introduction to RPG’s. It didn’t really meet that expectation, it turned out to be mainly a cooperative scenario-beater with a lot of group tactics, resource swapping and some light deck-building and no discernable role-playing as I recognize the term. I still enjoyed the experience though, and got to play with 
Asphesteros Felleye, which I don’t get to do often enough.

In the late evening I was scheduled to run Blood & Bullets, a succinct Wild West RPG derived from Swords & Wizardry created by Simon Washbourne. I was really looking forward to this; I submitted the game largely on a whim, to bring exposure to a less well-known OSR game, but unexpectedly found a resonance with the frontier trappings and genre tropes while prepping. I was inspired to put some extra effort into prep, getting a reprinted 1890’s Montgomery Ward catalog to present to the players for gear ideas, and prepared a stack of home-bound rule booklets to give away. So I was crushed when, of the six sign-ups I had, only one actually showed. Of the five absentees, only one had the decency to cross their name off the sheet ahead of time (Kelly Vanda, who I sincerely thank for her conscientiousness). The other four manure-breathed bastards simply flaked out, leaving me to sit in growing agitation until finally at half-past start time with a still nearly empty table I called off the game. Barring they all died in the same car accident on the way to the con, I think what these four folks did is inexcusable. Not only does it waste my efforts, it cost the time of the one person who showed up expecting a table full of fellow players.

Advice: do not buy this Lulu print edition, go to the author's website and download the PDF, which has updates missing from the one pictured above:

Fortunately, Melissa Cohen happened along to soothe my rage and convince me the human race deserved to survive another day. At her suggestion, I tried out the LARP Top Secret Admirer presented by +Daniel Eison and had a pretty good time. Between that and Melissa’s boundless positive energy I got over my grump and ended the night in good spirits. (Melissa’s description of the game is far more thorough than I could manage; go read what she says about it in her Dreamation recap on G+.)

Sorry, its a LARP. They often don't have cover images. So here's some spy ponies on a date.

Sunday: Finally I got to sleep in a bit before checking out, sorting out luggage and forgoing morning gaming to make the rounds of the dealers and watch the drama of the auction. I even brought a stack of old games to sell, and was happily surprised to see all but one find a buyer.

For the last slot of the con, I ran Stars Without Number again. I’ve taken to regularly offering something for the final Sunday slot, because there always seems to be folks grateful for something outside the central Friday/Saturday rush, or who couldn’t make it for the rest of the con. I had four players, again in the “Sweetwater Shores” scenario, one of whom signed up because he enjoyed it so much when I ran SWN at the last con. Another player was a young lady entirely new to the OSR approach, who took to it with delighted enthusiasm. This was the fifth time I’ve run this scenario, and the first time I’ve seen a party deal with the challenges of Sweetwater station by agitating its economy. Heh.

This is the other cover. I like it less.

And after that, it was time to go home and finally start getting over my miserable cold.

Meeting & Greeting: I socialized plenty, but it came mostly as short conversations here and there, dozens of times over with one or two folks. Eating on the go and from my own bonter bag in the room, I didn’t have much call to go out for meals so missed the big meal-time convocations so many other’s have gushed about. Perhaps I’ll try to make those connections next con. I still got to see plenty of friends and familiar faces, and even got to chat a bit with John Stavropoulos after too long a gap since I last did that.

Swag Acquired: The one thing I planned to buy at Dreamation, the new edition of Monster of the Week was well and thoroughly sold out early, so I didn’t get to take that home. However, I still ended up with quite a stack of swag. On Thursday, someone put out a couple big boxes of free texts, from which I grabbed Sengoku, OSRIC and the old ICE Middle Earth Role-Playing corebook and two supplements, Creatures of Middle-Earth and Angus McBride’s Characters of Middle Earth. I’ve always had a mild curiosity for MERP and Sengoku, so its nice to finally check them out. And as an OSR-ian, I was required to pick up OSRIC eventually, so its good to have that finally sorted. At the auction, I picked up three boardgames, Musketeers, Frankenstein’s Children and Sewer Pirats all for a total of seven bucks. Don’t know a thing about them, but they’re all worth a try at that price. Saturday night, I collected my prize points, rediscovering that boardgames and mini games, especially ones with any sort of tournament structure, produce a lot more points than RPG sessions. I had enough points to snag Honor & Intrigue, a swashbuckling implementation of the Barbarians of Lemuria system, which I’ve been wanting to pick up for a while.  Finally on Sunday I picked up Gaean Reach, Robin Laws’ recent space adventure revenge game that combines elements of his Gumshoe and Skullduggery systems. It caught my eye because its succinct (108 pages at digest size) and I’m a long-time Jack Vance fan, on whose work the game is based. I also sprung for Everything’s Better With Monkeys, an anthology by C.J. Henderson, because … well, because I didn’t do that enough while that gentleman was still around.

So, that was my 2015 Dreamation. Now to start getting ready for Maelstrom.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dreamation 2015: The Prologue

This weekend is Dreamation, a grand tabletop gaming convention in Morristown NJ. I am of course attending and running RPG's all weekend. For those unfamiliar with it, over the years it (along with its summertime counterpart Dexcon) has steadily grown from a local affair to the primary regional gaming extravaganza, attracting guests from across the country and across the world. Partially this is because it's been embraced by the Indie design scene, becoming a rallying point where hip new games get debuted and hip young designers mingle and commiserate.

It's like this, but with more beards and Doctor Who t-shirts.

I'm not an Indie designer. I'm not even a published game author (at least not yet) so when I see my modest offering of something straightforward like Tunnels & Trolls or MiniSix sitting on the schedule between the debut of the latest Indie Darling and a crackerjack game so innovative it challenges my notions of what a game even is, both being run by the people who wrote them ... it calls into doubt my comparative value as just a guy who's modestly good at traditional GM'ing.

But, I muddle along, and so far I get plenty of sign-ups, so there's still an audience for what I'm offering.

This year I'm continuing my Old-School streak by offering up a couple science fiction sessions of Stars Without Number (on the schedule as R240 Friday 2-6pm and R377 Sunday 3-7pm) and one experimental frontier session of Blood & Bullets (R334 Saturday 8-Midnight).  I say "experimental" because I haven't felt an affinity for the Western genre before, but B&B's succinct system delighted me enough that I thought it deserved some exposure. I'm even going to give away full home-bound rulebooks to all the players:

There's something so satisfying about making your own booklets.
In preparation I've been watching a lot of old Western films (check out Sam Raimi's The Quick & The Dead, it's totally under appreciated) and reading Jonah Hex comics. 

As a player, I'm hoping to get into Monster of the Week and Lasers & Feelings. I'm also due for a visit or two to the miniatures battle room. I wonder, does being a wargame fan threaten my Indie cred' even more?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Old School at the Old School

I've had business on West 57th street in Manhattan lately, around the Columbus Circle / Carnegie Hall area, and in doing so came across a pleasant surprise in front of the Art Students League of New York.

The building's facade is currently covered by restoration scaffolding, but the organization has seized the opportunity to turn the otherwise coarse metal columns into canvases for student murals. One of which (out of about ten in various styles) is a full comic about a typical party of fantasy adventurers!

(My apologies for the grainy images produced by my budget smartphone. And I'm afraid no more specific credit than "ASL Comics and Arts Students" was evident, and the hashtag #CreateArt@aslnyc.)

However, it occurs to me I should find this less surprising than I do. I'm still catching up with the unexpected growth of dungeon-delving imagery into the mainstream. The tropes of mixed adventuring parties, underground labyrinths, faux-medieval stylings, work-a-day magic-users and some very specific monster types (think about it: how many people outside of tabletop gaming even heard of a "Lich" fifteen years ago?) are now the subject of superbowl ads pitching casual gaming apps to the masses. So why shouldn't it be fit to stand next to Mucha and Lichtenstein as part of established pop-culture canon.

Theses boards are about seven feet tall, from floor to top.

Actually, lots of my adventures would've ended better if we all just went home half-way through.

Bards: managing failiure since 1st edition.

What does it mean that these kids think of the Mom as a high level soul-rending demon?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Big Game: Battleball!

This past Sunday was all about The Game, so the wife and I prepared snacks, met up with some friends and all sat down ... for a bevy of boardgames and light conversation.

What? What else could I possibly mean?

A Triple H marathon is slightly more likely.

Mostly we all played Qwirkle and Galaxy Trucker, both of which are current darlings of Lena (and repeatedly humbling experiences ... Lena's natural talent for Qwirkle is the source of once-entirely-joking accusations of witchcraft that have shaded every deeper into real concern that spiritual authorities should be consulted).

Dear One, me and this officer of church law would like to have a serious conversation with you
about those three double-scores in a row.

However, since I'm not *entirely* pop-culturally ignorant, as a referential jape I also brought along Battleball. And to my surprise, people actually wanted to play it. Not for long, but its still more tolerance of my odd preoccupation for the old game than I dared hope for.

Yes, Battleball!

Battleball and me have a bit of a history. I don't know the conditions of its initial release, though I get the impression back in 2004 it was over-hyped, over-produced and pitched to an indifferent children's audience. My first copy, and initial awareness of the game's existence, was found just a few years ago in a thrift store. I'll take a chance on any game that's under five bucks and still has all its pieces. And oh such pieces this game had; it's just loaded with fun bits.

I believe my feelings upon opening the box is called "squueee!"

Including a metal sci-fi-football token and custom football-shaped six-sider. So charming.

And of course, 22 individual miniatures for two teams of cyborged-up grid-iron warriors.

The one on the far right is Myrna MacArthur, who's working the Battleball circuit to earn enough money to finish her astrophysics degree after corrupt corporate agents suppressed her research and sabotaged her scholarship.
At least according to my fan-fiction.
As toyetic as all these fun bits were, I found upon reading the rules that it was also an unexpectedly clever little game, even elegant. Its a shameless ameritrash dice-fest, reveling in luck and cartoon carnage, and as tactical challenges go definitely not as nuanced as Memoir '44 or even Ogre. But with just a handful of rules it creates a efficient miniatures skirmish game with interesting choices, moments of fun suspense and dramatic reversals.

And some of those rules are downright clever. Y'see how all the figures have color-coded bases? Those colors match up to the different die types, so when the red-based figure moves or attempts to tackle you roll the red d20, if it's the black-based figure then it's the black d8. When rolling for movement, the number rolled is the total spaces you may move, so high numbers are good, and figures attached to bigger die-types are faster. But (and this is the clever bit) in a tackle, lower numbers beat higher numbers, so that black d8 is rather likely to demolish the red d20. Fast but vulnerable versus tough but slow; figures differentiated in game abilities without any need for printed stats. I love that.

Its also nice and quick. Dispensing with nearly all the rules of actual football (Battleball is about as accurate a simulation of the NFL as Warhammer is of medieval strife), play continues until somebody gets a touchdown (which triggers a short refresh and redeployment) and the game is won by the first player to score twice. I doubt a full game will ever take more than an hour.

So, like I said, sweet find for five bucks.

The game has one big drawback: the play-space to players ratio is lacking. Its just a two-player game, but the board fills up a table.

There's enough room left to keep your Doritos or your beer out, not both.

Thus I have been politely advised not to bring this table-hogging thing to boardgame nights and conventions, limiting chances for casual play. However ... from the first, I realized Battleball is screaming for a tournament. Not just because its so theme-appropriate; the particular combination of simple rules, fast play and visual presence lends easily to four or more games going simultaneously in a double-elimination bracket where only one player can claim Ultimate Victory.

Its something I'd really like to run someday, and to that end over the years I've been grabbing copies whenever I come across them. And ... remember how I conjectured the game was over-hyped and over-produced? I get that impression because the game shows up a lot in thrift shops and at garage sales. So I've picked it up plenty of times. Currently, I've seven copies.

The only picture in this post not borrowed from BGG.
Yes that's a few of my game shelves in the background,
have fun trying to read the titles.
All in ambition of someday talking a dozen folks into wasting an afternoon striving to master a game intended for ages 8+, enticed with such prizes as a refurbished high school football trophy and maybe a ten dollar drink credit. For such glory, I do strive.

That's not my only lingering unsatisfied gaming obsession. Someday maybe I'll explain my desire to find some newbies to run through Griffin Island, or my plan to run Renegade Legion: Circus Imperium in a toga. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Cards Against Humanity" is a Terrible Thing ... And I Mean That Unironically

It's the continuing darling of slightly edgy hipsters and a fixture of nerd-cool gatherings everywhere.

Know Your Enemy

Creative Commons paragon.
Kickstarter success story.
Gaming phenomenon.

Oh how I hate it. My wife hates it. When I see people carrying it, I plot their cleansing murder. We have friends we simply will not accept invitations from anymore because they're CAH fans.

Don't jump to the obvious conclusion, its not that I find CAH's deliberately puerile subjects offensive. Or more accurately, I don't care that's it offensive, because its a juvenile type of offensiveness, barely above the level of a kid shouting "poop!" to make their friends giggle. Such a petty and lunkheaded caliber of transgression, it comes off not at all daring or powerful, just self-demeaning.

No, the real reason I want CAH purged from my social circles is that first, its a party game, and as a rule party games are awful experiences. Party games are half-assed substitutes for alcohol, in that they're supposed to serve as social lubricants. Get everyone doing and saying silly things, dropping barriers, sharing embarrassing stories and presumably friendships will be founded/reinforced. That alcohol-substitution is the reason the stereotypical image of teetotaling church youth clubs (all wearing purity rings) usually involves charades and pictionary (and despite the frat-boy branding that's exactly the social tradition CAH follows).

The Scattergory  is "S" for Son of God!

And because the goal is to force social interaction in a way that avoids exclusion, from a game-play perspective party games are weak. Play tends to be highly subjective, goals loose, play times indefinite, intellectual challenges minimal, and this is all aggressively manifest in CAH. The last time I was forced to play CAH, I stopped strategically choosing cards and instead played from my hand at random just to see what would happen; I won the game. About half the time I see CAH played, nobody bothers to keep score and the game devolves into people just drawing the cards directly from the box to read aloud and laugh at the sophomoric humor. Its barely more tactically challenging than War, but adult gamers everywhere still want to play it.

Maybe if I re-skin it with dick-jokes and racist humor, I can be a kickstarter winner to!

Worse, CAH is just a reskin of an earlier party game, Apples to Apples. Almost entirely the same ruleset and interminable play time (A-to-A games aren't won, they're abandoned). And I already got sick of Apples to Apples years ago.

All that on its own would be tolerable; there's plenty of games and whole game styles I dislike, but I can simply avoid them and thus not be agitated by them. But no, the second thing that makes CAH terrible is that it is ubiquitous and cancerous. Nearly every party I go to to, particularly gamer gatherings, somebody brings a CAH Big Black Box and sooner or later the cards get dealt, reducing a roomful of formerly conversant adults to doofuses braying "Poop! Haw haw haw, Poopie!"

Pictured: braying doofuses (allegedly)

Salting the wound, those people keep assuming that I automatically like CAH because I'm an avowed gamer, and that I owe them appreciation for bringing it (rather than, as mentioned before, a cleansing murder). Which is really aggravating when at those times what I'm really feeling is the same sort of stress I get from the song that's overplayed on the radio, the office joke I'm sick of hearing, the pop-up ad on every website. Grateful? No, my dear CAH fan, you are poisoning my social and gaming life with a petty, stupid thing, and might as well ask me to feel grateful for a box of fresh manure.

Until now, I've practiced tolerance towards CAH and those who promote it. Live and let live, let them have their kind of fun so I can have mine, don't espouse a negative attitude that may cost me friends, that sort of thing. But to Hell with it, I'm going proactive. From now on, I will clearly and directly tell people who bring it into my company that CAH is a terrible thing, and will treat it like the flatulent Saint Bernard stinking up the room that it is.  This may cost me some social contacts, but it'll be utterly worth it to purge Cards Against Humanity from my life.

My sentiments exactly.