Cards Against Humanity is a phenomenon on a scale few other games can match. The cheeky and – at times – downright offensive card game started out as a pet project between high school buddies and went on to become a global hit, proving analogue entertainment can still hold its own in the digital age.
The simple formula behind its success is a devious mix of one-upmanship and un-PC humour that’s seen other developers to follow suit. One of those is Melbourne-based product designer Leigh Ryan, who along with illustrator Adrian Dutt developed Kill Your Friends, a card game all about offing your fellow competitors in hilariously gut-churning ways.
“The theme is intentionally abrasive and can put some people off,” Ryan says. “But at its core the game plays like Uno crossed with Survivor.”
The aim of the game is to outlive the other players, either by deflecting their attacks on you, or by inflicting violence on them.
“Adrian and I worked through loads of different death ideas,” says Ryan. “Whenever I’d tell people about it, they’d gasp, and I thought, ‘Yep, that’s the reaction I want’. Some of the deaths are very real and confronting … they’re intentionally [provocative].”
If that sounds a little morbid, there’s a PG edition in the works called Splatatat! with the gore swapped out for more family-friendly slime (there’s also a Kill Your World Leaders expansion pack for the original in the works). But in both versions the shtick is sick in the best possible way, packed with pop culture references, word play and bad-taste humour that’ll have your sides splitting. Sometimes literally.
It’s possible to play a quick-fire stripped-back version, but when all the rules are in play Kill Your Friends becomes a high-stakes tournament where strategy and a good poker face can turn the odds in your favour. It’s worth learning all the ins and outs of the rule-book if you want to get away with murder.
And while some of the gags lose their edge once you’ve heard the punchlines more than once, there are also multiple ways to play, with clever twists and unexpected wild cards. Still, there’s definitely some pleasure in watching a newcomer discover just how far over the line some jokes go.
An average game lasts between five and 20 minutes, but it’s worth playing multiple rounds until all the players – between three and six – get to grips with the intricacies of the rules. If you push through the learning barrier, get some cunning strategies down pat, and have three similarly homicidal mates to play with, Kill Your Friends is bloody good fun.
Kill Your Friends costs $30 and is available online.