Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Joking Hazard: An Offensive Card Game From Cyanide & Happiness

This review features subjects which may cause offence.  If you are easily offended by ANYTHING then for the love of God stop reading now!!!

Almost 3 years ago to this very day we posted our review for Cards Against Humanity (UK Edition), and it proved to be our most popular review ever by an incredible margin.  Now, whilst CAH didn't follow an original format (Apples to Apples being its main inspiration), it did set a pretty high bar for offensive "fill in the blank" games.  Since its release there have been many CAH clones trying to capitalise on the success, but finally it appears to have a true spiritual successor: Joking Hazard, from Cyanide & Happiness.

Cyanide & Happiness, for those who may not be aware, is an online comic strip series.  It features (usually two) stick-men, and over the course of three or four frames they play out an event which can sometimes be quite meaningful and moving, but most often dark and twisted.  For an idea of their format, you can check them out here (but please come back to us afterwards!).

Joking Hazard follows a similar format to Cards Against Humanity, but instead of creating a joke with black and white cards, 3-10 players compete to create the funniest (and usually most offensive) Cyanide & Happiness comic strip.

The box contains 350 cards, each depicting a single frame of the comic.  Many are generic and innocuous, but when combined in the right way can become something altogether more horrifying!  Unlike CAH, there are no black card/white card equivalents; everything is just of one single card type.

Each player begins the game with 7 cards in their hand, and then one player - chosen through non-violent means, as dictated in the rules - becomes the judge for the first round.  That player then draws one card from the top of the deck, and places it face-up in the centre of the table/floor/building site/satanic altar (here at Games & Tea we feel you should be able to play wherever you feel comfortable).

The judge then chooses one card out of their own hand to accompany this card.  It can be placed either before or after the first card, depending on what the judge finds most fitting.

These two cards now form the "setup", and all of the remaining players now submit a card to the judge to be played as the final frame of the comic, and the judge must select their favourite to gain honour and glory (and also a point).

So in fairly standard offensive game fare, the players above have gone for options of violence, anti-Semitism, and sex.  Once the judge has picked a favourite, that player gains a point, all players draw back up to 7 cards, and the next player around the table becomes the judge, repeating the process until one player scores 3 points and is declared the winner.
If a red-bordered card is drawn off the top of the deck then it becomes the final frame of the comic, and the players must instead create the two card setup from their hands.  And that's pretty much all there is to it!
There are a couple of variants included in the rulebook, such as a set of drinking game rules, or "The Neverending Story", wherein each turn just adds a single frame to an ongoing strip, leading to the creation of truly epic stories!

Of course Joking Hazard will be primarily compared to Cards Against Humanity (at least until the Joking Hazard clones start hitting Kickstarter), and we have to admit we found it to have some advantages over its spiritual predecessor, and some disadvantages.

The big advantage is that due to the storytelling nature of each round, the cards played have to make sense.  We've witnessed several games of CAH where points were won by players just because they played the most controversial white card, despite it not fitting with the black card whatsoever.  With Joking Hazard any non-relevant cards played tend to draw few laughs, meaning that even those most controversial cards have to wait for their golden moment!

The largest downside is ironically in the same vain.  We often found ourselves with setups which didn't work for any of our cards!  Sometimes this was just down to nothing being suitable, but a lot of the time it was down to having a card with the perfect response, just being delivered by the wrong character.
The other downside is that the game creates a bit less of a social atmosphere than CAHJoking Hazard is very visual by its nature, and quite a lot of the cards actually feature no dialogue, just actions or facial expressions.  This means that when the cards are laid out on the table (altar... whatever), it's usually quietly with all of the players leaning over to read them, and this is where you can really feel the difference between everyone being told a joke, and everyone reading the joke for themselves.  Now, in fairness, the rules do say the judge should read out the cards, but again those dialogue-free frames don't really work with reading out-loud, and some players don't feel comfortable with effectively acting out a scene.  At face value it might not seem like much of a difference over the CAH format, but it does feel a little bit odd when you start playing.  It's certainly not enough to ruin the game or make it an unpleasant experience by any means... just a little odd!

The Good Points
  • Joking Hazard is extremely easy to learn, pretty much taking just seconds.
  • If you're a Cyanide & Happiness fan, this will tickle your funny bone in all the right places.
  • Capacity for up to 10 players, making an excellent party game.
  • Requires a little more thought than CAH or most of its clones.
The Bad Points
  • As with CAH, some people will find it offensive.
  • Sometimes it can be tricky to play a fitting card for the setup.
  • Can create an odd non-verbal atmosphere.
Recommended Number of Players: 4+ (The more the merrier!)
Again, as with most games of this format, 3 players is the minimum requirement for the game, but 4 players is the minimum to get a decent selection of cards going for the judge to choose from.  Of course you could always import the Rando Cardrissian rule from CAH, as we did!

Average Game Time: 20-40 minutes
If you're just playing to the three point win condition in the rulebook, a game of Joking Hazard will last about half an hour.  Of course, this is one of those games where you can set your own win condition or just say "to hell with it, let's keep playing!", so games can go on for as long as you want!

Replayability: High
There are a lot of cards available in the base set, creating a truly gargantuan number of possible strips.  With a set gaming group it should last for quite a while, but with a group of rotating members it could feasibly last for years.

The Future: Bright
At the moment Joking Hazard is fresh of Kickstarter, and the only expansion is the Blast From the Past 50 card pack, all set to a historical theme.  However, the fact that there's already an expansion ready to go means that there will almost certainly be more to follow, and the idea of them being thematic is very appealing.

Price: £25
Joking Hazard is now available to buy on Amazon for £25.  Whether it will remain an Amazon exclusive much like CAH or whether it will quickly find its way onto the shelves of hobby stores remains to be seen.  It is also currently available to buy online through the Cyanide & Happiness store for a price of $35, which includes the aforementioned Blast From the Past expansion.


Tea consumed during this review: Tetley with milk and 2 sweeteners.  Brew rating 7/10.

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