30 December 2020
A right pig’s ear of a party game
There’s always one. You know the type. Usually a bloke. Likes the sound of their own voice. Their friends insist they’re all right (once you get to know them), and they’re actually really insecure but front it out by being as vocal and button-pushy as normal. There are no limits to where they’ll go for the sake of a laugh: physical disabilities, terminal diseases, paedophilia, racist tropes, sexism, anything to do with Hitler… And if you don’t find it funny, then you’re the one with the problem, not them. They’re as happy to cause offence as they are to get that laugh. After all, any attention is good attention…
Yes, there’s always one. And Game of HAM is that person in tabletop form.
Of course, we do know the type. Cards Against Humanity has this territory well covered, albeit in a savvy, self-knowing manner which, for the most part, makes its socially unacceptable stylings socially acceptable. The creator, or creators, of Game of HAM (who choose not to credit themselves – read into that what you will) take Cards Against Humanity, amp up the toxicity, dial down the wittiness, and tack on a pointless board element in a lurid package whose pink-and-green-dominated colour scheme is as tasteless as the game’s content.
When we say they take Cards Against Humanity, we really mean that. “HAM”, after all, stands for “Hating All Mankind.” Each round, one player is the ‘judge’, drawing a grey card that provides a prompt. All the other players have 10 pink cards in hand, each suggesting a response, which often fills a blank in the prompt’s statement. These are played down, the judge decides which is ‘funniest’, the winner takes the card and becomes the next judge. Sound familiar?
However, despite boasting on their website that the game was formed over years using “verbal algorithms” which mean “every response card flows smoothly with just about every prompt card”, that is all too often not the case. In one of our games, the judge drew the prompt, “How do Colombian people solve their problems?” Potential answers included, “A Haredi Jew,” “Racist cartoon characters,” and “A horde of nappy-headed hoes.” Umm…? To add insult to insult, the cards are dotted with typos (ditto the rulebook, one of the worst we’ve ever read) giving the whole affair a cheap quickie feel. Meanwhile, the creators’ compulsion to include ‘amusing’ flavour text usually deepens the discomfort. Take “Implicit racism,” for example. This isn’t “unconscious racism”, the text informs us; “there isn’t any ill will” and “it shouldn’t be confused with explicit racism.” Oh. That’s all right then.
The modular board element, meanwhile, adds in a needless race-to-the-end element, where values on grey cards are used to move counters forwards, with some spaces yielding colour cards that can be used to mess with the rules. Such as they are. The aforementioned rule book gives the impression Game of HAM’s creators couldn’t make up their minds, offering a cards-only version (aka Poundshop Cards Against Humanity) and a board-only version (aka crap Ludo), with five different win conditions, four different game-ending conditions, and a pages-long list of optional game mechanics and rules, plus suggestions for playing as a drinking and cannabis-consuming game. It is, in short, a sprawling, unforgivable, unenjoyable mess – which no number of shots or bong-hits could possibly improve.
PLAY IT? NO
A tone-deaf Cards Against Humanity tribute act, unlikely to improve anybody's party.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY…
Or rather, don’t. Just play Cards Against Humanity instead.
Words by Dan Jolin
Publisher: Game of HAM LLC
Time: 30-60 Minutes
WHATS IN THE BOX
- 810 cards
- 4 Board pieces
- 16 Player pieces
- 4 Placeholders
- 1 Rule book
- 1 Quick Start guide
This review originally appeared in Issue 44 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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