This is Not a Card Game

I finished yet another game! It’s called This is Not a Card Game, because it’s kind of a creativity exercise pack with a sort of card game as a framing device. It’s currently available on DriveThruCards for $14.99!

A while back I got around to ordering a copy of A Book of Surrealist Games, which had been on my Amazon wishlist for a while. It’s a collection of various creativity games as practiced by the surrealist artists of the 1920s, including familiar things like exquisite corpse and less well-known ones like automatism, where you engage in writing or drawing with such speed that you let some of your subconscious out onto the page. I’ve always found surrealism interesting, and it was one of the many places I’d looked for inspiration for Kagegami High. The strangeness of surrealism often has a very deliberate message, and the movement seems to come from an attempt to make sense of the chaos of a post-WW1 world. While we have a different set of challenges facing us today, it certainly feels like we need whatever we can get to help cope with the way our reality seems to be fraying. Also I am nothing if not prone to falling into patterns. I have literally had people come up to me on the street and tell me they can tell if they’re on time by my presence.

masson_automatic_drawing

I’ve also outgrown Cards Against Humanity. Encountering the game was a vital turning point for me, since it wound up being my gateway into board games, but the limitations of its “humor legos” and the questionable conceit of using a card game as an excuse to be “edgy” made it lose it luster for me. I made my own CAH-like game in i.hate.everyone, and although I think it’s better overall, it still suffers from much the same issues. The content is too much stuff from the cards, and if you play the game much it needs a regular influx of new cards to stay fresh (which the CAH folks are happy to sell you in the form of expansions, as are the people behind Crabs Adjust Humidity and entirely too many others). Of course, the limitations of that design space haven’t stopped a ridiculous number of shitty imitators from popping up, even though games like Snake Oil, Joking Hazard, Codenames, Slash, and Dixit (also my own Channel A maybe?) have shown that the genre can do vastly better. But CAH has become one of those things that’s kind of an institution. It’s made millions, and I suspect a lot of its fans are people who aren’t otherwise much into board games. The CAH company does some laudable things like donating some of the absurd quantities of money it rakes in to charity, but there’s a lot about it that deserves criticism and mockery. This is a company that sold literal bullshit for one Black Friday, which is sort of funny, but also a little too stupid for any amount of irony to fully cover up.

IHF-preview

There’s also the thing that DriveThruCards now has POD tuck boxes, which aren’t quite on the level of what you’d get from full-on professional printing, but still pretty good. Party card games are hard to mix with POD, because with POD printing the base cost for cards is around 8 cents (9 or 9½ cents for premium cardstock), making it very hard to give a card game a reasonable price if it has much more than 100-some cards. The largest size of tuck boxes DTC is offering holds 120, so I figured I’d try to make a game around that size.

2017-06-10 15.50.27

This is Not a Card Game is what came from those three things coming together. It uses the CAH/Apples to Apples type of party game format, but the cards regularly divert you into odd creative exercises. You might play a card to answer the question, “What is the worst kind of art?” one turn, use a card as the start of a 2-minute automatic writing frenzy the next, and do a weird drawing exercise after that. That lets the game have quite a bit more variety in 120 cards than the format would normally allow, and in taking that approach it’s more or less the opposite of CAH on a creative level. It has a lot of references to surrealism and fine art in general (starting with the game’s title being a reference to Magritte’s The Treachery of Images), and while knowing some of those references wouldn’t hurt, mostly it serves to take the piss out of highbrow art, something I think the surrealists would’ve approved of.

Once I had the game text completed and polished and did some playtesting, it was pretty easy to put together the files for POD printing. Where CAH uses Helvetica Neue, I went with Futura for TINACG. Futura descends from Bauhaus rather than surrealism, but it’s both contemporaneous with surrealism and not as extensively used as Helvetica. Helvetica is an amazing font that I’ve been using a lot lately, but it’s also what Target uses for every scrap of their signage. (That’s probably not why Target is the only brick and mortar retailer that CAH officially sells through, but still.) Futura is readable but more geometric, and has odd flourishes with things like its squiggle of a question mark. It’s also the font they used for most of the interior text of AD&D1e, though I couldn’t tell you why they went that route. I also went with CAH’s black and white color scheme, partly to highlight how TINACG is a CAH piss take, and partly because it’s genuinely an elegant graphic design conceit.

TINACG also has two cards that involve modifying/damaging those cards, and I kind of want to play around with that sort of thing. I hit on the idea of a sequel of sorts to TINACG, called “Wreck This Game” (maybe a little too close to Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, though that’s an obvious source of inspiration) or some such. It wouldn’t really work to have it cost $14.99, and a PNP version is a distinct possibility, though I’d also like to look into getting it printed on basic cardstock, making a cheap and disposable card game.

Anyway, TINACG was generally fun to make (apart from some frustrations in the production process), and I hope you enjoy it.

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