Playing the Chanukah cards

Playing the Chanukah cards

The gift of a Picasso
The gift of a Picasso

You wouldn’t expect a company called “Cards Against Humanity” to provide the feel-good Chanukah gift of the year. So maybe it’s for the best that it followed up with the year’s feel-weird Chanukah gift too.

First, some background.

Cards Against Humanity is a party game where “players complete fill-in-the-blank statements using mature-content phrases printed on playing cards,” as Wikipedia puts it, and it “is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends,” to quote the game’s own website. It’s basically a family-unfriendly version of Apples to Apples.

It began with eight Jewish friends from Chicago’s Highland Park suburb. They raised $15,000 on Kickstarter for its first printing. That was in 2011. Since then, it has become a phenomenon.

From Cards Against Humanity: The gift of Chanukah-themed socks
From Cards Against Humanity: The gift of Chanukah-themed socks

How big a phenomenon?

So big that when Cards Against Humanity announced its “Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah,” promising eight mystery gifts during December for subscribers who paid $15, the 150,000 subscriptions it made available quickly sold out.

And for the first three gifts, they sent subscribers socks decorated with chanukiyot.

For the fourth, subscribers received a $1 bond — and a pack of Jewish-themed cards.

Then the gifts got interesting.

Cards Against Humanity donated $150,000 to Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ, and gave everyone a one-year membership to it.

The gift of grateful Chinese workers
The gift of grateful Chinese workers

For the sixth gift, it gave a paid vacation to everyone at the factory in China that makes their cards. Since the factory, like most in China, has no provisions for paid vacation, Cards Against Humanity hired the factory for a week — and let everyone stay home. Many were able to travel, and the game company posted photos and thank you notes from the workers.

That was the feel-good gift.

The feel-conflicted gift came next.

Cards Against Humanity bought a 1962 Picasso, Tête de Faune, for $14,000. And it put a Solomonic question up for a vote: Should the artwork be laser-cut into 150,000 pieces, so each subscriber could have a piece? Or should it be donated to the Art Institute of Chicago?

At press time, it is not yet known how the Cards Against Humanity subscribers will vote — nor what the eighth gift will be.

Meanwhile, Max Temkin, one of the lead creators of Cards Against Humanity, is having a breakout success with his new game, which has raised $1 million on Kickstarter. “Secret Hitler” casts five to 10 people as liberals, fascists, or Hitler as they seek to either pass or oppose fascist laws. The twist is that no one other than the Hitler player knows who has drawn the Hitler card.

It is a game with a message, its Kickstarter page explains: “We set out to make a game to help us reflect on the ways that others — good, bad, indifferent — were complicit in Hitler’s rise to power. Our game doesn’t model the specifics of German parliamentary politics. Instead, we try to model the paranoia and distrust he exploited, the opportunism that his rivals failed to account for, and the disastrous temptation to solve systemic problems by giving more power to the ‘right people.’”

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