Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday 17 September 2017

Cards Against Culture

The Metagame looks a lot like Cards Against Humanity. It comes in a similar sized box, it contains lots of cards, and it is a social game. There is a good reason for this. An early version of The Metagame was played by the designers of Cards Against Humanity and so inspired them to bring out their very popular game. There the comparisons end for The Metagame is very different in many ways to Cards Against Humanity. First, its subject matter eschews the tastelessness and sheer indecency of Cards Against Humanity, taking as its subject matter culture and pop culture and getting us to express our opinions about them. Second, it includes not one game, but six! Some are designed for two players, some for three players, some for three or more, some for between three and seven, some for five or more, and some for between five and thirty-three—or more! Third, it comes in a big white box, not a big black box.

Published by Local No. 12The Metagame consists of three hundred cards—of which one hundred are Opinion cards and two hundred are Culture cards. The Opinion cards ask questions like “Which would Freud want?” and “Which is the most useful on a desert island?” or gives statements such as “The Gold Standard for BLANK” and “More Myth Than Fact”. The Culture cards are white, nicely illustrated, and come with a short paragraph of descriptive text and range from Enron, Brie Cheese, and World of Warcraft to The Vagina Monologues, Riverdance, and Romeo and Juliet. Notably, all of the Culture cards include a date. The rules come on several pieces of stiff card and are succinctly written with no rules card being longer than four sides long.

‘Matchmakers’, designed for three or more players is the recommended starting game for The Metagame. Each player begins play with a single Opinion card paced face up in front of them as well as a hand of four Culture cards. Then everyone puts all of their Culture cards face down next to the Opinion cards that they think are good matches, though not next to their own Opinion cards of course. Each player picks up the Culture cards in front of them and shuffles them before choosing the one he thinks best matches his Opinion card. The player who played the Culture card receives it back along with the Opinion card and all Culture cards played on it. After three rounds the player with the most cards wins. There is nothing to stop a player playing multiple cards on an Opinion card and so can try to stack the match in his favour. ‘Matchmakers’ is the nearest game to Cards Against Humanity, but of course lacks its indecency. 

Designed for two or more players, ‘History 101’ is the simplest game. It starts with a Culture card being placed face up on the table. This is the starting point for the timeline. Then on each player’s turn, the player to his left draws a card and reads it aloud without mentioning any dates. He can also be shown the card—with any dates kept hidden. The player whose turn it is has to decide where it goes on the timeline. If successful, the Culture card is added to the timeline, but if not the player has to keep card. If a player accrues three Culture cards, he is eliminated. The last un-eliminated player is winner.  ‘History 101’ is a simple general knowledge, one that nicely gets more complex as more cards are added to the timeline.

‘Head to Head’ is a three-player game. Two of the players each start with stack seven Culture cards, whilst the third, known as the Critic, begins with seven Opinion cards. The Critic begins placing the Opinion cards in a column, face up, and as he does, the two players draw their Culture cards and place them beside the Opinion card that they think is the most appropriate. A player is free to move his Culture cards to a more appropriate Opinion card if he wants, but ‘Head to Head’ is is played as a race  with each player holding a hand behind his back! As soon as one player has played all of his Culture cards, the round ends, the slower player only being allowed to play six of his cards. The Critic then collects each Opinion card and the Culture cards beside it, mixing them up and then deciding on the winner, who is awarded that Opinion card. Play continues until everyone has been the Critic and at the end of the three round, the player with the most Opinion cards wins. ‘Head to Head’  is stripped down, speed version of ‘Matchmakers’ that is fast and fun.

Designed for three to seven players, ‘Metaquilt’ is a tile laying game in which the Culture cards have to ‘match’ or answer the questions on the Opinion cards they are placed next to and vice versa for the Opinion cards. Each player begins with five Opinion cards and five Culture cards, the aim being to successfully play their last card—of either type. When a card is played, if another player thinks that he has a better card, then he can challenge the first player. Both players have an opportunity to debate the suitability of their cards, but the winner is decided by the vote of the other players. The winner gets to add his card to the ‘Metaquilt’, the loser gets to draw a new card—or two cards if the challenger lost. Whomever gets to play their card can reduce their hand by the number of cards their newly added card is adjacent to. In this way, the game speeds up as more cards have been played. Overall, ‘Metaquilt’ is a neat spin on the tile laying game.

‘Debate Club’ is a game for five or more players. One player is the Critic, who receives three Opinion cards, whilst everyone else is given five Culture cards. Each round, the Critic reads out one of his Opinion cards and each of the players selects the Culture card that best matches the Opinion card. In turn, they reveal their Culture card and explain why they think it matches in sixty seconds. Once everyone has had a chance, the Critic chooses the best and worst cards. The player with the best card draws a new card and continues onto the next round, but the player with the worst card discards all of his cards and becomes a Critic! Play continues from round to round until the last remaining player wins. ‘Debate Club’ feels like another game, but then there is a lot of debating style games. Thankfully there are plenty of cards in The Metagame to keep this reasonably fresh.

Finally, ‘Massively Multiplayer Metagame’ is the big game, designed for five or more players, up to thirty-three or more. Everyone starts with six Culture cards and three Opinion cards. Their aim is to win debates and collect the most Culture cards. At any time, anyone can instigate a debate by revealing an Opinion card and saying, “DEBATE THIS!” The first two players to show a Culture card debate the Opinion card with the instigator moderating. Anyone nearby can vote on the debate. The winner gets to keep the loser’s Culture card. Play continues until an agreed time is up or the event—‘Massively Multiplayer Metagame’ is designed to be played over dinner, at parties, or at conferences—has ended, at which time, the player with the most Culture cards is the winner.

Two expansion packs—Film 101 and Science Fiction—previously only available to backers of the Kickstarter are now available. Each includes forty Culture cards and fourteen Discussion cards and is a fun addition to the game, especially for film fans.

The Metagame looks like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, but is a more social game, a more accessible game, and literally, a more Culturally interesting game. The Culture cards are well chosen, for they are thoughtful and engaging—engaging enough to draw players into the debates that most of The Metagame’s games revolve around. All of this makes The Metagame a good party game, but with six good games inside the box, The Metagame offers more than the average party game.


A Kickstarter campaign, The Metagame: The Games Expansion w/ Shut Up & Sit Down! is currently underway, seeking to fund a new expansion.

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