Review: Joking Hazard

I’m going to come right out and say this before anything else: Joking Hazard is a lot like Cards Against Humanity. If you’ve played that and hated it for its puerile humour, vulgar statements and moral-shredding outcomes then you might as well pack up and leave before reading anything else. Off you go. Leave the door open, I like the breeze.

Still here? Excellent.

Presumably that’s because you either don’t know what Cards Against Humanity is (apparently some people don’t) or you do know, and you love the idea. So tweak that formula and turn it into a cartoon strip developed by the folks who write Cyanide and Happiness, a hugely popular internet-based cartoon strip, and you get something that’s either entirely random and bizarre, or so funny that you’ll be crying for minutes on end.

For those not familiar with the idea, each player is given a set of cards, with each one having a single frame from a cartoon. It’s not a series of cartoons which have been chopped up, more just a large set of one-off pictures which may or may not have captions or speech bubbles on. Players take it in turns to be the round’s judge, taking a card from the deck and adding one of their own to form a two-frame comic strip. Everyone else then needs to come up with a punchline frame to complete the set, resulting in a three frame cartoon. These cards are passed to the judge face down, and a single card declared to have won that round. Sometimes it’s an outright funny response, sometimes it’s a disgustingly immature (and therefore hilarious) ending and, quite often, it’s just the ending that makes the most sense; you’ll get rounds quite often where nobody has a particularly funny ending.

And that’s pretty much the game. You’ll play on the humour of the judging player; would they find it funnier if one of the guys explodes, or if the character in blue shoves his ass in the other guy’s face? It’s all about context too – a card which is funny in isolation isn’t any use when there aren’t the cards preceding it to make it a good punchline. Maybe you’ve got one which doesn’t seem very funny, so you just play it to get rid of it during a round that you’re clearly not going to win. The concepts behind CAH apply here too, but the cartoon strip certainly gives it an interesting edge.

One thing that’s interesting here though is the cards with a red border – you can consider these as powered up cards which either have slightly funnier or shocking images on them, and can be useful to have in your hand as a way to provide a perfect ending to a strip. But better yet, if this is the card turned over by the judge it becomes the final panel in the strip, and instead of players only needing to find a single card to play everyone needs to provide the opening two frames of the cartoon. This can open up the opportunity for some incredibly clever and funny combinations, and while these scenarios are rare they’re certainly the highlights of any games that we played.

It’s worth noting again, however, that it’s quite likely you’ll get some rounds where nobody can play anything decent, and you end up with a potentially interesting combination amounting to nothing. That’s part and parcel of the style of game this is and the nature of random cards, but it can certainly be a bit of a downer after laughing a lot for a few rounds. You’ll start laughing again soon enough, but don’t be surprised if you get moments – sometimes several in a row – where nothing much really happens and the judge just picks the least rubbish card that’s been played.

So when all is said and done, Joking Hazard is what happens when you cross Cards Against Humanity with the Beano. You’ll laugh, you’ll question the moral compass of some of your friends, and you might even be surprised by your parents, but it’s a very fun game to play with the right people and definitely one to look out for if you’ve got a few friends round for an evening.

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