Tabletop party games are everywhere these days. A simple trip to Target will turn up dozens and dozens of them. And many of them follow a familiar formula, at least to those of us who were around as Cards Against Humanity rose to power as one of the most popular party games of all time – get a bunch of friends together, dole out a bunch of cards with silly/unusual/inappropriate prompts, select a judge for the round, and begin the hilarity.
Sometimes, it works better than others. A lot depends on the game’s actual sense of humor. Which is why we were excited out of the gate’s for Cyanide and Happiness’ newest title, Master Dater. Cyanide and Happiness has its own very specific, acerbic, silly and dark sense of humor, and we were excited to see if it translated well into a dating game.
As it turns out, it does. Not only does Master Dater live up to the “messed up” part of the “messed up dating game” promised, they also manage to do the card prompt party game thing better than it’s been done in a while, at least in our opinion.
Gameplay for Master Dater is simple. Each player gets 3 head and 3 body cards in their hand for each round. For each round, a contestant (judge) is chosen. The contestant then pulls 3 interest cards, which will either be facts about the person, things they need in another person, or a straight up interest, which can be anything from the innocuous ‘I believe real beauty is on the inside’ to ‘I’m interested in knowing what people taste like.’ To the game’s benefit, not everything is over the top gross or even unusual, which in my opinion makes for a better experience.
Each player then chooses a head and a body of a character who might fit what the contestant is looking for from their hand. They will then not only play this non-anonymously, but argue their case for why that character is a good fit. Character cards can have things like the head of a burger or be simpler, like a goth or ‘always eating’ and bottoms follow the same patterns. This is where the right group can make this game absolutely hilarious. Just like one of our favorite examples of this type of game, Apples to Apples, it’s possible you just don’t have anything to fit the prompts. And, also just like that game, you aren’t anonymous. This means you’ll have to do the heavy lifting to convince someone why an angel who’s always eating perfectly fits their dating needs – even if it doesn’t. And, you’d be surprised – some of the best answers I’ve ever run across in Master Dater are from people who think they had “nothing.”
Master Dater is one of my new favorite party games. Cyanide and Happiness have just the right mix of bizarre, acerbic humor and great gameplay without making everything so over the top that nothing seems unusual or funny anymore. Removing anonymity with judging means each player has to openly argue their case, which is a component for absolute “rotflol” moments, and the game is easy to set up, easy to learn and easy to play. In my book, this is a game for any holiday party you might find yourself at this year – and beyond.
Master Dater is available today. Get it and its NSFW expansion pack here.