The Game of 1000 Blank White Cards.
October 25, 2002 9:54 AM   Subscribe

The Game of 1000 Blank White Cards. Yesterday's talk about Game Neverending and Nomic reminded me of this outside-the-box game that was first brought to my attention by an article in GAMES Magazine earlier this year. The game is quite simple: Before you play, you have to think up and create the cards. Create them how? What goes on them? How do you play? Anything goes. [more inside, including excerpts and more links]
posted by blueshammer (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It has an Onion pedigree.
posted by rocketman at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2002

The above link repeatedly links Stewart King's BWC site, calling it "brilliant" (he also refers to it as the "Boston Blank White Cards server"). Sadly, the domain has been hijacked. You can find the site here.
posted by lbergstr at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2002

One of the creators recalls the game's genesis like this:

[My friend and I used to play] monstrous, multiple deck games of Hearts and Uno, setting the stage for free-form rules modification and probably laying the groundwork for much of the ad hominem, profane, and otherwise juvenile slant of many (read, most) of the cards.

Some years before that, several friends and I had played [another game] which involved the total dissassembly of five or six different card and board games, and the dynamic synthesis of a new game from the assorted cards, pieces and boards. That game included pieces from Clue, Waterworks, Set, Uno, and Pit, and during the gameplay, the Conservatory card from Clue was forever rechristened the Kierkegaard Card. This was the true origin of the Blank White Cards aesthetic, and freeform gameplay.

This might strike some of you as the kind of eye-rolling, loosey-goosey, outcome-based-education-esque idea that might spring up from Madison, Wis. (which, actually, is where it's from). But I've played it, and it's fun; it's always worthwhile to get a big ball of creativity zipping around among friends. When I've played, I'm always reminded of improv comedy. This can be hard to describe without example, so for example, please see these sample decks. I'm also told the game can be found in Hoyle's 3rd edition, albeit in the kids' section.

On preview: That's entirely possible, Rocky, as the game was created by, apparently, quite a large gand of players at Hotel Washington here in Madison, which was a hangout for all kinds of creative types before it burned down in the mid-'90s. It's clearly from the pre-Onion-takes-over-the-world era, and I don't know which of the Onioneers might have been involved, but I'm sure there was overlap.
posted by blueshammer at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2002

My friends and I spent an evening playing Blank White Cards over the summer, and had an unbelievably fun time. It's better the more people you have, and the longer you play, because it just gets more and more abstract and bizarre. The best thing we did was to shuffle blank cards in with the ones we made, so that you could make cards as you were playing. You can see a gallery of some of our cards here. (Sorry for the self-link, but it's in the comments, so I guess it's not that bad)
posted by emptybowl at 10:09 AM on October 25, 2002


You're right, it was created pre-Onion conquest. But I am very (very!) tangentially associated with the group of folks this game came from, people from the Ten Fat Tigers, Badger Liquor, and the Onion.

Unfortunately, I can never get anyone to play it. Perhaps we could meet for a game? I'm sure interrobang and originalname37 would be up for it.
posted by rocketman at 10:12 AM on October 25, 2002

Great link. I'll keep this in mind next time i'm looking for something to do. Tell me, is it common to keep score using all the +/- points on the cards, or do winning and losing generally have more abstract interpretations?
posted by astirling at 10:19 AM on October 25, 2002

We found that "keeping score" was just to kind of give the game *some* sort of point other than to just be goofy. I think by our 3rd or 4th game of the night, we stopped keeping score altogether. One of our main problems when we started playing was that our cards were much too goal oriented. We focused too much on achieving something, or a kind of truth-or-dare atmosphere, rather than being silly for silly's sake, which I think fits more in the spirit of the game. You play until the cards you're playing with get boring. Then you weed out the ones you didn't like, keep the ones you do, and make more to fill out the deck.
posted by emptybowl at 10:27 AM on October 25, 2002

this reminds me of Fluxx, one of the coolest games around. it's dangerous to play with your impatient friends, but it's meandering and addictive.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2002

Why does this remind me of a certain game?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2002

rocketman: That sounds like a plan, although with the pending genesis -- or, rather, exodus -- of my firstborn-to-be, I can't promise a free evening anytime soon.

astirling: Yeah, we kept score, although a lot of the cards were designed to confound the effort -- there were score-switching cards, and negative-izing cards, and absolute value cards, and infinite cards. The players appreciate the semblance of a structure that scores gave.

To riff off something emptybowl said: It's important to be able to make cards as you play, but it's also important to follow the basic comedy-improv rule of no denials. In other words, the only thing that really kills improv is for one actor to say "Your shoes are on fire!" and the other to say "No, they're not." So if someone plays, say, a Lose 5 Turns card on you, you may be moved to create something to deflect the penalty, and that's fine so long as it's not a "No I don't" card. It's not creative; there's nowhere to go from there.
posted by blueshammer at 10:47 AM on October 25, 2002

I had the great pleasure of inflciting this game upon some friends, earlier this year... Excpet we used blank blue cards, which I consider to be more in line with game's esthetic....

If anyone's in LA and wants to play, we can make that happen
posted by davros42 at 10:51 AM on October 25, 2002

blueshammer: I agree that the "no I don't" effect certainly brings the game down, which is why we made a rule that you're not allowed to nullify something outright, unless you do it in an elegant or highly comedic way. This rule lead one of our players to make one of my favorite cards which was directed specifically at me.
posted by emptybowl at 10:56 AM on October 25, 2002

Matt, please delete blueshammer's account, as this link has already been posted.

Haha, I kid, I kid. It's still funny! I remember my friends and I vowing to buy 1000 blank white cards and trying it out, but like every good idea it starved to death as a result of counter-strike.
posted by Hildago at 10:59 AM on October 25, 2002

I've been trying to get my friends to play for months now, and no one's interested. I think it's the lack of structure that turns them off. Of course, it's the lack of structure that makes me want to play it so badly.

If anyone in the greater northern NJ area wants to play - I'm game...
posted by MsVader at 11:26 AM on October 25, 2002

I have long wanted to get some sort of "online version" of this game going. I think low quality MS Paint cards traded as GIFS over a couple of hours could be trez fun. And I never use the word "trez."
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:34 AM on October 25, 2002

Grr. I swear I searched on the term "1000 blank white cards" before I posted, but I must have ended up selecting "in the past year" instead of "since day one."
posted by blueshammer at 11:53 AM on October 25, 2002

Anyone ever played the card game Mao? I never tried to figure out what the hell my friends were doing, because as far as I could tell one of the cardinal rules of Mao is that you never answer the question, "How do you play this game?"

Also, on the topic of card games, anyone ever played Lunch Money?
posted by starvingartist at 11:54 AM on October 25, 2002

blasphemer (oops! sorry! that should be "blueshammer"... damned spell check.), I'm so very, very pleased you didn't search from "day one"; thanks so much for the link! Somewhere, somehow, I am going to force one or more people to play this with me, as God is my witness!

emptybowl, I'm on #35 of your set of cards, and having a rough time trying to type this from underneath the table. Thanks for the link!
posted by taz at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2002

I've seen Lunch Money at the store a few times, and though about getting it, but there's no indication of gameplay on the package, so I've never bought it. Any good?

And while we're talking about games, in a similar vein to Blank White Cards, anyone played Eat Poop You Cat? It's kind of a combination of Pictionary and the old "telephone" game. We discovered it over the summer, right after playing BWC, and we've played it a couple times since. It's a lot of fun.
posted by emptybowl at 12:27 PM on October 25, 2002

I'm in the greater northern NJ area :) ... anyone else?
posted by Songdog at 12:40 PM on October 25, 2002

Can you play Solitaire with a deck of 1000 blank cards?
posted by titboy at 12:46 PM on October 25, 2002

emptybowl, may I just say that I laughed harder at the Eat Poop You Cat samples than I've laughed all week (and I've only looked at the first five). Thank you! Also, I have to try it!

On preview: You can play it 'till dawn with a deck of 999, but only if you've got nothin' to do.
posted by Songdog at 12:48 PM on October 25, 2002

emptybowl -

I like Lunch Money a lot. It's a fighting game, with very dark psychological images, like an evil little girl with a hammer, things like that. There are basic moves like punch, kick, uppercut, nasty weapons like lead pipes and stuff, blocking moves, and healing cards. It's fun.
posted by starvingartist at 12:56 PM on October 25, 2002

I actually got my friends to play that one (on emptybowl's suggestion) and they loved it. It's a riot.

Songdog - if we can get a good bunch together, maybe we can play both games...
posted by MsVader at 1:01 PM on October 25, 2002

Reminds me of another GAMES recommendation from 15 or more years ago which was played with a unique set of might have been called cosmic dice. The game came with a set of basic rules to start with but the game became more interesting and more complex as you added your own rules. Wish I could remember more-- I only have two firm memories: it came in a leather pouch and it was a lot of fun.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:18 PM on October 25, 2002

Yes! I played Mao long ago (in 1987, at Duke University) and have missed it ever since. It's best when it's going ridiculously fast and it's all you can do to remember the various rules, much less actually PLAY the game to win.
posted by Vidiot at 2:02 PM on October 25, 2002

Also good is a card game called Chez Geek, and of course, you can't go wrong with Cheap Ass Games. They used to have a website but it seems to be down right now.
posted by starvingartist at 2:07 PM on October 25, 2002

Some friends and I played this game at a going away party. It was one of the MOST fun games I've ever played. Seriously. Give it a try. It's a hoot.
posted by geekhorde at 9:12 PM on October 25, 2002

rocketman, if you put together a Madison game, let me know. My e-mail address is in my profile.
posted by UKnowForKids at 9:39 PM on October 25, 2002

Cosmic Wimpout (the dice game in the leather bag) is great! The "original" rules are bent enough that I've never really bothered to come up with any of my own.
posted by djfiander at 1:23 PM on October 26, 2002

I've been playing Baltog since it was mentioned in a link that was listed here.

My god! This is the ultimate card game!

So far, participants have included ages 7 through adult, and a Japanese exchange student who speaks little English. We've all had an absolute blast!

Now, off to order Fluxx, which also looks to kick ass.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:08 AM on October 27, 2002

Unfortunately, I can never get anyone to play it. Perhaps we could meet for a game? I'm sure interrobang and originalname37 would be up for it.[Rocketman]

Sure, I'm in.
... though I'm not entirely sure that I get it, it does sound fun.
posted by originalname37 at 9:18 AM on October 28, 2002

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