How to Play Joking Hazard

Joking Hazard is a wildly popular, hilarious, and offbeat party card game published by Cyanide & Happiness creators Explosm.net. In this unpredictable game, 3-6 players compete to build funny, and sometimes inappropriate, three-panel comics by combining cards from their hand with those on the table. The player who makes the “judge” laugh the most wins the game.

Joking Hazard is easy to learn but hard to master. With its simple rules and mechanic of assembling random panels, it seems deceptively simple. However, coming up with witty punchlines and cohesive narratives requires creativity and quick thinking. Read on to learn comprehensive guidelines on how to play this whacky card game, including rules, gameplay, strategies, and tips to win.

What You Need to Play Joking Hazard

To play Joking Hazard, you need:

  • Joking Hazard card decks – The game has several editions like the Original, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Retail, Box of Dicks, etc. Make sure you have at least one full deck with 260-panel cards.
  • 3 to 6 players – Joking Hazard plays best with 4-5 players but works with 3-6. More players make the game more fun and unpredictable.
  • A flat playing surface – You need table space for players’ hands and communal card piles.
  • A judge – One player takes the role of the judge each round. The judge chooses the winning comic panel.
  • Sense of humor – Because this game relies heavily on mood and off-color jokes, make sure your group has an open mind!

How to Set Up Joking Hazard

Follow these steps to set up a game of Joking Hazard:

  1. Choose a dealer: Pick a player to be the dealer. They shuffle the deck thoroughly and deal seven cards to each player.
  2. Make a draw pile: The remaining cards form a draw pile placed face down in the center. Leave space for a discard pile.
  3. Flip a starting card: The dealer flips over the top card of the draw pile to form the first panel in a 3-panel comic strip.
  4. Select a judge: Players decide who will be the judge for the first round. The role rotates each game.
  5. You’re ready to play!

How to Play Joking Hazard

How to Play Joking Hazard

Once setup is complete, the gameplay is straightforward:

  1. The judge draws a card from the deck and places it face up next to the starter card.
  2. All players (except the judge) select one card from their hand to create what they think is the funniest punchline. They place it face down below the first two panels.
  3. Once everyone has played a card, the judge shuffles them and lays them out to reveal the winner.
  4. The judge selects the punchline they find funniest. The player who played that card wins the round and scores one point.
  5. The winning card is placed in a discard pile along with the starter card. The remaining cards go back into players’ hands.
  6. For the next round, a new player becomes the judge. Rotate clockwise each game. The new judge flips a card from the draw pile to start a new 3-panel comic, and the process repeats.
  7. The first player to score 3 points wins!

Extra Rules and Variations

Joking Hazard’s basic rules are easy to modify and expand for added chaos:

  • Regifting – The judge can “regift” an unfunny card back to its player, forcing them to lose a point.
  • Mass shuffle – For larger groups, collect and shuffle all player cards before the judge selects a winner.
  • Rotate judges – Change judges every 1 or 2 rounds instead of each game.
  • Marathon – Play until the entire deck has been used. Highest scorer wins.
  • Timer – Limit players’ selection time to increase the pressure.
  • House rules – Make up your own rules!
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Strategies to Win at Joking Hazard

Succeeding at Joking Hazard requires straddling the line between humor and wit. Here are some tips:

  • Know the judge – Play to their sense of humor and interests. Remember past winning cards.
  • Think outside the box – Unexpected and subversive combinations often win. Don’t play the obvious choice.
  • Make connections – Tie your punchline back to the setup panels. Non sequiturs usually fall flat.
  • Watch for references – Inside jokes and topical gags can be risky if the judge doesn’t understand.
  • Save your best cards – Hang onto your funniest cards for rounds where you’re the judge.
  • Take risks – Don’t be afraid to play edgy or unconventional cards. They might pay off big!

Avoiding Common Mistakes in Joking Hazard

While blundering in Joking Hazard can be part of the fun, players should avoid these common missteps:

  • Disregarding the judge – Failing to consider the judge’s sense of humor may lead to playing pointless or confusing cards.
  • Overthinking – Don’t agonize over your choice. Go with your gut and play quickly. Analysis paralysis cripples creativity.
  • Playing too safe – Avoid conventional tropes and PG cards. Take risks!
  • Forcing narratives – Don’t get hung up on logical plots. Absurdities and non-sequiturs are often rewarded.
  • Take it personally – Don’t get offended if your card loses. It’s just a game! Laugh and move on to the next round.

Making Joking Hazard More Challenging

For experienced players, try these suggestions to increase the difficulty level:

  • Use fewer card decks to limit options.
  • Implement tighter time limits per turn.
  • Award extra points for wins to lengthen the game
  • Create restrictions (e.g., no text on punchlines)
  • Play “Jerk Mode,” where regifted cards deduct 2 points.
  • Remove safety mark cards to increase risks.
  • Allow player elimination once scores reach -3
  • Play teams against each other rather than individuals

House Rules to Keep It Fun

Don’t forget to tailor the rules to suit your playgroup:

  • Let new players have unlimited mulligans.
  • Allow table talk and collaboration.
  • Let players pitch ideas to the judge before selections.
  • Grant immunity to players who make the judge laugh the hardest
  • Use inside jokes, accents, or acting to sell your punchline.
  • Accept bribes if you’re the judge!

The most important rule is to make sure everyone is having fun!

Conclusion

Joking Hazard is an addictive, unpredictable party game that encourages creativity and embraces humor of all varieties. With its simple framework and capacity for custom rules, it adapts well to any playgroup. Focus on responding to the judge’s tastes, taking comedic risks, and leveraging your best cards. Avoid overthinking and let your spontaneous instincts shine. Most importantly, leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready for nonstop laughter!

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