A typical hand in Cards Against Urbanity encourages players to get creative and/or silly with their responses (in white) to prompts (in black).
Courtesy Cards Against Urbanity A typical hand in Cards Against Urbanity encourages players to get creative and/or silly with their responses (in white) to prompts (in black).


For those of you who have managed to avoid playing Cards Against Humanity, a party game encouraging of crude and inappropriate jokes, the game goes like this: The selected judge for each round puts down a card where the rest of the players aim to pair it with another that will win over that judge’s sense of humor. But where Cards Against Humanity spares no subject as the victim, Cards Against Urbanity narrows its scope to urban culture and planning with a stabilized “PG-13” level of raunchiness. And while it’s important to be able to make light of a rigorous profession and lifestyle, this game also serves as a learning tool for a newfound audience who want to make the High Line lowbrow.

“There’s a hunger for translating some of the topics and getting them more to the public in a way that’s fun and engaging,” says Lisa Nisenson, co-founder of Cards Against Urbanity and founder of Greater Places in Arlington, Va. “They want to feel more comfortable … and people do just want to have fun.”

Sarah Lewis, AIA, co-founder of Cards Against Urbanity and associate in urban planning and community development at Washington, DC-based Fuss & O’Neill, says informing people is something that she, Nisenson, and their four collaborators all believe in. Each of the game’s creators has a different background within the field of urban planning. With the resources of GreaterPlaces and DoTankDC, the Cards Against Urbanity creators have curated a deck of 234 cards relating to architecture, city planning, public transportation, sociology, and pop culture—plus a glossary to explain the references.

A recent launch party for Cards Against Urbanity encouraged participant input.
Courtesy Cards Against Urbanity A recent launch party for Cards Against Urbanity encouraged participant input.

Design development for the idea began a couple of months back, when Lewis and Nisenson were at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Denver playing the original, Cards Against Humanity. They started to joke about a card game that would be similar, but would make fun of airs of exclusivity in urban planning and the trendiness the field had recently taken on. In August, they got together for lunch, during which Nisenson admitted she was still playing with the idea in her head, and they both decided to go for it. With Nisenson’s expertise in social media and public outreach, and Lewis’ background in design, they came up with the initial prototypes that would inspire the other creators to join.

Lewis says it was a very encouraging process, and, with permissions granted by Cards Against Humanity under a Creative Commons license, they met few roadblocks. Once the founders got more interest, they hosted a launch party to promote funding for a Kickstarter campaign and to generate more ideas for cards. Both Lewis and Nesinson say the response was overwhelming, and plan to bring the prototype of the game to more conferences, such as Rail~volution in Minneapolis, to collect a well-rounded collection of subjects before their October 16 deadline for the final draft.

After surpassing their proposed $7,500 goal in a matter of days, Nisenson says she knew only a handful out of the hundreds of backers for the card game, and noticed a new audience not associated with the “typical crowd” of architecture and urban planning. Ultimately, she discovered the majority of those funding the game are game enthusiasts, who also backed other games on Kickstarter.

“It’s an amazing blend of people from the high-tech crowd and a younger generation seriously interested in serious planning projects,” Nisenson says.

“It hit a nerve with people,” says Lewis of so many people moving to urban areas due to economic and environmental pulls. “It just fits into human history … But it’s very of the moment and driven by sociology … It’s not just architects and urbanists that are interested, it goes towards lifestyle choices.”

Visit Cards Against Urbanity’s Kickstarter page to get your hands on a deck in time for the holidays.

Cards in the deck range from sarcastic to racy, to hilarious results.
Courtesy Cards Against Urbanity Cards in the deck range from sarcastic to racy, to hilarious results.