- Billionaire LinkedIn founder and tech investor Reid Hoffman is also a prominent political donor who has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Democrats.
- In January 2016, he and his team created a satirical Donald Trump game meant to entertain him and his friends. It’s based on Apples to Apples and that game’s edgier offshoot, Cards Against Humanity.
- Hoffman released a public version that September loaded with factual footnotes on playing cards, with the intention of encouraging people to vote against Trump.
- The game is still for sale, and there have been expansion packs since Trump’s inauguration.
- We played the game for an hour, and while we had some fun moments, we thought it was trying to do too much from an activist perspective to be as enjoyable as it could be.
When we heard LinkedIn founder and Greylock Partners investor Reid Hoffman created an intricate card game making fun of President Donald Trump, the scenario sounded so outlandish we had to get our hands on it.
Hoffman is a billionaire who was a prominent Hillary Clinton donor during the 2016 presidential race and has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democrats. In January 2016, he decided to combine his lifelong passion for tabletop games with his passion for seeing Trump lose the election. After developing a version of “Trumped Up Cards” for his family and friends, he decided to release a polished version to the public that September.
When things didn’t turn out for Hoffman and other Clinton voters, he decided he’d keep the game around and refresh it with booster packs, ostensibly to remind players to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Inspired by ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,’ we decided that satire that reveals the absurdity of our current situation is the only fitting response to these times,”Hoffman wrote on Medium in September 2016.
Hoffman’s team said that all profits from the game will go to charities, mentioning the ACLU.
We got a copy of the game and the two booster packs and arranged a time to play – Rich Feloni in the game and Hollis Johnson on photo duty – and invited some of our colleagues. We were joined by careers reporter Áine Cain, your money reporter Elena Holodny, global head of editorial partnerships Hayley Hudson, senior tech reporter Kif Leswing, video producer Manny Ocbazghi, and media reporter Max Tani.
The first thing we noticed is how much time Hoffman and his co-creators spent on the game. Everything from the packaging to the playing cards themselves is top quality.
Trumped Up Cards is based on the card game format pioneered by Apples to Apples in 1999 and further popularised by Cards Against Humanity.
In Trumped Up Cards, four to eight players each play with hands of 10 White Cards. The White Cards either contain a word or phrase or are Trump Cards.
The standard White Cards are intended as answers to Blue Cards, which contain either a question or a phrase with a line missing.
The role of CEO passes from player to player with each round, and it is the CEO’s role to reveal a Blue Card that the other players respond to with one of their White Cards. The CEO then declares the best answer and the person who submitted the winning card is given that Blue Card.
Each Blue Card has the letter V, O, T, or E on it, and when a player spells VOTE, they win. If players play the DC Gridlock Variation, as we did, then the other players can pool their Blue Cards to spell VETO, sacrificing those cards so that the winning player has to discard their winning cards and the game continues.
We found the Trump Cards to be the most distinguishing and fun aspect of the game. They allow players to interfere with the regular flow of play.
For example, “Deport an opponent’s answer!” allows the player who uses that card to dismiss the White Card the CEO chose as the winner of that round, forcing the CEO to make a new choice.
“Reframe the narrative!” makes the CEO for that round select a new Blue Card for the other players to respond to.
We found the rounds in which a Trump Card was played to be more enjoyable than those in which one was not.
In a typical hand, a player may have eight regular White Cards and a couple of Trump Cards.
Before we began our game, we followed the first rule, which was to ‘thoroughly sanitize’ our hands with Purell, a knock on Trump’s admission to being (at least formerly) a reported germaphobe.
The first CEO is supposed to be the player with the highest net worth, which was difficult for a room of millennials doomed to a burden of student loan debt. So in an act of bold leadership, Rich declared himself the first CEO.
We shuffled in cards from the post-election ‘Alternative Facts’ and ‘Astonishingly Excellent Wealthcare’ expansion packs to add in some 2017 quotes.
Many of the cards have extensive footnotes explaining the reference being made on the card. We found them to be distracting, like someone ruining a joke by explaining it.
In some rounds, the White Cards and the corresponding Blue Card resulted in wordplay we all enjoyed.
Other times there were audible groans at the resulting clumsy or overly earnest jokes on the cards in question.
It only took 20 minutes for Elena to get a winning selection of Blue Cards to spell VOTE.
The rest of us gathered our cards to spell out VETO, giving us a good dose of schadenfreude from sabotaging the game and putting the first place player into last.
In another act of the faux-misogyny the game encourages, Kif played “the woman card” and knocked out Áine’s White Card from a round, just because.
Kif got his later when Max played ‘Eliminate liberal bias’ and excluded Kif, as the player sitting to the left of Max, from a round.
But some rounds, bogged down with overly wordy, overly earnest jokes, felt like being trapped in Twitter threads of members of the so-called Resistance, which is primarily the group of Clinton supporters largely unwilling to accept that Trump won.
This, of course, is partially due to the fact that we played this nearly a full year into Trump’s presidency. But we also found most of the jokes to be caught in limbo between silly fun lambasting Trump and intentions of voter-empowering activism.
That vibe is captured in the catchphrase on the side of the box: “This is a game. Democracy isn’t.”
We capped the game at an hour, which gave us plenty of time to get a feel for the dynamic of the game. We decided that the best audience for Trumped Up Cards is the type of person who thinks that the Alec Baldwin as Trump ‘Saturday Night Live’ skits are hysterical.
A lot of effort clearly went into the game, and its unique elements were fun when they worked well — but some of us were more interested in Hoffman’s other tabletop game, which he’s kept for himself. “I want to play Hoffman’s Silicon Valley version of Settlers of Catan,” Kif said.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.