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Awkward small talk is the whole point of Humans, a party game for aliens in disguise

Is this music? I can’t get enough of that sweet music.

At some point in a rapidly indeterminate past, people held events called parties. Several to dozens of these people would gather together in a house or flat and ‘hang out’, ‘chill’ or even ‘hobnob’ with each other for hours over snacks and music. Sometimes, they would play party games that centered socialising around a loose collection of rules for the express purpose of enjoying each other’s company.

When such events return, an attendee might bust out a copy of Humans, a party game from designer Travis D. Hill about a group of human-loving aliens (or monsters? Doppelgangers? Others?) who have infiltrated a gathering in disguise for the express and simple purpose of enjoying themselves. The supplies are six to eight willing bodies, a few six-sided dice and all of the cards from one suit of a 52-count standard playing card deck. Minus the people, those can be easily scrounged from most homes, making Humans a snap to get started.

Each participant will receive an eight-page folded paper booklet containing all the rules and instructions needed to play before deciding amongst their fellows who will roleplay as a human and who will be the incognito visitors - roles are repicked between rounds to keep things fresh. Non-humans will struggle to maintain their disguise as their decidedly weird quirks manifest in casual conversation. The Kickstarter description gives the examples of phasing in and out of time or “entirely forgetting human speech”. Conversation will likely sound distressingly similar to the Gabriel Gundacker Guy Who Likes Music Vines.

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Human players are tasked with not being a complete dillweed and pointing out how awkward their socializing partner is - calling attention to the quirk is considered a faux pas since the nonn-human just want to have a good time, okay? Be cool about it, jeez. Both groups interact in scenes dictated by cards drawn from the deck, which also points to a wholly uninspiring topic for small talk. The flimsy excuse for interacting will likely strain the longer time stretches on, making the unnatural quirk that much harder to ignore.

There’s not much more to Humans, but there doesn’t need to be. Party games are meant to break the ice and give folks a collective reason to set their social anxieties aside for a bit of low-pressure fun. Dicebreaker’s list of the best games for large groups sticks to that ethos, though some do allow for more competitive stakes, if groups so desire.

Hill is one part of indie design and editing outfit Press Pot Games. His previous work, mostly in the form of zines and small games, cover topics such as generational shifts, cosmic horror and collaborative adventure through friendship. Artist Thomas Novosel, who provided the illustrations, also designs tabletop games that can be found on his page.

At $5 (£3.63), Humans costs just a bit more than a family-sized bag of chips and will be just as welcome a contribution to the next big gathering. The Kickstarter campaign offers a digital version with all eight booklet character sheets, along with a blank one for creating custom non-human partiers.

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