"What really killed Patton?"
On trivia night, you answer that he died on Dec. 21, 1945, from injuries suffered in a Dec. 8 car crash. But when playing the newly invented game Disgruntled Decks — a Cards Against Humanity-styled party game — your answer is decidedly different.
One might instead be rewarded for answering that "3rd Cavalry Regiment's drivers training program," "SHARP training," or "The pulsating and unbearable girthiness of the Green Weenie" killed Patton.
Disgruntled Decks is a hilarious — and at times hilariously offensive — brainchild of 1st Lt. Matthew Coble, who wanted to adapt Cards Against Humanity for a military audience. He built up a community online, wrote a bunch of cards, conferred with CAH a representative to avoid copyright issues, and Tuesday launched a Kickstarter campaign to put at least 500 packs into production.
It took him less than 24 hours to hit his $15,000 Kickstarter goal; he now has about $20,000.
"I expected it to be funded eventually, but I didn't expect all the support and general excitement around the project," said Coble, who wants the game to be both funny and cathartic. "It's more than just a game with funny things on cards. It's about bringing conversation through humor," he said.
In Cards Against Humanity, each player holds a number of cards with random, zany or crass words and phrases. One player draws a prompt card, and the other players submit, face down, the card in their hand that best fits the prompt. Hilarity ensues. You generally play until whenever because no one cares about the score.
It's billed "a party game for horrible people." That kind of humor, seeing the funny and the irony in the nominally ugly or absurd, jibes with a military mindset, Coble said.
"As military personnel, you go through bad, terrible situations or situations that bring you together; that tends to harden people. Military humor tends to be a little bit more raw and vulgar than standard civilian humor," Coble said.
But while maintaining the inescapable edginess of CAH, he said he tried to limit the number of "cards that have just raw shock humor."
"Even though some cards are really vulgar, I don't want just the shock humor that makes people gasp," Coble said. "It gets people talking about their time in service, bringing up subjects they aren't comfortable bringing up. It's a way to bring people together and talk about their shared experiences."
In that spirit he's also partnering with wounded warrior organizations so that sales help soldiers as well.
"We're still a nation at war. There's still a lot of people that need smiles on their faces, there's a lot of people that need healing, there's a lot of people that need laughter," Coble said.
Aside from shying from over-reliance on shock humor, he said he's also not producing cards with the names of people still in the service. There are some popular names of those who have left service, though, such as the an answer involving Colin Powell and twerking and the prompt "After stomping Nazi dick into the dirt, Audie Murphy celebrated his killing spree by ____."
Despite the game's inescapable edge, Coble said of the response has been supportive and enthusiastic. He said the minimal negative feedback generally revolves around people mistaking poking fun and satire for disrespect for the military, which he says is not true.
Coble stressed to Army Times that the game in no way reflects the views of the Army or Defense Department.
The VA and 130-degree port-o-potties
Coble, who serves in the National Capital Region, always liked playing creative word games like CAH and Apples to Apples with his buddies. He said the topic of a military-themed game would sometimes come up. After searching the internet and finding no such thing, he decided to start mocking up his own card ideas in October.
The Ohio native reflected on his seven years of service: basic training, deployments, and his transition to officer ranks in the Green to Gold program. His lieutenant rank takes heavy fire, which may reflect the CAH spirit of taking no prisoners, but he also quickly notes he was prior enlisted.
He then developed an online community including a Facebook page started in November. As he wrote his own ideas, he also asked people on social media to offer their own.
"People really want to slam the VA," Coble said. "Also there was a lot of stuff about deployment. A lot of really weird things about port-o-potties: 130 degree port-o-potties in the Iraq or Afghanistan desert."
As with CAH, some cards are ridiculous, with non-PC shock value infused. ("Afghan farm animals and the men who love them.") Some are silly ("An LT on LT slap fight.") Others are just standard Army irritants ("PT belts," "Death by Powerpoint" or "lieutenants") awaiting the perfectly ridiculous prompt ("In the newest Tom Hanks war porn, an infantry platoon must overcome ___ to accomplish their mission").
"This has been absolutely fun. I used to sit around and PhotoShop funny pictures for my friends, so I get to do something I like: generate funny content," said Coble.
So what do the makers of Cards Against Humanity think? Early in the process, a representative from CAH contacted him and talked him through the finer points of not infringing on their intellectual property.
"They've been awesome," said Coble of a company whose leaders are known to pull such stunts as sending poop to 30,000 people on Black Friday (to be fair, they placed an order for some "bullshit") and sending a 55-gallon drum of lubricant to the Oregon militiamen amidst an armed takeover of federal property (to compliment the sex toys sent by others). "
There are other unofficial expansion decks out there, Coble said. Plus he noted that CAH didn't invent word association games. In short, that concept alone is too vague (not to mention old) to trademark or copyright in and of itself. Among efforts to differentiate his game he used a typewriter font, invasion star logo and cards colored olive drab and light gray, all throwbacks to World War II. Prompt cards are "Mission Cards" and responses are "Course of Action" cards. They do remain the same standard size so the 300-card deck can work either within a bigger CAH deck or by itself, Coble said.
And while awareness has grown faster than he'd hoped, he also has big ideas for the future. He points out that well over a million vets of the last two wars alone create a large market for the game. The game's name Disgruntled Decks, plural, stems from the fact that he'd eventually like to see Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force versions. Or as one Course of Action card calls it, "Endless Mission Creep."
Kyle Jahner covers soldier uniforms and equipment, Medical Command and Recruiting Command along with investigations and other breaking news for Army Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.