Carked It!

Trigger warning: This game deals with the theme of death

We were kindly gifted Carked It! by our friends at Guildmaster Games who are working with The Ageing Revolution on this game. This game is all about morbid storytelling that centers around the current player’s cause of death. Not many people make party games around such a dark subject, and the party hat with the skull on the cover really shows viewers that this is a unique title.

Sushi checking out the cover art

There are three decks, LIVE, DIE, and BYE which are color coded as well. These decks are shuffled separately from one another and placed on the table in their own piles. The game begins with each player receiving five of the LIVE cards which they can see but opponents cannot. These cards will be the anchors to the storytelling portion of the game. The first player is the one whose birthday is closest to El Dia De Los Muertos.

The three decks

The game is broken up into parts “Before I Die” and “After I Die” with a bonus round proceeding both rounds. The Before and After I Die rounds are very similar, except that one talks about pre-death and the other is post mortem. In Before I Die, the active player grabs a card from the DIE pile and all players look at it. Sometimes these DIE cards will have two options which the main player chooses from, like died “listening to your favourite music” or died “watching your favorite movie”. All other players will then look over the five LIVE cards in their hand, and decide which is fitting to show how the active player lived before they died. If a player had “died by eating five=week old leftovers”, another player could choose the live card that says “Van Life: Go on a road trip: Pack your bags and the camping gear and make some memories” and say that the active player wanted to go on the road trip of a lifetime, but became lost in the woods and only had five-week old leftovers to eat. In this way, it is up to the players to tie the LIVE cards to the DIE cards via their storytelling skills. Then, once all the non-active players have presented their stories for how the active player lived before they died, the active player chooses their favorite story and that player gets a point. The card that was the favorite is placed to the left of the DIE card in the rulebook, but we awarded the DIE card to the player who was chosen when playing at home as a way to keep track of points. Play continues like this around the table until each person has had two active turns.

Example cards

The bonus round occurs between round one and two. If a player has a wildcard from their LIVE deck, they choose another person and each tells a “Final Days” story with their other LIVE cards either via words/mime/dance. The person who told the most unbelievable story receives 2 extra points where the other story gets 1 point for participating. This is the last time you’ll need the LIVE cards for the whole game as well, as round two moves on to the other deck that hasn’t been used at this point.

The second round, “After I Die”, plays extremely similarly, with two differences. The active player still selects their card from the DIE deck to see how they died, but all players now have a hand of five DIE cards instead of LIVE cards. The non-active players still review the active player’s card to see how they died but they now choose a DIE card that shows what happens after that person’s death. For example, if the main player “Died in a plane crash” a player might choose the BYE card that says “Death Announcement: Hire a plane and write your death in big letters in the sky” and say that it was fitting for a plane to announce the death since that is how they went out. Just as in round one, the active player will choose their favorite story and that player is awarded a point. Also like round one, play continues like this around the table until each person has had two active turns in the second round.

Sushi demonstrates how you should keep your hand of BYE cards hidden from opponents

Another bonus round follows round two, where two players are chosen to give the active player’s eulogy using the active player’s cards. The person who gave the best eulogy gets 3 points, the active player receives two points, and the runner up gets a participation point.

At this point in the game, all the points earned from the rounds combined are added up and the person with the most is the ultimate winner/Legendary Death Doula. You can extend the game by using the talking points marked by the conversation bubble icon which help to create deeper conversations regarding death.

Language Barrier Playability: This game has a language barrier as it is very language based with every card. The cards could be translated but it would require constantly translating for it to work.

Replayability: Very replayable. The game has a lot of different cards/card combinations to make for a replayable game. The storytelling will also differ if you play it with different groups.

Artwork: Simple and clean. A lot of the artwork revolves around skeletons for the DIE cards, objects for the LIVE cards, and various depictions in the BYE cards that are still clean design with strong linework and designs that pop with the bright color choices. We especially liked the backs of the cards, with the human hand and skeleton hand almost touching and the DIE, BYE, and LIVE words clearly outlined to differentiate the decks.

Strategy: Mostly light. There is some strategy into weaving the best story to getting points but it doesn’t have to be an elaborate story.

Quality: Good. The cards are thick, the color printing is well done, and the box fits everything.

Instruction Manual: Short and at times a little confusing. Some of the instructions we had to review a little bit to make sure we understood the context but it was short enough that it didn’t take long to do so. Once we understood the rules it was straightforward.

Organization: Decent. The box fits everything, but we wish it had three slots, one for DIE, LIVE, and BYE rather than the two, but it isn’t a deal breaker.

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