Rationality Cardinality is a card game which takes memes and concepts from the rationality/Less Wrong sphere, and mixes them with jokes to make a game. After nearly two years of card-creation, playtesting and development, today, I'm taking the "beta" label off the web-based version of Rationality Cardinality. Go to the website and, if at least two other people visit at the same time, you can play against them.

I've put a lot of thought and a lot of work into the cards, and they're not just about humor; I also went systematically through blog posts and glossaries collecting terms and concepts that I think people should know about and be reminded of, and wrote concise explanations for them. It provides an easy way for everyone to quickly learn the jargon that's floating around, in a fun way; and it provides spaced repetition for concepts that might not otherwise have sunk in.

Rationality Cardinality will also soon have a print version. The catch is that in order to mass-produce it, I need to be sure there's enough demand. So, here's the deal: once enough people have played the online version, I'll launch a Kickstarter to sell print copies. You can speed this up by inviting people who might not otherwise see it to play.


Rationality Cardinality is somewhat inspired by Cards Against Rationality. Software for the web-based implementation is based on Cards for Humanity, with modifications.

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The web game greatly suffers from the network effect. There's just very little chance you'll get >=3 people to log on simultaneously, and of course, because of this people will give up on trying, worsening the effect.

Maybe we can designate, say, 12:00 AM and PM, UTC, as hours at which people should log on? This will make it easier to reach critical mass.

Spent about 20 minutes playing online, I have some technical notes and general impressions.

Technical (skip this if you're not Jimrandomh):

  • The timer feels way too long, especially as people get to know the cards better and don't have to read all of them.
  • When choosing card pairs they are displayed in long rows, so for 3 people someone's first and second cards are on different rows. That's very unintuitive. Maybe put the pairs in separated columns?
  • When judging, seeing the timing of the cards coming out can skew the judgement, and also makes it easy to guess which card is the control.
  • The website works smoothly, well done!

Here are my main takeaways:

  • The cards are excellent, a lot of them are either very funny or are doing a good job explaining things quickly. For some, it's hard to tell which :)
  • Unfortunately, the jokes that happen during play itself aren't funny at all compared to the cards. A lot of times there isn't a single card that will give a "funny" answer, am I supposed to choose the logically appropriate one instead, then? I wonder if I'd be more likely to buy the best cards as a poster than as a card game.

I'm going to try and invite some non-LW friends to play, see if they like it or run away screaming in confusion.

The timer feels way too long, especially as people get to know the cards better and don't have to read all of them.

I've gotten feedback on this in both directions; I'm going to try adding a "request more time" button.

When judging, seeing the timing of the cards coming out can skew the judgement, and also makes it easy to guess which card is the control.

The reasoning is that this gives players something to do while waiting for other players to put their cards in. The timing of the control is obfuscated somewhat - it puts its card in at a time uniformly at random from zero to the time limit, except that if all the humans have put their cards in, it shortens the wait to 0-5 seconds.

I've played a couple of games. I basically agree with all of that. On the last point: It felt like I had a genuinely funny card to play maybe 20% of the time (maybe less), and a (at-least-semi-)seriously appropriate one maybe 30% of the time or so.

I've just made a few updates to the online implementation. Specifically:

  • There's an in-game chat.
  • When waiting for games, there's an option to leave the tab in the background and get notifications when players join and when the game starts. So if other people aren't visiting at the exact same time, you have a better chance of getting to play.
  • Private games don't auto-start at 6 players, you can have more if you want.
  • Miscellaneous minor bug fixes.

I don't want to play it online. I want the cards! There are services to print sets like this one http://www.meinspiel.de/ (German, but there must be others).

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/ is designed to make selling your own games easier. Their FAQ makes it look pretty easy. https://www.thegamecrafter.com/help/getting-started

I have not used them myself.

This is great and goes much further than the German site though I'd guess that there are comparable services available here.

Awesome! I'm glad this is taking off so well.

Regarding getting players, though ... maybe connect it to some other medium besides the web site, such as IRC? Having the same game instance available on the web and IRC would be pretty awesome.

Can you add a way to be notified if at least two people are currently joined?

You're right, it definitely needs that. I've added an option where you can get notifications of players joining if you leave the tab open in the background. Hopefully this will increase the fraction of visitors who get to play.

I've got a few people interested in an effective altruism version of this, plus a small database of cards. Suggestions on how to proceed?

Get some blank playing cards with two different backs (eg blue and red), write them down, and start playing. At first you may need to mix it with CAH to have a big enough card pool. Once you've played a few games and gotten a sense for which cards work well and which work poorly, filter out the bad ones and iterate.

(There are some EA memes in Rationality Cardinality, though they don't dominate the card pool.)