In a new game, you’re not trying to outwit your opponent, or beat them to a finish line, or control more territory on a board. You’re trying to work together to have a sexual experience. Also, one of you is an alien.
The card game is Consentacle, by designer Naomi Clark. The premise is simple, and gameplay is easy to learn: One player takes on the role of Dup, a be-tentacled visitor from another world. The other becomes Kit, a curious human. Together, you must have a mutually satisfying adventure—a sexy, sexy one.
Cards indicate actions—from biting, to kissing, to winking, to penetration—and the players must try to strategize to play the best combinations of cards together. Through these cards, you can acquire trust tokens, cash in that trust for satisfaction, collect on said satisfaction, or, give up satisfaction to award your partner trust.
What’s brilliant about its game is its meta-messaging. Consentacle is cooperative, and even as a team, it’s not about a win/lose binary. It’s about building communication skills with your partner that you gain as much satisfaction as possible, and enjoy the journey, not just how many tokens you have at the end.
Plus, you can adjust the level of difficulty of the game based on how well you know the game—and your partner. Game-makers urge you to consider that Kit and Dup would have a language barrier, and therefore, harder versions of gameplay involve only nonverbal communication. You really need to build rapport with your partner then, and maybe get comfortable pantomiming the actions on the cards.
But you never have to go past your comfort zone. Consent is so tantamount to the DNA of the game that the rules stipulate that all games begin with a ritual asking: “Do you want to play Consentacle with me?” Withdrawing consent is a valid, turn-ending move that earns both players trust tokens. While gameplay is fairly simple, the more you play, the more little details of care in its design jump out at you— like the fact that it may be better strategy to wait to play that “release” card until both players are ready.
You can also get Consentacle with an expansion pack “kink” deck, including actions ranging from “Flagging” to “I Belong to You” to “Aftercare.” The game recognizes that being rough, or bratty, or silly during sex are all valid ways of being consensual and caring. While penetration is an important card, its not the be-all, end-all of sex. Consentacle is not first-and-foremost about BDSM, but it definitely operates from the same worldview. Plus, the art, by James Harvey, is absolutely gorgeous—it’s playful and sexy, and doesn’t denigrate the concept. Dup isn’t drawn as an objectified pile of tentacles, but an equal player to Kit with desires and feelings, and frankly, rather attractive (we reject your earth norms of beauty!).
This game should absolutely have a home in the BDSM Scene. Have you ever been to a kink event that has an area designated for board games, particularly for those who need to break the ice? Instead of games that create competition, or even animosity (we’ve all been in a round of Cards Against Humanity that went south), how about featuring a game that builds intimacy and communication skills—the very values you need to connect with someone in a play context?
Consentacle is actually sold out for now, having reached a wildly successful end to its Kickstarter campaign (its goal was $35,000, and it made over $150,000). Given the NSFW nature of the game, its creators say it may never find a mainstream distributor. But if you can get ahold of a copy, do it. And share it with a friend. Heck, share it with everyone. And happy tentacle-ing.