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Red Flags is a card game of perfect partners and terrible dates

You meet the person of your dreams. They have everything you want in a partner: a love for dogs, the ability to write poetry that is not in any way embarrassing, unrivalled loyalty, and a yacht. There’s just one catch. This potential match calls you by their ex’s name. And this isn’t an isolated incident. Your potential match is only capable of referring to you by your ex’s name. What do you do? Do you write this off as a foible—nobody’s perfect, after all? Or do you cut your losses and choose another suitor?

These romantic choices and tradeoffs are at the heart of Red Flags, a tabletop game by Superfight creator Darin Ross that recently exceeded its funding goal on Kickstarter. At the game’s start, each player is given five cards, all of which name potentially laudable characteristics in a romantic partner. There “will likely be around 300-400 cards,” writes Ross.

In any given turn, the objective is to create the perfect match for one of the game’s players. Everyone else picks the two cards from their hand that would most appeal to that person. Then a red flag card is added at random. Does the focus of this round want a dog-loving rapper with the voice of a chipmunk, or a loyal chef who is on death row? Arguing ensues. The player who created the preferred match receives a point. You move on to making a match for another player.

Red Flags’ version of matchmaking is, in turns, better and worse than its real world equivalent. On the one hand, what are the odds that your perfect match is also a death row inmate? On the other hand, how often do you meet someone who has two of the rare qualities you are looking for? Pick your poison, I guess. Red Flags trade-offs are inflated for dramatic effect, but the basic mechanism of asking what you’d put up with in an otherwise appealing partner is real, unnervingly so. 

Dating games live and die on the debates they start 

These tradeoffs are also rooted in older, more informal games. “F***K/Marry/Kill” and “Who would you kick out of bed,” to name but two adolescent staples, ask similar questions. But Red Flags, as with other casual tabletop games, eliminates some of these informal games’ friction. As a player, your experience is no longer determined by your friends’ ability to invent interesting trade-offs. This is for the best. Dating games live and die on the debates they start; winning is largely immaterial. 

Read more about Red Flags on its Kickstarter page