[Review] Apples to Apples
- I love teaching people to play games; and many times, after
a game session, people tell me how much fun they've had. One of the
biggest compliments is how easy it is to play the games that I
teach; and for this reason, I'm always on the lookout for "German"
games that have simplistic rules. Whenever I go to any event, like
a picnic, or some such get-together, I always bring a box of games,
with several simplistic games, for everyone to play. But I also
always bring several party games, because nothing can generate more
fun and excitement than a good party game at a fellowship. I have
dozens of party games, with my personal favorites being Time's Up
and Talking Tango. However, the most popular party game I own, with
NO exception; and one that I take to almost every event, is Apples
to Apples (Out of the Box Publishing, 1999 Matthew Kirby).
If you read about Apples to Apples on the internet, you will
find a wide range of opinions about it. Some people love it, and
think that it's the greatest party game ever. Others find that it
falls flat for them, and recommend other party games over it. But
one simple truth cannot be denied. Every time, without exception,
that I have introduced the game to a new group of people, they have
loved it on the spot, and wanted to continue playing. People who
insisted that they would "just watch" ended up joining the game
enthusiastically, and wanted to play another game immediately
after. Yes, Virginia, there are better party games; but no other
game is so easy to learn and is so easy to play, giving Apples to
Apples the kingship of party games.
The rules for the game are incredibly simple. There are two
stacks of cards "Green" apples (which are adjectives, such
as "Fresh", "Moronic", etc.), and "Red" apples (which are nouns,
such as "Mel Brooks", "festering wounds", "My Past", and "Japan").
The stack of green cards is shuffled and placed in the middle of the
table, along with the red cards with each player being dealt a hand
of nine Red cards. One player is chosen to start, and then play
passes clockwise around the table.
The player whose turn it is (the "judge") flips over the top
green card. Each other player tosses a red apple card onto the
table (face-down) that they think most matches that card. The last
player to play a card must return it to their hand. The judge
shuffles all the red cards, then lays them out, reading them out
loud. The judge then, at his own discretion and whims, picks the
red card that he thinks best matches the green card. Players are
allowed to lobby for their card (or any card), but the judge's word
is final. The player whose card he picks receives the green card.
All red cards are discarded, and a new card dealt to each player
whose hand has only eight cards. Play continues until one person
has reached a set number of green cards (determined by how many
players are in the game). This player is the winner!
Some comments on the game
1.) Components: The game comes in a small but long box, similar
to a baseball card box. The box, like all OOTB games, is extremely
sturdy, and a pleasant design scheme helps make the game friendly
and inviting. The cards are of decent quality I would like better
quality cards, but that would probably drive the price of the game
up quite a bit. The cards themselves are well designed, with three
synonyms on each green card to better clarify the adjective (to help
with the selection of the red cards), and humorous quotes or
explanations about the subjects of the red cards.
2.) Rules: The rules come on a durable cardboard insert in the
box and are extremely well formatted. They are precise and are
easy to learn a trademark of all OOTB games. The rules can be
taught in about 10 seconds, the time it takes to play one turn.
People nowadays have an irrational fear of rules, and this is
certainly not a problem here.
3.) Whims: There is only one strategy in Apples to Apples
cater to the whims and desires of the judge. The better one learns
how to do this the better that person will play the game. I know,
for example, that if I throw down "Mel Gibson" for some gals, that
they will pick it, irregardless of the adjective. Other people
(myself included) will pick the combination that makes them laugh
the most. Some people throw out any cards that they dislike
others may pick a card that has some kind of personal meaning to
them. Husbands and wives do well, having an intuitive knowledge of
what their spouse will pick. Of course, sometimes one will get a
hand full of "junk", with no cards that match the adjective in the
middle. Often the best response is to throw in a random card; it
just might get picked! One time, we played with a "computer", where
we drew a random card from the deck and threw it in the mix; and it
came in second place. This proves that strategy isn't that great in
Apples to Apples with the hilarity of answers bringing most of the
fun to the game.
4.) Variants: Unless I'm playing in a very competitive group, I
throw out the rule about "last card down goes back to the hand".
Rather, we accept cards from everyone, unless someone takes forever
to decide. I've had almost unanimous approval from people about
accepting this rule; although the rules, as written can cause some
frenzied games! Another variant plays the game backwards, dealing
out green cards, and flipping over one red card at a time. While
fun, that variant doesn't seem to catch on, so I rarely play it.
5.) Expansions: There are four expansions for the game
currently in print, and two full-sized versions of the game for
younger folk. I bought one of the younger sets, two of the
expansions, and even made some custom cards (the website, along with
a pack of ink-jet printable cards makes some really nice
additions.) All of this gives me a HUGE selection, and rarely do we
run into the same combos twice. (And I play a lot!) If you have
the game, I highly recommend getting one of the expansions and
expansion 4, which has pairs (i.e. Black & White, Sick & Tired,
Pepper & Salt, Lois & Clark, etc.) is by far my favorite. I have to
admit though that the custom cards I seeded my game with usually
bring about the biggest laughs (although I'm not always pleased to
see the adjectives my name is paired off with!)
6.) Fun Factor: The thing that makes Apples to Apples such a
big hit is that it is easy fun. It's not hard to select a card from
your hand and throw it down, and nothing you do is really "stupid".
The game is just plain, easy fun, and the laughs that occur at some
of the combinations can cause the whole group to go into hysterics.
Time's Up makes me laugh more, but also brings stress as you are
trying frantically to win. Apples to Apples is easy going fun.
If you don't have Apples to Apples, shame on you! I don't expect
that "gaming groups" will play this one often, as there's not much
of a challenge in it. But Apples to Apples goes so well with so
many different groups and people, that it should be on all shelves;
because eventually you'll run into a situation where it is the
perfect game. I always have people request this game, and kids and
adults can play in perfect harmony (and laughter). Apples to Apples
is destined to become a classic game, and one that should be on