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[Review] Apples to Apples

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  • Tom Vasel
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2004
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      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
      every shelf.

      Tom Vasel
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