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“Apples to Apples” is a party game which uses cards to resolve play. The game comes with two sets of cards, red apple cards and green apple cards, and a minimalist game board. The cards are about 95% of all tools used to play Apples to Apples, so I wanted to give a report.
The publishers for Apples to Apples have been Pegasus Spiele, Out of the Box, and Mattel. It is designed for 4 to 10 players and takes 30 minutes to an hour to play, depending on the size of the group. The game first appeared in 1999, when it won a MENSA Award and the Games Magazine “Party Game of the Year”. It also won the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval in the spring of 1999.
That’s an important place to start. Despite being listed as a party game, Apples to Apples is a family-friendly game. Anytime my family gets together, Apples to Apples is one of a select few games which we play. Kids as young as 10 years old play it and it’s appropriate for all ages, though children might need a certain help with historical figures and references. Each card comes with an explanation, so the bright and inductive of any age can play.
How to Play Apples to Apples
Game materials are divided into two main types: green apple cards and red apple cards. Red apple cards contain a noun, while green apple cards contain an adjective. Each player takes a turn as the judge, with turns revolving around the table in a clockwise basis starting with the youngest player. In many house settings, each player receives an equal number of turns before a winner is determined.
To begin the game, each player is dealt 7 red apple cards. When a card is used, a new red apple card is immediately drawn. This 7-card hand is used to select a card which best matches a green card, which is played by the judge. When it is a person’s turn to judge, they do not use their red deck.
Typical Round of Play
At the beginning of a new round of play, the judge selects a green apple card. They read off the noun. For instance, you might receive the card “Hostile”. This card is going to have three synonyms listed, which add context and depth of meaning. Those unfamiliar with or unsure of the word might find one of the secondary options to help with matching cards. For instance, the “Hostile” card also lists the words “Aggressive”, “Antagonistic”, and “Warlike”.
Once the green card’s words are called out, then all other players select one of their seven cards to match with “Hostile”. The red cards list nouns of all sorts: people, places, things. This might be a time period (“The Roaring Twenties” or “The Old West”), people (Rush Limbaugh, Charlie Chaplin, Emperor Hirohito), or groups of people (Democrats, Republicans, PETA, The NRA, NASCAR).
Obviously, the cards you hold might not always match the word for that round. With hostile, you might hold cards like Unicorns, Mother Teresa, Paris Hilton, Strawberry Shortcake, Gerald Ford, The Fifties, and The United Nations. You might hope the judge really dislikes the United Nations or thinks they’re to blame for most of the wars in the world. Or you might decide one of the cards isn’t likely to match up well with anything, so you want to “burn” the card by using it in hopeless hand you would lose anyway. A certain amount of strategy is employed when choosing cards, as well as a working knowledge of the person who is judge.
Winning the Game
When the judge selects a card they think matches best, they hand their original green “Hostile” card to the winning player. These trophies are the scoring system in the game. In most smaller games, the first player to collect 7 cards is declared the winner. In larger games, 5 is the winning number.
Apples to Apples has a lot of unintentional humor, because most players will not have perfect matches. Also, if you play with players who are a bit air-headed or whose vocabulary isn’t so great, they act as a wild card in the game. Their decisions can throw the game to someone, especially if someone knows their tendencies.
For instance, I have a nephew who would be considered a ditz, if he were female. His head just seems to be in the clouds. One hand, he got the word “Humorous”. People threw out their cards and he began eliminating several, so that the final choice came down to “Knock Knock Jokes” and “The Planet Saturn”. Since I had put out Knock-Knock Jokes, I thought I had this won easily. Sure enough, he chose the Planet Saturn, because “I think Saturn is cool”.
The Game of Hilarious Comparisons!
It should be mentioned that people are supposed to play it straight–they don’t pick Saturn just to be funny. Anyone else at the table, it might have been controversial decision. With my nephew, it just became a story we used to poke gentle fun over the years.
Apples to Apples has a big luck factor. Some games, your cards match the adjectives well. Some games, they don’t. Still, there is some skill to the game, enough so that wordsmiths and people who are not so brainy can play and still enjoy. Apples to Apples spawned the word-matching games which are played today. For instance, Cards Against Humanity is simply Apples to Apples with an adult, irreverent twist.
There are many editions of this game, including a junior edition, a Party Box edition, and a Jewish edition. Mobile Apples to Apples is available now, too. That’s by no means the full extent of options, but a sample of what you might find. Apples to Apples is a game which appeals to a wide range of people. If your family is split on politics, then you might find a few moments of tension. Any cards involving Democrats and Republicans seem to allow a certain tension to creep into the air when we play. Otherwise, Apples to Apples is a fun fest.