Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples, by Out of the Box Publishing, is one of the stars of the new wave of board gaming. And it's not a strategy game; it's a party game.

How to Play

The concept is dirt simple:
  • Each player gets a hand of 7 random nouns (red apple cards), e.g. Marilyn Monroe, surfing, dirt, ...
  • Players take turns acting as judge.
  • The judge flips an adjective (green apple card) - e.g. bright, scary, important, ... - and each player must play one of his or her nouns face down.
  • The judge mixes the face-down nouns and flips them over. He or she chooses the one that matches the adjective best, according to his or her completely subjective opinion.
  • The player who played the chosen red apple card wins the green apple card.
  • All players pick back up to 7 cards and the judge rotates.
  • Play until someone wins a certain number of apples, or you get tired.
Why it's Popular

There are several reason that this game is so popular:
  • There is no writing, just cards.
  • The game is trivially easy to learn. You can pick it up just watching one or two rounds.
  • People can join or leave any time during the game without disrupting the game.
  • The judges decision is entirely subjective; therefore, no one can really plan to win, or very much cares whether they win the game. Most people forget that there is a game at all, and just play round by round. Yet there's still excitement every round.
  • The forced combinations of cards can be as funny or as your group allows it to be.
  • Even though you'll eventually get through the cards, it is not each individual card that is funny, but the combinations, which are limitless.
  • Although, most cards have a pretty funny quote on them.
On the downside, your group can't take itself too seriously; there's no real tactical way to win, so it's really more of an amusing pastime than a game. Also, for me, a grizzled strategy game player, once I've played several rounds with one group of players, I'm not really interested in the game anymore. In contrast, my teenage daughter and her friends can play hour after hour, week after week, having a blast every time. It helps that they pretend that when you win a green card, the adjective must reveal something about your true personality.


Anyhow, Out of the Box is capitalizing on having a hit and is working on several new versions of the game.

I'm not talking expansion cards, which they have, of course. I'm talking cultural versions. Because that is one of the other downsides to the original game: the cards are very American culture-specific. Therefore, unless you were familiar with American culture, you could have a difficult time understanding some of the cards.

To solve this, OotB now has culture-specific version of the game, including:
For the LDS version, you can go to their website now and submit card ideas. You may win a free copy of the new version.

Hebrew Versions

Regarding the Hebrew version, JET was kind enough to promise to send me a copy of the game. I'll give a review when it arrives.

I just got off the phone with Kinder Shpiel. Apparently they are planning not only an equivalent Hebrew version to the above Yiddish version, but also adult versions of both Yiddish and Hebrew, as well as both "secular" and "religious" Hebrew versions.

I offered him my help on the Hebrew versions - for the secular stuff, I think I can volunteer my teenagers with the promise of free copies of the game. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.



Duncan M said...

There have been a few party-style games out in the past couple of years. Most work on a loose voting scheme, or judging.

We like Apples to Apples, but my wife favours Things... (

The interesting thing I find is that they are easily reconfigurable for different play styles. House rules are easily added, and even the whole game can be easily changes for more interesting play with your particular group.

For instance, we play an Apples variant where the judge draws 3 Green Apples, discards 1, and uses the other 2 to play the round. You get some very odd adjective combinations that way. The winner of the round then selects the attribute that they prefer to keep.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

duncan: Things looks like a fun, but rather typical party game. It requires writing, and also, once the cards run out, it's a strain to repeat them.

Vairants for A2A are easy. I think it would make an excellent game for a classroom for that reason.


Duncan M said...

I've played Things a number of times now (as my wife's favourite party game we usually play it at least once a month), and not run out of cards. And I don't think that repeating a card would do any harm. Each session is defined not only by who is playing, but what has been recently talked about, what cards and answers have come before, and any other number of factors.

The fun of the game is coming up with odd, funny answers each time. The best answers tend to stick, and even repeat (as bring-backs) in later rounds. This creates a unique sense of play each time. A quick shuffle of the deck after making it through will drastically alter the order, and subsequently the connections of play from round to round.

The mechanics are typical, but even they can be messed with to create a different experience. I've played a variant that where everyone votes for the most humourous answers, and after a few rounds everyone is forced to randomly recycle the previous answers with new cards.