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.

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