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Apples to Apples Game Review

A game of comparisons that does not need to wade hip deep in the muck.

Apples to Apples was designed as a family game where anyone could join in on the fun. Does it hold up in a post-Cards Against Humanity era? Find out in this Meeple Mountain review!

I can remember several days in my personal history with Apples to Apples, such as the first time I played it and discovered that party games do not have to feel devoid of intellectual stimulation; the first time someone had some serious unintended innuendo come about with a play of a card. There was the time one of my best friends made a ten minute argument as to why Michael Jackson was the trump card in this game (i.e., he fits any nearly any adjective that can be played, and he fits them better than just about any other card could). But the one that I remember most was the day Apples to Apples started to wane in my game group’s rotation. More on that last date later; for now, let’s talk about what makes Apples to Apples tick.

The Game

Apples to Apples is, quite honestly, as simple as a game can get.

Players are dealt seven ‘red’ apple cards which have nouns printed on them (i.e., a person, place, thing, or event).

A noun is a person, place, or thing.

Players rotate being the judge, who will draw one ‘green’ apple card which has an adjective printed on it (i.e., a characteristic of a person, place, thing, or event).

Time to unpack your adjectives.

The judge places the ‘green’ apple card in front of them and reads it aloud to the other players.  Each of those other players then looks at the ‘red’ apple cards in their hand, and decides which of those cards can best be described by the ‘green’ apple. They hand their choice to the judge, face-down. Once everyone has handed the judge a card, the judge will then shuffle the cards they received (to ensure they have no idea as to who played what). They then reveal the ‘red’ apple cards and determine which of those cards is best described by the ‘green’ apple.

The person who played the winning ‘red’ apple, takes the ‘green’ apple and sets it aside into their score pile. All players draw ‘red’ apple cards to get their hand back up to seven cards, and the judge moves on to the next player. Once someone has collected a set number of ‘green’ apple cards (determined by player count), the game is over!

Like I said: simple.

Let’s Party!

Apples to Apples is a blast! One of the most important things to remember when playing is that you need to play the judge as much as the cards. If you have a card you know will appeal to the judge, that might be more important than playing a card that is perfectly described by the adjective. You have to know your audience, and each round the audience is the one making the choice as to which card wins.

One thing to watch out for: on each ‘green’ apple card, there are a list of synonyms. Many people will read or hear those words and immediately push any other possible meaning of the main word out of their head. Do not limit yourself to the words on the card! Those are meant to spark your imagination, not stifle it! Look at the word and think about how that word might mean something to the judge; think about how it might relate to something personal. Limiting yourself is never a good idea.

The base game comes with almost 1,000 cards (~750 ‘red’ apples, and ~250 ‘green’ apples). For a while there, you had a lot of options to expand the game. First there were the ‘crate’ or ‘party box’ expansions (simply called Expansion 1 through Expansion 4). But the people responsible for this game did not stop there! Between expansions and stand-alone games that can be mixed in without issue, BoardGameGeek currently lists over 30 items. There are a lot of Apples to Apples cards to go around.

All of these cards and all of these games/expansions and one has to wonder what happened? Why is this not a game that ranks much higher?

If my personal history with this game is any indication, I think I know why.

Bring in the So-Called ‘Adult’ Humor

In the intro, I mentioned that there are many dates in my history with Apples to Apples of which I have a good, clear memory. One of those dates was when my game group’s days with Apples to Apples became numbered.

It was a game gathering, much like any other. A friend was running a charity auction and as a part of it, some of us were asked to bring games for everyone to enjoy (it was a silent auction, so keeping people around and entertained was a big part of the evening). One of the games I brought was Apples to Apples. We had a nice sized table and a group of about eight playing. We were enjoying ourselves, having fun and getting to know one another.

At some point, a group of people at a nearby table started playing a game I had not heard of, called Cards Against Humanity. People at our table were overhearing the results of the turns in that game, and slowly, people were migrating from our table to that one.

The next day, I went to my friendly local game store and inquired as to the availability of this game. I was able to get it. I introduced it to my normal game group, and it was a hit! Suddenly, nobody wanted to play Apples to Apples. If that was the itch, then Cards Against Humanity was the scratch they requested. And so my Apples to Apples collection sat on a shelf collecting dust, while the expansions for Cards Against Humanity (and a few third-party expansions) continued to accumulate.

At some point it became obvious that the games in my limited shelf space needed to be prioritized. Apples to Apples was culled. Ironically, it was not long after that when Cards Against Humanity lost its luster with my game group. Nobody wanted to play it any longer – they complained that the humor in the game was forced, and often not nearly as clever as we had once thought (or as clever as those who wrote it thought it was). But Apples to Apples was gone, and we had moved on to other games.

A Revival (of sorts)

So I got rid of my copy of Apples to Apples some time ago. As I was thinking about what games I would really like to review, I discovered that Meeple Mountain had never reviewed this little gem. So I first had to get acquainted with the game. I shopped around at various sites trying to get, if nothing else, the base game and the first two party box expansions. It took a while, but I found them! My game group does not know it yet, but we are going to be playing some Apples to Apples very soon!

Final Thoughts

Look, I get it. Apples to Apples is not trying to be funny; Cards Against Humanity is. Apples to Apples is not trying to be risqué; Cards Against Humanity’s raison d’etre is to see how many people it can offend. If you encounter them both, depending upon your tastes, it might seem like Cards Against Humanity is more fun, or the better game. But I assure you, the novelty of Cards Against Humanity wears off, and when it does you have nothing more than a pile of cards with far too many… shall we say off-color elements.

Apples to Apples is a far, far better game. It needs no help! If a player is prone to off-color humor, they can find it here and such humor will not be forced. When someone plays a ‘red’ apple and does not know much about who or what that card is describing, unintended humor will often result. The game will give back what you put into it and much more!

Sure, you might get bored with Apples to Apples after a year; but when that happens, it is not done with you. At some point, it will start to call you back, beckoning you to play again. And you’ll want to!

Apples to Apples is truly Timeless.

  • Great - Would recommend.

Apples to Apples details

About the author

K. David Ladage

Avid board gamer, role-player, and poet; software and database engineer. I publish some things under the imprint ZiLa Games. Very happy to be here.

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