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Apples to Apples is a word matching game that encourages invention as much as accuracy. It's a lot of fun and surprisingly engaging.
Apples to Apples should probably be described as a party game but for us it fits into a family-time slot as good as any board or card game. If anything, it's even more flexible because the goal -- say, first to win five rounds -- can be tailored to fit our mood and this game tends towards the "Just one more round, oh pleeeease!"
The game consists of two kinds of card. The referee reads out the green apple (a description) card for the round, for example Messy and, just to be sure, also reads the brief definition provided. All other players then lay a red apple (a thing) card, for example My Bedroom or Spaghetti, face down, in the hope of it being picked as the best fit in the opinion of the referee. The played cards are mixed up and passed to the referee, who reads them out loud for the enjoyment of all players before choosing the winner for the round.
Now, I am aware there are rules about rotating the referee role, discounting the last red apple played, hand size, among others. But we have largely dispensed with the official rules in favour of various house rules that makes the game fun for us. And boy, do we have a lot of fun with it.
Last-born Iona is always the referee, a role in which she thrives. Her decision is final and she almost always makes the most sensible, logical choice, though it's known she can be swayed by cards pertaining to rabbits, chocolate and the like.
Dad may consider Car Horns to be Important but can't compete against New Shoes in the eyes of a seven-year-old looking forward to going back to of school. Sometimes her job is a tough one: who can say which the most Tame between Rainbows and Telling the Truth?
The game gets really interesting when there are three cards that are strong contenders.
The game gets really interesting when there are two, maybe three, cards that are unquestionably strong contenders. Iona is rarely swayed by lobbying and good humoured trash talk but that doesn't stop us from trying.
All players (other than the referee) hold five red apples cards at a time, primarily because even with a plastic card holder ten-year-old Aurora struggles to manage more. Players are free to exchange any card they think not everyone will understand or appreciate. Everyone plays one card in their own time then picks up a new card ready for each new round.
Quite a lot of the fun is in reading/hearing the card combinations that don't win because they are just a little too ridiculous. Clearly Ear Wax is not normally considered to be Talented but this time it was the best I had (just my luck, the next rounds is Natural and I wish I'd held onto it).
Often, to everyone's surprise, such implausible pairings can be uncontended winning combinations. Who would have thought Bongos was the most Comfortable thing? Only in a game of Apples to Apples, perhaps.
I thought my Buying a House was a contender for Scary until I saw Aurora's Flying Monkeys.
In our games you are more likely to hear, "Fair play, the best card won." than "I was robbed!" I thought my Buying a House was a contender for Scary until I saw Aurora's Flying Monkeys. And no one can feel aggrieved for long because in Apples to Apples the rounds come thick and fast.
Choosing an absurd answer for surreal comedic effect is a tactic sometimes employed by grownups but thankful is rarely successful. Used occasionally, it keeps the game fun but can quickly turn random play into a valid strategy, which kills the fun. For us, the carefully considered approach of our kid-friendly version retains the fun elements the fun without letting the rounds drag on.
We've played our Junior UK edition of the game to the point where some of the best cards have become stale. The My Bedroom card is now very powerful and practically invincible for descriptions such as Disgusting. So we acquired the Party Box Edition, which contains over 1000 cards. Even after filtering out all the US-centric cards and those the kids wouldn't understand (and admittedly some censorship relating to inappropriate foodstuff), we are left with literally hundreds of cards to play with.
The My Bedroom card is now very powerful and practically invincible for descriptions such as Disgusting.
All you need to play Apples to Apples are the cards, scoring being tracked by awarding the green apple description card to the winner of the round. This means games don't need to be played at the table. We recently enjoyed playing Apples to Apples outdoors on picnic rugs at a National Trust beauty spot, with Aurora running around collecting plays and replenishing cards among the seven family members present.
With its near-zero set up time. Apples to Apples has become our go to game when we want 10 or 20 (or 30 or...) minutes of game playing fun.
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