Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust: An Apples to Apples Retrospective


This counts for my daily fruit intake, right?

For a while in high school I had friends that became obsessed with the game Apples to Apples. It was the only game anyone would bring to parties anymore and the only game people would specifically ask for at said parties. In fact, people would plan parties around playing this game. So for me, I was hesitant to enjoy this game, assuming it was a fad. But was it? It still sells well to this very day. Let’s learn more.

Rules and Context

Apples to Apples came out in the significant year of 1999, famous for being the year everyone wanted to party like it was. It also managed to win a number of awards, such as Party Game of the Year and Mensa’s Mensa Select award. What did this mean to me in high school? Still not enough. I’d have to learn how this game was played first.

Apples to Apples is played with a group of 4-to-however many people all sitting in a circle. Each player is dealt seven red apple cards that have nouns, noun phrases, or gerunds written on them. No, don’t ask me, an English major, what a gerund is because I can’t tell you. You have to be in a special club to know what it means, probably called Mensa. The important thing to note is that these red apple cards will say something like “Rome,” “Bill Clinton,” or “Horseshoes.” One player designated the judge of that round draws a green apple card that has an adjective written on it like “Ridiculous” or “Amazing.” Players look through their red apple cards, pick one that they think best represents the adjective, and anonymously submit their card to the judge.

These are what the cards look like in case you weren't familiar with what cards look like.

Then comes the real fun. The judge reads all the red cards aloud and then decides whose card best fits the adjective. Now, the game can go in two ways here. Either the player picks the one that literally does match closest with no nonsense, also known as the “boring way to play,” or they correctly choose the most interesting card based on other players’ reactions of laughter. One of our personal best when playing was “Helen Keller” for “Lazy.” Politically correct? Nope. Hilarious? Absolutely.

There are tons of variations to this game by the way. Common variations include the judge selecting a red card at random and then seeing how ridiculous it is, awarding the point to the least likely red card, or having to judge from the point of view of someone else like Zack Effron or Barack Obama. I think all of these ways, the official way included, are boring. How do I play the game? I play it like Scattergories.

I learned this variation from my wife and her family. Instead of playing normally, everyone selects their red card and holds onto it, reading aloud their own choice and then making a case for why it is clearly the best. I find this way of playing to be far more entertaining because it places the importance of the humor on everyone in the round rather than just the judge and pretty much ensures that even if you have a dull judge for the round everyone is guaranteed a great show.

With both the official rules and my family’s variation, the most important aspect of play is not the actual box but rather the people you’re playing with. If you are playing in a group of people you either don’t know or aren’t completely comfortable with, everyone is more likely to play it safe and not take greater risks for the sake of comedy. And of course, there is the risk that there is that one boring person in your group that just can’t think of something really funny to submit for their turn. They are unfortunate, but this isn’t the game for them. They should go sit in the corner until everyone else is done having fun. But remember, it’s just a game. With that in mind, it’s only $17 on Amazon.


About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

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