Thursday, September 04, 2008

Game Review: Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples game
Before last weekend, I had seen -- but had never played -- the card game Apples to Apples. Gary and I went to a Labor Day barbecue at a friend's house, and we arrived to find all the guests in a circle on a picnic blanket under a tree in the back yard. Everyone was playing Apples to Apples. At first, the game seemed a bit confusing, but I took over someone's hand when they had to run an errand, and it turns out that it's pretty easy to learn.

I never actually saw the game box, so what I describe may be different from the official rules. Anyhow, the game contains green cards that each contain a single adjective (luscious, dirty, funny, glamorous, etc.) and red cards that each contain a single person, place, or thing. Everyone playing draws a certain number of red cards (this apparently varies depending on the people playing; with 6-10 people playing, our game maven had us all draw 7 cards) that they keep hidden like any other playing card hand.

The game progresses as you go around in the circle with each person taking a turn drawing a green card. This becomes the topic for the turn. The person drawing the green card announces the topic, and everyone else has to pick a card from their hand that they think best fits the adjective (or hilariously deviates from the topic) and lays their card face down in a widow in the middle or the table (or picnic blanket as the case may be). The person holding the green card then picks up the discarded cards, shuffles them, and goes through them and picks out what he or she feels is the "best" card for the topic. The person who threw in the pick of the kitty is then awarded the green card, and the person with the most green cards at the end of the game wins.

When Gary and I entered the game, most of the fun came from the green card holder snarking on the card selections. Sometimes you'll end up with nothing that matches the topic -- for instance, when the green card was "glamorous", I think I had "log cabins", "rocks", "oxygen", "my parents' house", "spilled milk", and "Ernest Borgnine" in my hand. Nothing glamorous there, so I had to try for something that might seem hilariously inappropriate, so I threw in ol' Ernest. I didn't win the turn, but everyone got a laugh.

Not being a champion snarker, when it came to be my first turn to draw a green topic card, I ended up telling a little story with the widow cards: "So the Rolling Stones were traveling down the highway when they got a flat outside Waco, TX and they were approached by a group of choir boys carrying a pregnant woman who was about to go into labor on a trampoline ...." People got a bigger kick out of the silly stories than the random snarks, so we all started trying to make stories out of the cards before we made our pick.

So, anyhow: Apples to Apples is a fun, silly party game, and makes a nice icebreaker for any gathering of geeks. But it also struck me that it could be used as a creativity exercise. Stuck for a plot? Draw some red cards and see what relationships and conflicts you could draw between them.