How to Play Apples To Apples

By James Holloway
Group, friends, cards
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Which is more unbelievable: Batman, the Grand Canyon, the Australian Outback or your love life? The answer someone chooses can say a lot about them -- and predicting the choice they'll make is the way to win a game of Apples to Apples. In this fast-paced party game, players compete to make accurate, funny or just plain ridiculous comparisons using a deck of cards.

Getting Started

To play Apples to Apples you'll need a copy of the game and a group of people. The makers recommend four to eight players. The game consists of two decks of cards. The smaller green deck contains cards that show different adjectives, such as "Elitist" or "Wicked." The larger red deck contains nouns, such as "Apples," "Bankruptcy" or "The Old Man and the Sea."

Starting a Turn

At the start of the game, each player receives a hand of five red cards. One player then takes on the role of judge. The judge draws a card from the green deck and reads it out loud. In some versions of the game, there will be two words on the card; the judge chooses his or her favorite. For example, the judge might draw the word "Furious."

Playing Red Cards

Each of the other players then chooses the red card in his or her hand that best matches the description. All of these cards go face-down in the center of the table. The judge shuffles them so that it isn't clear who put down which card. Once the cards have been shuffled, the judge then reads them aloud. For example, the judge who put down "Furious" might receive the red cards "The Ocean," "Angry Hornets," "My Friends" and "Attack on Pearl Harbor."

Choosing a Match

It's now up to the judge to pick the red card that best matches the original green card. During this process, the other players critique, plead and kibitz, trying to get the judge to pick their cards without giving away who played what. After looking over the options, the judge might conclude that while the attack on Pearl Harbor was certainly violent, it was carefully planned in advance and therefore wasn't actually furious. Similarly, while the ocean can sometimes be furious in a storm, it isn't always furious. Finally, the judge might decide that he or she doesn't share the other player's view of their friends as a furious bunch of people. Having eliminated these options, the judge would declare the winner to be "Angry Hornets" -- which are undeniably furious.

Continuing the Game

The player who played the winning red card gets to take the green card and put it in front of them on the table; players can thus see at a glance what the score is. All the red cards go into a discard pile and the players -- apart from the judge -- draw an additional red card to bring their hands back up to five. The player on the left of the previous judge becomes the new judge. He or she draws a green card and a new turn begins.

Winning the Game

The first player to collect a set number of green cards is the winner. The number of cards needed for victory varies depending on the version of the game. In older versions, it varied based on the number of players. For instance, in a four-player game the first player to collect eight cards would win, while the first person to four cards would win in an eight-player game. Newer versions speed play by setting the victory at four green cards, no matter how many players there are.

Mixing it Up

Once you've played a few games of Apples to Apples, you may want to vary the experience a little bit. The game's rules suggest a number of variations, including "Apple Turnovers," in which the judge plays a red card while the players try to match it with green cards, and "Big Apples," in which players can bet the green cards they have already won on the outcome of the current round. One Apples to Apples variant is a game in its own right: Cards Against Humanity has a very similar game mechanic, with the key difference being that the cards are vulgar, twisted and hilariously inappropriate.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.