Stats at a glance
Ages: 12 +
Apples to Apples may have been my first-ever party game experience.
I remember looking around everywhere for a Christmas gift for our yearly friends’ Secret Santa and the FLG in my hometown was demoing Apples to Apples. I spent the next 20 minutes playing round after round with the clerk and we both forgot I was supposed to be shopping.
Needless to say, I ended up buying a copy and we played it for hours after the gift exchange.
Today we’re going to dive into Apples to Apples to see if, after 20 years, it’s still worth a spot on your shelf (or if it turned into a lemon). Read our full Apples to Apples board game review below.
Brief Overview of Apples to Apples
Before Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples was one of the original play-and-judge card games. First released in 1999, it has since been sold to Mattel where it has been published ever since.
It’s a simple judgment card matching game in which players create interesting combinations with red (nouns) and green (adjectives) cards.
It’s also credited with popularizing the judgment and card-matching mechanic that has flooded the market in recent years.
Versions & Expansions
There are actually quite a few different versions of Apples to Apples. In this review, we’re checking out the standard Party in a Box but if you’re looking for more, you can check out some of these different versions.
Apples to Apples: Party in a Tin
This is the equivalent of a Big Box bundle. The tin version comes standard with 1000 plus cards which include the originals as well as the expansions.
Apples to Apples Junior
Although the base game is pretty family-friendly on its own, there are a few cards you may not want to explain to the youngins just yet. That’s where the Junior version comes into play. The cards are changed up and edited so that there shouldn’t be anything untoward in your game.
Apples to Apples Big Picture
Similar to the original game, but red cards are now replaced with oddball pictures that are used in conjunction with the green cards. It’s a simple change, but a welcome one.
Apples to Apples: Disney Edition
Apples to Apples: Marvel Edition
Unboxing Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples was sold to Mattel and almost every version you’ll find on the market today will be produced and distributed by them. Their version includes a plastic insert that should fit all the cards in neat little tucked-away boxes that can be pulled out for easy use during the game.
The cards are of decent quality and should last a fair while without being forced to sleeve them. The game itself consists entirely of cards, so that’s an important factor.
The instruction insert is actually pretty well done but the rules are simple enough that you won’t really need it for long.
How to Play Apples to Apples
Apples to Apple is pretty simple to learn.
- A player is chosen as the judge and chooses a green card.
- Every player chooses one of their red cards to match with the green card.
- The Judge chooses their favorite.
- Laughs are had by all.
There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the majority of the game.
Green cards have different adjectives or descriptions and the red cards have some kind of nouns, such as a person or activity.
Whoever has their red card chosen in the round wins the green card which acts as the scoring system and whoever wins a set number of green cards first is the winner.
Oftentimes people just end up playing these games until they run out of cards or get bored of the game, though.
Your First Game of Apples to Apples
This is the type of game that the more players you have the more interesting the game will be.
I highly suggest having at least 5 or more players to really get the full effect of the game. Usually, around 5-8 would be best in my opinion. Any less and the card combinations become pretty obvious and any more can be a struggle to keep everyone focused on the game.
Pros & Cons
Yes, I’m going to mention the big black box that we’ve all come to know and associate with this type of game, Cards Against Humanity.
CAH is a game you can’t play with the family kids or when grandma comes to visit (unless grandma has a raunchy sense of humor).
Apples to Apples has the same gameplay, but is also a bit more thought-provoking than CAH. Pairings are not always so straightforward, and the card with the most shock value isn’t always going to be the automatic winner.
There are a few cards in the box that may not be entirely appropriate but are nowhere near as bad as the cards in CAH. There’s also a junior version if you’re specifically looking for kid-friendly cards without having to edit the deck by hand as well.
- Limited Shelf Life
- Shows it’s age.
Apples to Apples was pretty innovative for its time. It won several awards, including a Mensa Select Award.
That being said, it will expire at some point. By that, I mean there will come a point when every card has a match that will win within your game group. Even with hundreds of cards, you’ll eventually hit that point where every combination that your gaming group enjoys has been done.
You can always change up the members, but with a family gaming group and a family game that might be more therapy than it’s worth.
The mechanic has also evolved over the course of the years. Games like Dixit and even Mysterium have taken the idea behind Apples to Apples and created much more mechanically sound and complete games.
It’s not a terrible game. It’s actually really fun.
Objectively better games have just been made and put on the market.
Apples to Apples Review (TL;DR)
Apples to Apples is a fun party game. The themes and cards are family-friendly and depending upon the crowd and the judge can be quite cerebral in their pairings.
It doesn’t always have to be just goofy combos that win but sometimes there’s that really quirky gem of a mashup that works perfectly together with a specific group.
If you’re looking for a family party game it definitely checks the box with a big thick tipped sharpie.
It will get stale if you rapid-fire playthroughs round after round, but for a family game night once a week you’ll get plenty of mileage.
We hope you enjoyed our Apples to Apples review. Apples to Apples was incredibly innovative when it first came out. It’s been delighting audiences and hitting the game table for over 20 years now and is still a household name for many.
That being said, it does show its age a bit. I have a lot of good memories of the game, but just like its raunchier cousins that it spawned there are only so many times you can play through the game before it becomes stale and repetition starts to rear its ugly head.
I give Apples to Apples a lot of credit for what it started, but after 20+ years there are other games that took the player judge/card czar concept and have done it better.
If you’ve never experienced Apples to Apples and you’re interested in a quirky family game night, it’s definitely worth a look.
It’s not an incredibly expensive game, so it won’t break the bank. There are also plenty of secondhand versions and sales all the time, so if you’ve never owned a copy it’s easy to pick up.
If you’re looking for something with a similar vibe but with a longer shelf life maybe check out Dixit. It’s got a much longer shelf life and is one of Apples to Apples’ successors that have taken the concept and evolved it beyond a simple word game.
Have you played Apples to Apples? What are your favorite combos? Drop a comment below!
Looking for board game inspiration? Check out our Best Board Games of 2022 video below:
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.