Critical Play: Bluffing, Judging and Getting Vulnerable…

Apples to Apples is a card game and while sources tend to disagree on exactly who created the game, the majority of them appear to attribute Matt Kirby to be the inventor of the game (Source).  Apples to Apples is designed to be played by four to eight players with a target audience being ages 12+ as the game is marketed as a family game (see Apples to Apples box below). 

(Image source:


Prior to starting the game, each player receives seven red apple cards (which contain words or phrases ranging from animals and foods to celebrities and actions). The game is divided into rounds where each player takes turns being the judge. As a judge, you get to pull a green card which acts as the “prompt”, then all of the over players have to submit one of the red cards that they feel fits the prompt in a funny way with the goal being for the judge to pick their card over the other players’ cards. Once the judge receives a red card from all of the other players, they will shuffle then read them out to the group before choosing their favorite submitted red card. Whoever submitted the red card that the judge chose gets to keep the green card from that round which serves as a point. The game continues with the next round where the next player becomes the judge and the actions repeat themselves. The player’s goal in Apples to Apples is to win the most number of rounds therefore collecting the most green cards which creates a competitive atmosphere. 


One aspect of the game that works well to maintain a competitive, but positive atmosphere is through the use of predetermined red cards. Since the cars that players are submitting are predetermined cards that they draw randomly, the game feels more fair as no player is at an extreme advantage over the other players. By using predetermined cards, the game designers make it so players will often have unique, random, and hopefully funny combinations of red and green cards. 

(Image source:


Although at times the predetermined cards can be funny, while playing I noticed that myself and my dormmates became bored of the game over time as at times we all felt that none of our cards were remotely good fits to the green card and thought that we could come up with funnier cards that were more relevant to our group. Apples to Apples’ approach of having predetermined red cards is effective as it makes it so there is no bias or unfair gameplay due to players being able to recognize other players handwriting; instead, the red cards make it so the judge should never know who submitted the card, allowing for fair play to occur. 


I believe that it could be interesting to have various expansion packs to the game so that a group can have more red card options that focus in on a specific niche or even contain more modern references on the cards as while playing there were some moments when I didn’t know the person or phrase on the card simply due to it feeling out of date.


Apples to Apples is very similar to the well known game: Cards Against Humanity. The most obvious difference between the two are their target audiences with Apples to Apples being targeted towards family audiences while Cards Against Humanity is targeted towards older, more mature audiences with the box even referring to itself as “A party game for horrible people”. What differentiates Apples to Apples is the fact that it began and was intended to be a family friendly game which can clearly be seen in all aspects of the game from the cards to the prompts to even the name. Although games like Cards Against Humanity have external packs or different versions of their games that they market as “family friendly” I see a game for mature audiences that creates a family friendly version to be completely different from a game like Apples to Apples which as its core is family friendly. 


One tradeoff that Apples to Apples makes in comparison to similar games that are more mature is the fact that you are not able to be as vulnerable in Apples to Apples as you are in other, more mature or open-ended games. Apples to Apples appears to be a light-hearted, social game, not a vulnerable getting to know you game. 


About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.