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June 11, 2003

Favorite Games VII

Today's pair are brought to us by the good folks at Out of the Box Games.

Apples to Apples is, quite probably, the finest "party game" I've ever seen. It is a game you can teach in minutes and that can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone of reasonable literacy, and it is endlessly, reliably, fun. The game itself is simple... Two types of cards, Red Cards which contain Nouns (people, places, things, the occasional generic term like "my high school prom") and Green cards which contain Adjectives ("Dramatic", "Complicated", or "Fancy", for three examples). Cards also contain simple definitions, quotes, or other identifiers to assist someone not familiar with the word or name in question. Each turn, one player takes the role of Judge and turns up one Green card. Every other player then selects the Red card from their hand that best matches the adjective on the Green card, playing it face-down. "Best" is intentionally subjective... Play to the Judge, because the Judge will decide (after shuffling so the source of each card is unidentifiable) on their own criteria. Whoever's word is chosen wins the round, and you play to a total score based on the number of players. That's it. (Well, actually, there are a handful of alternate ways to play presented in the base game and with each expansion set, of which there are four, but those are all optional additional fun.) The game plays quickly and socially, and all sorts of fun can be had just trying to make people explain why they Judged as they did. Two "Junior Age" editions also exist (using simpler vocabulary and fewer people not currently in the news), and if you just don't have the words you want, there's always these. This couldn't be more recommended as a ready passtime, or as something to take to your next non-gamer gathering (family event, church social, or whatever you gather for). It's all but assured to be a hit. The only disappointment, to me, is the art... It's by John Kovalic, but it consists of the same cartoon apple (colored red or green) over and over. A little variety would add to the game, but it's plenty good even without that.

Gold Diggers is an ultra-simple Knizia game, at least on its surface. When you get a little deeper, it shows some bits of strategy behind its apparently luck-heavy structure. Written for 2-5 players ages 7+, it might seem impossible that there could be any real strategy here, but Knizia is a better game designer than that. Gold Diggers features 3 types of cards, representing Mines (there are 6 and they are used to form a board rather than shuffled into the deck), Characters (5 for each mine) and Gold (real gold ranging in value from 1 to 8 nuggets and "fool's gold" worth zero). The mines are placed across the table, and each turn you play either a Character (on the appropriate mine) or a Gold card (on any mine of your choice with less than five). If you play a Character, you have the option of "staking a claim" on the mine they are associated with by placing a chip on the mine (you can, at most, stake 3 claims in the game, so there are 3 chips in each player color). When the last card is played (there are exactly 60 cards and exactly 60 places to play cards), you total up the gold in each mine, divide by the claims (rounding down), and get each player's score. Simple, but there's enough strategic choice, even with only 3 cards in your hand, that skill does play a part in winning (though luck can still betray you, such as if you never draw a Character card). Still, as with many high-luck games, playing multiple rounds and totaling the score can level out the random parts. This game plays in minutes (10-20), so that's easily done. This time, John Kovalic does provide some fun art (the pun-laden character cards will provide a giggle or two). And for the price (under $10!), this game is very hard to beat, even if it lacks the strategic density of others. It's quick, cheap, and fun. What more could you want?

Funagain Purchase Links:
Apples to Apples
Gold Diggers

Posted by ghoul at June 11, 2003 06:31 AM

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Apples to Apples is, quite simply, the Best. Party. Game. Ever.

I hate Pictionary with a passion, and I can't stand charade-based games, but Apples to Apples I love, and it never fails to reduce me to helplessly tearful laughter at some point.

(Of course, I typically play with extremely weird people, but even so.)

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at June 11, 2003 09:23 AM

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