I used to love playing Apples to Apples. It seemed like the best party game ever, not least because of the judge’s ability to choose any red card he or she happened to like. Any game where a mafia can be described as more mystical than anything else is a good game. Playing with literal-minded people could get a bit irritating, and as I got older more of my fellow players would put down the most boring and obvious nouns for the adjective given. Some rounds that I judged were so frustrating that I threw out all the cards and demanded new ones. I soon discovered that I was able to get away with this about once a game, if I didn’t mind the grumbles of my companions. So for a while I thought that my boredom during my rounds to judge was over.
Now, part of the skill of Apples to Apples is being able to pick up on the sorts of cards your fellow players respond to, and providing them with said cards when they are judging. My love of randomness and creativity in the game had been expressed, but I was not being given the real thing. Instead, I would receive entire stacks of cards saying “brains,” “aliens,” Darth Vader,” “James Bond,” and so on. This was even more boring than the completely literal stacks of previous games. After a few rounds of receiving what felt like the same set of geek buzzword cards again and again, I did my old trick of throwing out the hand and demanding a new one. My companions were more upset than usual. I know I at least threatened to take the adjective card for myself if they couldn’t do better, but I don’t know if I actually did or if the game just ended. It’s not really important. My real problem was that the strategy of the game had gotten so formulaic, it had lost what had appealed to me in the first place. My method of picking cards had never been, “oh, sharks are cool, sharks automatically win.” It had been more along the lines of “oh, the thought of a psychedelic shark makes me giggle, sharks win.” So people who I know who play Apples to Apples, if you pick whichever card amuses you, I will be a lot happier playing Apples to Apples with you. And I think it’s a good idea for the people who I don’t know who play Apples to Apples, too.
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