(Just to give y’all an idea of what we do for fun. Written by John, posted by Lisa.)
I recently met a new couple that I really like, and they live incredibly close to me. It so happens that another couple with whom my partner and I have been friendly also live close by, and we’ve all said to each other at different times that we should hang out more than we do. So, what the hell, I introduced them to each other and suggested that we all get together. In the back of some of the involved minds is a similar thought: “D&D Group!” But that’s not something you just jump into, so we’re getting started with simpler games first. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve had to host a gathering where a bag of dice wasn’t all I needed to entertain; how’d it go?
I knew everyone involved was a game-player to one degree or another, so at least I had some hints. It also was not a dinner party, so food was simple enough. I peeled and cut some carrots, opened up some great Dorito-like chips for Trader Joe’s, got out some pretzels, and chilled some wine and soda. Simple enough. Now to pick games, and here’s where I made my only serious mistake. The game I led off with was Twitch, a Richard Garfield game that’s sort of a mix between Uno and War (or Egyptian Rat Fuck, or any other speed-based card game you can think of). The thing is, while the rules are fundamentally simple, it’s a difficult game to be any good at right off the bat, leading to a lot of frustration for all but the savviest game players. I wasn’t even that good at it, as it’s a game I’ve admired but almost never had a chance to play. We gave it a few minutes, I took stock of the grimaces and frowns, and pulled it off the table.
Fortunately, I wised up and fell back on the game I usually break out for this sort of thing: Apples to Apples. (I note with mild astonishment that, when I went to find a link, A2A has a Wikipedia entry….) If you’re ever planning on having friends to your home for an evening, and they can read, buy this game. Anyone can understand and enjoy this game within moments of picking it up. It’s this simple:
Each player has a hand of red cards. On each card is a noun, most proper but some common: Madonna, London Bridge, Republicans, rock n’ roll, My bedroom… there are thousands of possibilities. On each turn, one player sets their hand down and becomes the judge. As the judge, they pull a green card from a deck and read it out loud; this card will have an adjective on it. Funny, sad, melancholy, sexy, etc… the other players will play face down from their hand a red card that they think is best described by the adjective. Then the judge will mix them up (so as not to know whose is whose) and select the card that they think does the best job. They announce the winning card, which is only then claimed by the winner. The game goes until a person reaches X number of green cards (decided beforehand) or until time runs out and you count up your wins.
Here’s a quick example of play, which hopefully shows why this game is so fun:
I’m the judge (yay me!). I set down my hand of red apple cards and pull a green apple card. “Ok. This word means dastardly, evil, and opposing. (Every card has descriptive text or examples, to make sure nobody feels dumb for not knowing what the card is talking about…) The word is villainous.” Ethan, Jen, Lisa, Siobhan, and Steve now search their hands for cards that they think are described by “villainous” and play them, face down, in front of me. I mix them around dramatically and then pick them up. “Hrm,” sez I. “Well, kittens” I say, snapping down the first card, “do, in fact, grow up to be cats, which are all assholes, but until then they’re pretty innocent.”
“Oh come on!” Steve moans, “the little furry Nazis can’t be trusted!”
“”Nazi kittens” would’ve been a good one,” I agree. I snap another card down. “Villainous fruit punch? Right, moving on…”
“Guess who didn’t have a good answer and was sick of looking at fruit punch…” says Lisa.
“Republicans. <snap> I see what you did there, but I don’t think my parents have a death ray in their basement….”
Steve wants to throw me off, so he says “Just you wait…” Sometimes you can tell who played what card, but most times people will play nice and try to keep it a secret.
“Nice,” I reply. I snap down another card. “Now, I have to say in most hands Wile E. Coyote would have been an amazing play, but it’s still baseball season so I have to give the nod to <snap> George Steinbrenner.”
“Oh come on!” yells Siobhan. “Hot damn!” grins Ethan, scooping up the green apple card that he just won.
And so on and so on. It’s an amazing, conversation-generating game that everyone should have in their closet or on their shelf.