Apples to Apples Rules

apples to apples

Apples to Apples is a popular card game by Mattel that is just handy for parties or gatherings. It was originally published by a company called Out of the Box Publishing. Since 2007 however, the game has been acquired by Mattel, who now markets and promotes it. All in all, it’s an entertaining and simple game that should be fun for any group of people, be it family or friends.

The game has undergone several iterations before its present form. The original version only had 432 cards in total, but after 4 expansions and a merge, each full set now has 504 cards in total, and this latest version is called “Party in A Box”, suitable for anywhere between 4 to 8 players. The cards are divided between “Red” Apple cards and “Green” Apple cards.

There are 441 Red Apple cards, and 63 Green Apple Cards. That’s a lot of cards for any card game, and they can easily get lost, so make sure to store them properly in the provided box/tray.

apples to apples set

A full set of Apples to Apples contains 504 cards and a card tray.

The Red Apple cards feature the names of people, places, events, or things (along with more details about them). Meanwhile, the Green Apple cards only have 2 words printed on them (including synonyms) that describe people, places, events, or things.

apples to apples red and green cards

Only two kinds of cards here. Red and Green Apple cards. Each red and green card has a different description on their face.

The game objective is to win the most rounds by getting the most number of Red Apple cards that are the closest match to the descriptions on the Green Apple cards played by the judge of each round. Each player can take turns to be the judge of a round.


Shuffle the cards thoroughly. The cards should not be mixed at any time; Red Apple cards and Green Apple cards should be in their own decks (face down). Choose a player from your group to be the judge for the round.

The judge then deals 5 Red Apple cards to each player (face down). Older versions of Apples to Apples recommend 7 cards for each player. The judge may also deal himself/herself 5 Red Apple cards too, but can only participate in the next round; this is to avoid the judge being biased towards himself/herself. Once the cards are handed out, everyone can look at their cards.

Now, the judge turns over the top Green Apple card, picks one word from the card to read aloud to all the players, and then places it on the table face up. All the players then choose from their Red Apple cards what they think best matches with the word on the Green Apple card. They should then place that particular card face down on the table without revealing what it is.

The judge gathers all the Red Apple cards together, mixes them up, and turns over each one to read aloud. Now is the time for all the players to make their case on why their Red Apple card should be chosen. It’s up to the judge to pick the card of his/her choice, but of course, the judge should be as fair as possible and not appear to be biased! This “haggling” with the judge is what’s supposed to make Apples to Apples fun!

apples to apples cards

After choosing the “best matched” Red Apple card for the round, that matching Green Apple card is awarded to the person who played it. This player wins the round and keeps the Green Apple card on the table as a means of keeping score, until the end of the game. The rest of the Red Apple cards that did not make the cut, are discarded into the game box/tray separately. You can also add them back into the game by adding them back to the bottom of the Red Apple card deck.

A new judge should then be chosen for the new round. Normally, it’s the player to the left of the previous judge (moving in clockwise direction). Each new judge repeats the process described above – for the next round and so forth.

Winning the game:

Mattel (for the latest version of Apples to Apples) recommends that the first person who attains 4 Green Apple cards is declared the winner of the match. However, you can definitely define how many Green Apple cards would be enough to win the match as long as everyone agrees on it. That’s why Mattel provided so many cards for this game!

As a general rule of thumb, the more the players, the less the cards that would be required to win:

  • For 4 players, 8 Green Apple cards win
  • For 5 players, 7 Green Apple cards win.
  • For 6 players, 6 Green Apple cards win
  • For 7 players, 5 Green Apple cards win
  • For 8 players, 4 Green Apple cards win

Other variations of Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is such a versatile group card game that you can add your own variations to the game. These variations keep the game interesting and fresh and force players to think harder for their choices. Other variations that have been suggested by Mattel include Quick Pick, Crab Apples, and 2 for 1 Apples.

Quick Pick – This can be tried out on larger groups of players. The last person who places his/her Red Apple card on the table will be forfeited and their card returned back to them.

Crab Apples – The gameplay revolves around choosing the least matching or opposite Red Apple card to the Green Apple card in play. The judge needs to choose which card is the worst matched as the winner.

2 for 1 Apples – Instead of one word, choose the Red Apple card that is best matched to BOTH the words on the Green Apple card that is in play.

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