Saturday, November 19, 2005

Party games can be frustrating...



Now I don't consider myself a games snob. But tonight I realized a little more why I don't like party games - or more specifically Apples to Apples.

My wife and I were invited to play Settlers - Cities and Knights with a few other couples. Well, it turns out that an additional couple was invited, so we were stuck with eight people. When we showed up, I saw Balderdash on the table. Now I almost walked out because that is one of my least favorite party games. But instead, someone had brought Apples to Apples. I had played once before and had an enjoyable time so I lobbied for that one and was successful.

If you haven't played, it's basically played like this: everyone has a handful of cards. Someone, who is considered the judge, lays down a card with an adjective and everyone picks a card from their hand that best matches the adjective. The judge then chooses the card he feels should win from the submissions.

The first hand, I knew I really disliked the game. The adjective was unscrupulous. Now my group was mostly conservative Republicans so I played Bill Clinton. When the seven cards were read, I knew I had a sure winner. No other card even matched the adjective. Everyone seemed to agree, but the judge picked Academy Awards instead. Tell me how in the heck Academy Awards is unscrupulous?! The justification for picking it didn't even make sense. So I leaned to my wife and whispered something derogatory about the game and how I was going to pick whatever made me laugh. When it was my turn the word was industrious. I got words like teacher, Ghandi and some other pretty good answers. But my wife played Charging Rhinos, which of course I picked because it didn't have anything to do with industriousness.

And so the game went. I played whatever I thought would either make people laugh or whatever card I was tired of having in my hand. My submission was actually picked once - the word was glitzy and I threw out The 1980s and someone thought it was the best answer. It wasn't. Which basically proved my own point - that Apples to Apples isn't really a game. It's more of a social activity. I think if you treat it as such it can be fun. Play for the enjoyment and social interaction and you will probably have an entertaining evening. Treat it as a game and play to win and it really is frustrating. It's too arbitrary. Many times throughout the evening, there was a clear-cut winner (in my opinion) that didn't win.

These are my thoughts. I think I would have rather played Shadows Over Camelot with Rob, which is at least a game with some strategy and goals (so I've heard). I will pass on Apples to Apples from now on. If it hits the table, I will go along for the ride and play to have fun, make people laugh and have some social interaction. But I hope it doesn't come to that...

8 Comments:

At 8:12 AM, November 20, 2005, Blogger Ben said...

Okay, I'm officially scratching Apples to Apples off any potential future buy list. I want to play Shadows over Camelot so I can hurry up and trade it away if it stinks, or restore its tarnished reputation if I like it.

 
At 9:47 AM, November 20, 2005, Blogger Kendahl said...

Wel,, don't let me discourage you. As far as party games go, I'd still rather play A2A over Balderdash, Pictionary and a slew of others. But you have to know what you are getting before you play.

About three-fourths the way through the game, someone read the rules and discovered an overlooked rule -- the last person to play a card doesn't get to have his card included. This is a horrible rule. It became a matter of just throwing any old card out there so as to not be the last and hope it matched. And someone was always excluded. It made the game far worse (although it went quicker from that point on).

As I said, it isn't entirely bad. But it's maddening to watch people pick the most random matches for any old reason. Some voting system might work better, but it might also serve to bog the game down a bit. Know what you are getting before buying and you probably won't be disappointed. But buyer beware...

 
At 10:21 AM, November 20, 2005, Blogger Rob said...

Don't scratch it off Ben. Now I'll try to restore Apples to Apples tarnished reputation.

The game can't be put through the same review grinder we use for any other strategy game, because it isn't. This game is meant to be random and chaotic.

It is meant to make you laugh and frustrated at the same time... feel cool and celebrate when your card is picked, and start an argument when a card is chosen for the wrong reasons. The academy awards example you mentioned... yes, it would tick me off but in a fun way. As you did, you too can be unfair if looking for retribution.

And K, I think that IS the coolest rule in the game. It forces everyone to be quick and not waste time staring at their cards. That pressure element adds excitement if you ask me. So quick players who play cards that are funny or hopefully will be liked by the judge, are the key here.

Conclusion: You can't apply any strategy to the game and I think that is what bothers K. It is meant to be a random chaotic game where anything can happen. This is a game where you enjoy the journey...don't even think about the destination. I don't care if I don't win. I just enjoy laughing at the weird cards that get played, at the unfairness of a certain judge, at switching my reasons for picking a card to something absurd, etc.

K did you guys have any "drinks" while playing this? I think it helps.

 
At 10:55 AM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Kendahl said...

My groupd was all Mormon, so there were definitely no "drinks", which undoubtedly would have improved the game.

I find it interesting that you liked the game Robert. Based on prior comments (I am thinking specifically about your comment on the game Citadels), you don't like chaotic and/or random games. No game is more chaotic than Apples to Apples. I have never played a game where thought and planning had absolutely no influence on the outcome of the game.

Your comments on me not liking it because there was no strategy ring true, I'll admit. But I still hated the "last card played is discarded" rule. It made an already random game even more chaotic and too many times a good card was eliminated and that person couldn't even compete in that round. (I suggested that the last player's card still be included in the judging, but was only disqualified if his card was chosen...it was met with blank stares.)

Like I said, in the category of party games, A2A is one of the better choices. (I'd still classify it as a social activity rather than a game.) But you have to know what to expect. Don't try to "win." Don't try to pick the best match or it will just piss you off. Just throw out any old card and hope for some good laughs.

 
At 10:59 AM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Kendahl said...

One last comment...

The best part of the game is the table talk. Justifying to the judge the reasons your card should be picked can be outright hilarious. Creative thinkers have a great advantage and it can result in some fun discussions. About half our group was being tight-lipped while the other half was really rallying behind their chosen card.

 
At 3:15 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Rob said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:19 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Rob said...

Like I said, in the category of party games, A2A is one of the better choices. (I'd still classify it as a social activity rather than a game.) But you have to know what to expect. Don't try to "win." Don't try to pick the best match or it will just piss you off. Just throw out any old card and hope for some good laughs.

I couln't agree more with this. That is basically my conclusion with this game....that it is not a game.

You left me thinking there for a sec about my Citadels comments. Touche....but....

Yes I like one for the same reason I don't like the other. Chaos. Citadels and A2A have two very different aims though. I feel A2A aims to be chaotic. Don't expect any depth or strategy, just plain fun social interaction.

Citadels is a deep strategic game with very well developed mechanics that I enjoyed a lot, but couldn't help feeling frustrated because I couldn't "control" what happens in the game. In A2A, yes there is also lack of "control", but I feel that it goes well with that kind of "superficial" game. In Citadels it is somewhat frustrating to me because I love the theme, the strategy, the mechanics, the art, etc etc but I feel frustrated, again, because I feel I can't execute my strategy well because of lack of control of the "ability" I possess for that round. "If I pick this guy, I can destroy someone's building"...someone's....maybe not the person I was trying to aim at.

Bottomline: A2A is a party game and party games = chaos. Citadels is in the same group of other great strategy games in particular PR, San Juan, TI, etc where you pick a role and play your abilities for that round. Just imagine picking the "Builder" in SJ or PR, and building a random building drawn out of the deck. More often than not it will be one you weren't interested in. That's kinda how I feel about using Citadel's abilities.

It's great how games can distract me from the pain of work.

 
At 3:27 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Rob said...

One last thing...

I guess the element of "expectation" is at play here....what you expect from a game before you play it. For A2A I was expecting what I found. Citadels, because it is a more serious game, I was expecting more control.

 

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