How to Play Apples to Apples

Four Parts:Printable Rule SheetGetting StartedPlaying and WinningChanging Up the Game

Apples To Apples is a card game that is appropriate for all ages and is a blast to play in groups. Players have to match red object cards with green descriptive cards, and whoever comes up with the strongest or most amusing pairing wins. You can learn the rules of Apples To Apples in no time at all: simply deal the deck, pick a judge and let the fun begin!

Printable Rule Sheet

Apples to Apples Rule Sheet

Part 1
Getting Started

  1. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 1
    Decide how many players there will be. Get together a group of your friends to play the game. Players should gather around a table or arrange themselves in a circle on the floor. Apples To Apples works best with 4-10 players, but some versions can be played with more. The fewer players there are, the faster paced the game will be, which can increase the hilarity.[1]
    • A deluxe “Party” version of Apples To Apples can be played by 12 or more people.[2]
  2. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 2
    Shuffle the two decks of cards. Start by thoroughly shuffling both the red and green decks of cards to make sure that they are drawn in random order. Cards from each deck will be used during every individual round of play. Keep the decks separated—red cards should never be mixed with green cards within a deck.[3]
    • Always make sure to shuffle after the conclusion of a game so that the same cards aren’t dealt and played in the next game.
  3. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 3
    Pick a judge for the first round. Decide among your friends who will serve as the judge for the first round of gameplay. The judge is responsible for deciding who has the best match, and therefore who wins each round. Each player has a chance to be the judge, as the position is handed off to the player on the left after each consecutive round.[4]
    • Judges may pick the winning red card for any reason. One judge might choose the strongest direct match, such as a red card reading “Scissors” for a green card reading “Sharp,” while another will favor ironic or humorous associations. These types of differences are what makes the game exciting!
    • Everyone will take multiple turns as the judge, so it doesn’t much matter who starts the game off.
  4. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 4
    Deal seven red cards to each player. The judge will also act as the dealer. Whoever your group chooses to be the judge of the first round will deal seven red cards to each player around the table. You will replenish your red cards after every round, meaning that each player should always have seven red cards at the start of a new round. When each player has seven red cards in their hand, the game is ready to begin.[5]
    • Keep an eye on your red cards to make sure you have seven at at all times. Otherwise, you may be limiting your playable options.

Part 2
Playing and Winning

  1. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 5
    Turn over the top green card. The judge should flip over the card at the top of the green deck and call it out to the group. Green cards bear descriptive terms that must be matched by the people, objects, places or events on the players’ red cards. The green card in play might read “Cute,” “Harmful” or “Patriotic.” These terms are designed to describe the red cards laid down by players each round.[6]
    • There are over 749 red cards and nearly 249 green cards in the basic version of the game. That’s enough different matches for hours and hours of fun.
  2. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 6
    Lay down a red card to match the green card. Players will now select one of their seven red cards to associate with the word on the green card. For example, a player might play a red card reading “Babies” to match a green card reading “Cute.” There are nearly endless possible combinations of red and green cards, so get creative![7]
    • Each player should choose a red card to play quickly to keep the game moving at a brisk pace. Cards should be played face down beside the green card.
    • The judge is the only player who will not lay down a red card. The judge changes every round, giving everyone an equal chance to play.
  3. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 7
    Mix up the stack of cards. After every player has laid down a red card, the judge should shuffle or mix up the stack of red cards in play. This will ensure that the judge doesn’t know who played each card. The cards should be left face down as they are rearranged.[8]
    • There’s no need to shuffle extensively. Just reorganize the red cards until they’re out of the order in which they were laid down.
  4. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 8
    Decide who has the best match. Now the judge will turn over and look at each card. Whichever card the judge decides is the best match for the green card wins. The winning player will identify themselves and collect the green card from the round. The player to the left of the first round judge will become the new judge, players will take one card from the red deck to replenish their hand and the game will continue.[9]
    • The number of green cards accumulated by the end of the game determines the winner. The official Apples To Apples rule guide suggests 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4 green cards be the winning number for games with 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 players, respectively.[10]
    • After the round-winning card is chosen, all red cards that have been played should be returned to the bottom of the red deck.
  5. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 9
    Choose a winning number of green cards. The game’s official rules recommend that players compete for a certain number of green cards in order to win. However, you can modify this number as you see fit. For instance, you might play for 10 green cards to keep the game going longer, or take a “sudden death” approach and see who can win 3 cards the fastest. The options are totally customizable, depending only on the number of players in your group and how you’d like the game to proceed.[11]
    • You might also elect for players to replace their red cards with green cards for a winning outcome. For this to work, a player will add the green cards they’ve won to their deck after each round, meaning they’ll have fewer red cards to choose from. Once a player reaches seven green cards in their deck, they are declared the winner.

Part 3
Changing Up the Game

  1. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 10
    Match opposites in the “Crab Apple” version. Rather than finding the strongest match for each card, switch gears and play the “Crab Apple” version of the game. This requires players to play red cards that are the opposite of the green card in play. If the green card reads “Scary,” players might try to win the round with cards like “Kitten” or “Love.” Choose carefully—coming up with the right combination of cards might be trickier than you expect![12][13]
    • Playing Crab Apple effectively doubles the number of possible card associations.
    • Variant versions of Apples To Apples force you to think more carefully about your card choices, breaking up the monotony of the standard games.
  2. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 11
    Play “Apple Potpourri.” For a more challenging and hilarious experience, try playing “Apple Potpourri.” This is when players choose a red card to play before the green card is revealed. The judge chooses the best match as usual, but the player gives up control over their card associations and the outcomes are random. Apple Potpourri can be especially fun in large groups, as there will be more options for the judge to choose from.[14][15]
    • Apple Potpourri is a perfect alternative for groups where the judges tend to choose the most entertaining card combinations.
  3. Image titled Play Apples to Apples Step 12
    Try “2-For-1 Apples.” To up the stakes of the game and keep things interesting, make each round count double. The judge will turn over two green cards instead of just one, and players will have to choose a red card that is best described by both of the terms on the green cards. This variation of the game forces players to think more carefully about each pay, as red cards has to be associated with two different terms, and rounds are worth two green cards.[16][17]
    • For the 2-For-1 Apples version of the game, you can decide whether the same number of cards is necessary to win, resulting in a quicker paced game, or whether to also double the number of green cards needed and only increase the difficulty of each round.


  • Remember, judges are entitled to pick the winning red card for any reason. Some judges may choose to pick the funniest or most interesting card in the bunch instead of the most accurate.
  • Blank cards can be played as any word of the player's choosing.
  • Red cards that begin with "My" should be read from the judge's point of view. For instance, if a card says "My Love Life," it should assumed that the judge's love life is being described by the term on the green card.
  • Get people talking! Allow players to convince the judge why their card should be chosen.
  • Play Apples To Apples as a way to break the ice when meeting new people.
  • Apples To Apples is a great way to help younger children learn new words along with their meanings, spellings and associations.
  • Make sure to shuffle both decks before and after each game to keep it spontaneous.
  • A more risque version of Apples To Apples called Cards Against Humanity exists for more mature players. Play Cards Against Humanity

Article Info

Categories: Card Games