Designer: 梶野 桂（Kei Kajino)
Times Played: 6 times on a purchased first edition copy
I wish I had a picture of the basement stairs at my grandparents house. It was this house. That’s my grandfather holding my father. Later that “breezeway” would be closed in; it’s what we used as the front door.
We went out each Sunday night, but there were times when the kids would sleep over. There was a bed in the basement I slept on, and when it was time to wake up the next morning (for french toast), my grandmother would wake me up the same way she notoriously had with my uncle when the basement was his room: she threw an old pot and its lid down the stairs, physically and sonically bouncing off the stairs, the walls, and each other.
Sometimes I think I’ve sufficiently told you about how great of a game SCOUT! is, but other times I realize that you can’t smell the french toast I’ve made. So, today, I’m throwing all the pots and pans down the stairs.
SCOUT! is a climbing game, which is to say a card game where when your turn comes around, you’ll play one or more cards and must beat the previous play or pass.
I’m going to explain the game in three sections. First, the general game play. Then, the twists (which I will have omitted from the first bit for dramatic effect.) Lastly, we’ll have the other twists, and that’s the section that I think set the game apart.
In general, the things you may play on your turn are single cards; x-of-a-kind sets; or runs of cards with consecutive values. However, if there are cards already on the table, you must be able to “beat” them. What beats what? For single cards, a higher value wins. More cards always beats less cards. Within the same number of cards, x-of-a-kind beats a run, and within a type, high numbers win.
So if an opponent had played 3,4,5, you could play three 6’s. When this happens, snatch that 3,4,5 and place it face down in front of yourself; each such facedown card will be worth one point at the end of the round.
That was the first section.
(Are you peeking ahead? Do you have your hand up to ask about the second value on the cards? I’m not going to call on you yet. Wait patiently for the third part!)
The first set of twists will be familiar to folks who have played Krass Kariert, or, as the new edition is called, Dealt! You can’t rearrange your hand of cards!
That is, you’ll need to be able to dig those runs and x-of-a-kinds from your cards in the order they have been dealt to you. (This is also where I’ll clarify that 5,7,6 in a row in your hand is not a run, as the cards must be in order -though either order 5,6,7 or 7,6,5.)
Let’s look at an example.
Here I have a few things to play: two 7s, two 1s, a 6,7 straight… But you also need to think about how the cards in your hand collapse after you have played. That is, if I can play the 6 towards the left end, I’m left with a set of three 7s, and that seems good! If I play the three 7s, I’m left with a 9,10 run and that also seems good! The 8,3,6 on the far end will be tricky to get rid of though. We’ll come back to that bit. (In fact, we’ll come back to the hand altogether -except, I just realized I’ll need to tweak that photo a bit for the next instance. brb.)
OK, I’m back, but I realize I’ve left something out. What happens if you can’t beat the current high play? Traditionally, in climbing games, you are forced to pass. Here, as we begin section three (that last bit about not rearranging your hand was the second part), we are going to learn about the scout action. Err, the SCOUT! Action. (But it won’t be the only twist in this third bit.)
But I’m explaining things out of order again, so let’s call on the kid with their hand raised who wanted to ask about the cards having two values. Yeah, so, the second value comes into play twice: once when you are first dealt your hand and again when you take a SCOUT! Action.
When you’re first dealt your hand…you can take a mulligan by flipping your hand over. So our example hand above, now becomes the hand below.
Now we’ve got a pair of 2s, but could have a triple if we can get that 9 played. That pair of 5s is between the 8,7, but we’ll need to figure out what to do with the 1,4,10. Maybe those 2s are a pair of 2s and a 2,1 run.
But that’s…a lot of two card plays. We’re probably going to need 3, 4, or 5 card sets if we’re going to make much progress. That’s where SCOUT!ing comes in.
In lieu of passing, a player takes the card from either end of the current high play and inserts it into their hand in any position with either side up! As compensation, the player you SCOUT!ed from receives 1 blue chip that will be worth 1 point at the end of the round. As compensation for having a hand not ready to engage with the current high play, you receive a better hand for next time. As… compensation for not getting a point or a better hand, the player after you is greeted with a weaker high play and will have an easier go of playing cards from their hand. Win Win Win.
Now look back at your hand options. Do you see places that you’d like to insert some juice that a previous player was offering you? I’ll note that you aren’t obligated to play if you can, so you may want to strategically SCOUT! as part of your game plan on how to use the 1,4,10 or the 8,3,6.
OK, I think we’ve got it. Let’s recap and tie up a few loose ends.
- Play cards in singles, runs, or sets that are higher than the current play. Earn 1 point for each card you capture.
- But you can’t rearrange your hand! Can only play adjacent cards.
- Cards each have two values; when you’re first dealt your hand, you may flip.
- If you can’t beat the current play, take a card from either end and insert it into your hand in any position with either side up. The player you took from earns a blue chip worth 1 point.
So when is the round over? When either a play makes it back to the person who played it with un-SCOUT!ed cards remaining or one player is out of cards in their hand. In both scenarios, players score 1 point each for cards captured and 1 point each for blue chips. In both scenarios, players lose 1 point for each card remaining in their hand, but in the first scenario (one player’s play returns to them), the player triggering the end of the round does not lose any points for cards remaining in their hand.
One other footnote I haven’t covered. It probably belonged in the third section, but now I’m putting it here. Those wooden squares. Those are your “SCOUT! and play” chips. Once per deal, you can on your turn, well, both SCOUT! and play. You’ll get it back the next hand and aren’t rewarded in any way for not using it.
Oh, so when is the game over? Each player is the start player once. (If you look carefully, you may notice that the 1/2 card says “Start Player” on it; that is intentional, and not a typo. If you only have time to play one round, whomever holds that card is the Start Player.)
OK, one more. Almost done. If you buy a new copy of the game, the blue chips and wooden squares have been replaced with nicer cardboard components that sort of say what they are and do.
Where to start: I love this game.
Climbing games are tough for me. First, I find the obligatory passing when I can’t play, well, frustrating. Second, I’m terrible at their unique brand of hand management. Let’s take those in reverse order.
Experienced SCOUT!, Krass Kariert, or Tichu players are potentially scoffing at my rudimentary analysis of my hands above, but that’s where I’m at. I don’t know how to handle those miscellaneous cards I’ll be “stuck” with. I tend to think that having a plan for 85% of my hand in a climbing game is enough, and, well, it isn’t. If the play comes around to me and I have that 8,3,6, I’ll need to SCOUT! and now I’m at four cards, and no plan in sight. Back again and it’ll be five –each of those is a negative point! I’ve been shoveling dirt into my own hole for the duration of the hand and not realizing it. I’m somebody used to a trick-taking model where I can slough those sorts of cards off into tricks I care less about, but when we’re shedding cards at an asymmetric rate and a premium is placed on emptying your hand, this is a puzzle I could do better at. But getting better at puzzles is fun. That’s something I’m here for.
Frustration though, that’s, uh, not something I’m interested in, and where SCOUT! shines! The Win Win Win is a gift to each of us. The play is quick and there’s a sort of palpable energy. Everybody has a plan. Nobody is left out. Sure, some people will score positive points, and others may score negative, but there will be drama; your hand will have a narrative. You’re going to be SCOUT!ing multiple times through a hand, and whatever your initial plans for that hand are, it won’t survive getting punched in the SCOUT! when the person before you plays four 9s! But that’s your opportunity! That’s all of our opportunity, as you’ll call audibles surprised at your fortune when you pick up just the right card to insert in just the right slot.
We’ll all get those moments of sun peeking out from behind the cloud.
The cards are well designed, with clear numbers, and something eerily pleasing about how your natural card fanning angle exactly matches the card illustrations. The cards feel a little flimsy the first time you riffle them, but they’re some sort of plastic card that I think ultimately enhances the play.
This game is brilliant and I hope you have a chance to play it.
Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: (4 plays, all but 1 with JN, surprisingly none with the copy that I own which somehow still remains in shrink). I think I love this game. Not quite sure yet, but pretty certain. I love climbing games, as I have always liked the mid to long term strategy it takes to set up your hand to allow yourself to get out of a hand. You can’t always play the strongest cards first – because if you do, you’ll be left with a bunch of cards that don’t go together, and they surely won’t beat combinations played near the end of a hand. Here, you have that “typical” hand management, but then you also have the added hand-management aspect of the collapsing/expanding hand. Sometimes it makes sense to play a stronger than needed card/combination in order to smoosh cards together for a stronger play later on.
There are also timing issues to be dealt with. Sometimes you want to pass early on to SCOUT out a nice card that you can intercalate into your hand and get set up for a strong finish. Sometimes passing also changes the tempo of the hand, as you can help determine which later players might have to pass or might be able to play.
Overall, it’s an intriguing game that I like/love very much. I mentioned earlier that I have my own copy, but it remains unopened. That’s because James Nathan is so excited about the game that he carries his around constantly, so we just play his copy because it’s already open!
Jonathan F: (2 plays), As a non-lover of most climbing/shedding games, I really liked Scout! I like Krass Kariert as well, in part because it is genre-bending. The extra twists in Scout! mentioned above work so well because the lack of card re-organization can feel a bit stilted and seem to remove player agency. The ability to flip the hand at the start combined with the interactivity of the game make it special. I think anyone could enjoy the game, which is quite a tribute, and won’t be surprised if an international publisher picks this one up. Dale, thanks for making intercalate the Word of the Day.
Craig M. (1 play) I had the chance to try SCOUT! very recently. I immediately saw comparisons to both Krass Kariet and Abluxxen, two games that I very much enjoy. Two minutes into a review of the rules I knew I would enjoy this as well. There are interesting decisions to go along with a fast pace of play. Rules were easy to pick up making the game really accessible. After a hand there was always discussion about “what ifs” wondering about how play could improve. I hope this gets picked up by another publisher because this is a game that truly deserves a wider audience.
Dan Blum (1 play):I’m not always a fan of the idea that a new game will “fire” a similar older game – often I think both games have something to offer – but for me Scout fired Krass Kariert – I played Scout at a convention in March and sold my copy of Krass Kariert before the convention was over. I think Scout does everything Krass Kariert does, but better. (I see the similarity to Abluxxen as well now that it’s pointed out, but I feel the two games are different enough to play both.)
For those who don’t want to wait for the game to be picked up by a US publisher, it’s available on Amazon Japan, which has started shipping some things to the US.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! James Nathan, Dale, Craig M., Dan Blum
- I like it. John P, Jonathan F
- Not for me…