Dale Yu: First Impressions of Scape Goat

Scape Goat

  • Designer: Jon Penny
  • Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
  • Players: 3-6
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher

In Scape Goat, all the players are members of the Gruff Gang – and you’ve managed to steal from the biggest bank in town.  However, the cops are coming, and someone has to take the blame, that is be the scapegoat…

When you start the game, get out the set of player mats that match the player count; deal one player mat to each player.  The front of the mat has you player color and picture on it.  The back of the mat has a 10×12 grid.  At the start of the game, a d10 and a d12 are rolled, and each player references the back side of their mat to see who the scapegoat is. Of course, the scapegoat won’t know that they are the scapegoat, and their chart will lead them to believe that one of the other players is the scapegoat.

The 5 location cards are lined up on the table, with the Prepare card on the left and the Go To The Cops card on the right.  The player tokens are gathered and one token is randomly placed on each token, starting from the Prepare card and going to the right.

A deck of evidence cards is created – you can tell from the number in the bottom right of the card whether it is used for your player count.  These cards are shuffled and then one card is dealt face up next to each location card (except for the Go To The Cops card).  Three cards are dealt face down next to the Stash action card.  The remainder of the cards are dealt facedown to the players.

The game is played in turns, starting with whichever player was dealt on the Prepare card.  On a turn, there are three specific phases.

1] Move – you must move your token to a new location card.

2] Action – take the action of the card where you moved to.

  • Spy – choose any other player – they must show you their hand
  • Trade – choose any other player – they must exchange an evidence card with you (chosen simultaneously)
  • Stash – Pick any of the three facedown cards from the Stash area, and then place any card from your hand back down in the Stash
  • Prepare – Place a preparation token in front of you (this card starts with 2 tokens on it).  When the second token is taken, the card is flipped over to the Frame/Steal side.
  • Frame/Steal – If you have a Preparation token, you can try to Frame the scapegoat.  To Frame, each player must secretly and simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then they are revealed.  If the same color is seen on all the cards (except for the player being framed), the frame attempt is successful.  If the framed player is the scapegoat, then all non-scapegoats win.  If the framed player is NOT the scapegoat, then the scapegoat wins.  If you do not have a token, you can instead steal a token from any player who has one.
  • Go To The Cops – Taking this action will immediately end the game, and the (real) scapegoat automatically wins.  Of course, you should only choose this action if you think that you are the scapegoat!

3] Evidence Swap – Choose one evidence card from your hand and place it face up next to the location card where your token is.  Take the face up card which was already there and add it to your hand.  If possible, you must place a card which has your player color on it.

My thoughts on the game

This is a game which ventures near the social deduction territory while retaining enough semblance of a real game to remain interesting to me.  At the start of the game, it is not clear to any player whether they are the scapegoat or not.  The players must try to figure out which color is being targeted by the other players.  The game allows for any sort of communicating, so information may be transferred thru card play, winking, and per the rules, even “footsy”.

The challenge here is how to transmit the information without giving away too much.  If you are too obvious about who you are targeting as the scapegoat, then the scapegoat player will figure it out and immediately go to the cops.  However, if you are too coy with the information, your teammates might not be able to figure out whether or not you’re on the same team!

I like the way that separate sets of player cards have been created; this makes it harder to screw things up.  The different cards are necessary because of the way that the charts have to work with each other to make sure that there is only one scapegoat for each particular die roll.  I suppose that if you played the game enough, you might remember that a white 7 and a black 10 on the four player game means that green is the scapegoat; but if you were that kind of player, man, games wouldn’t be much fun with you :)

The game plays quickly, and you can generally take your actions fairly quickly.  Again, most of them involve either gaining information or sometimes giving information.  The action descriptions are printed on the cards, so you don’t have to remember them, and the player boards have a nice summary of the three steps in each turn.

Thus far, due to the pandemic, we’ve only been able to play with 3 players, and it is OK at that player count, but I think it could/would be better with the max of 6.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to try it that way before the end of the year…  Until then, no rating as I don’t thing I’ve played it yet with the optimal number of people.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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