Review: Scrambo!

Overview:  Are you a party animal? A team player? Know a lot about music or movies? Perhaps you are into history, politics, or dog breeds? Or are you the food guru of the group? In this game, any of these specialties and more could lead your team to success. Just be ready to think fast. What with the ticking clock, er, dice , you’ve got Scrambo!

scrambo contentsScrambo is a fast-paced dice party game produced by Avanti Games. After only one look at the video on the Kickstarter page,  we quickly realized that this was going to be a great game! After a successful campaign, we began the wait, for our box to arrive in the mail that is. Once Scrambo arrived, we tested it immediately. So, what were our results?

How We Review:  As with any of our reviews, we put the game to the test with no less than 10 play testers, both male and female, as well as a wide age range (teens to 50+). Our evaluation is based on 10 criteria, including clarity of instructions, innovation, artwork, and fun!

Game Contents:  The box includes 5 category dice, 5 timer dice, 1 letter die, and the “guide”, aka instructions.

How To Play The Game:  The game play for Scrambo is very simple to understandscrambo categories, but it takes quick thinking and knowledge of various topics. There are two teams (there are single player variants). One team must roll the 5 category dice, which will reveal 5 different categories that they will need to shout out answers for. They will then roll the letter die, which will start the clock! They will need to shout out something in that category that begins with the correct letter. The other team does not sit idly, though. Instead, the opposing team must roll the timer dice.  Once they have rolled 5 clocks, time is up!

Here’s an example of the gameplay:  If the 5 categories are dog breeds, world cities and countries, bugs, board games, and authors, and you roll the letter “M”, your answers could be: Mastiff, Morocco, Millipede, Monopoly, and Mark Twain. When it comes to names, you can choose first or last name for the letter. Also, if your answer, like “Batman”, doubles up with a fictional character, foreign city, and movies, then you can knock off multiple categories all at once!

Points are scored after each round. The guessing team can earn 1 point for every category die that was answered. The opposing team can earn 1 total point if the guessing team was not able to finish all 5 dice in time (very common). Now, if the guessing team couldn’t give answers for any of the 5 dice before the time is up, then the opposing team earns 3 points. The first team to 20 points is the winner!

An Interview With The Designer:

Q: What inspired the concept of this game?

I wanted to create a game that was quick to learn, easy to play, and relied upon players’ knowledge for its complexity. A light game that would appeal to non-“gamers” while having enough play to be fun for more experienced players. These are the types of games I like to design the most and plan to have as the focus for Avanti Games.

Q: How did you determine the categories?

The categories had to be broad enough so that any person could have an answer jump into their mind. Many of the categories are rooted in pop culture, keeping the topics current and flexible. I also wanted to make sure that categories did not cause too much conflict among players. For instance I once had “Vacation Destinations” as a category, but found that people would shout out the first location that came to mind, followed by disputes as to whether or not it’s actually a legitimate “vacation” spot. I found that broadening the category to one which had a much wider range of commonly acceptable answers such as “US Cities and States” provided cleaner gameplay and kept the game moving and scoring more smoothly.

Q: How long did it take to perfect your game concept and working design? How long have you been developing this project overall, from concept to production?

I had been working on Scrambo on and off for about 2 years. The game started almost as an inverse of the current rules; players received one category and had to match 5 letters to it. While this worked, I found it too limiting and missing some of the frenzy which having to jump from category to category within a turn delivers. I quickly made the change to the current design and found it to be much more frantic and fun! After finalizing the gameplay, it took about 5 months to create the game and box art, build prototypes, receive video reviews, and shore up the manufacturing with the factory.

Q: How did you build interest in this game prior to your Kickstarter campaign?

I essentially promoted it to anyone who would listen! I created a dedicated Facebook page and asked friends to “Like” and follow, paid for reviews from some YouTubers who I liked and followed, did interviews on gaming podcasts and a Twitch stream, and of course talked about the campaign here in the BGDF. I spent about 2 months prior to the campaign building an audience, with continued effort to spread awareness throughout the 30 days that it was live. Even then, as a first-time creator, I barely made it to my 10K goal. The next time, I would do more live-on-the-floor con promotion and focus on building an email list in addition to the “digital” campaign tactics.

Q: What was the most challenging part of making the game?

Playtesting, for sure. Finding enough random people to play and evaluate your game can be challenging. Scrambo is a simple game, although it went through several rule editings to streamline the play. Even seemingly simple games need to be well polished in order for the simplicity to become elegant. Without playtesters, many of the small but impactful tweaks I needed to make may have never come to light, and it took different testers to flush them all out.

Q: How long did it take you to make the game from start to finish?

Do you mean physically? Game designers have fantastic resources available to us for prototyping. I bought dice blanks from indentedblankdice.com, had boxes made from AdMagic’s Print & Play, and printed the rules sheets at home. These prototypes got me through testing, video reviews and the Kickstarter video shoot. As for the game’s artwork, I made all of it myself in roughly 6 weeks of off-and-on work.

Q: Are you planning on making more games in the future, or expanding Scrambo?

I’m working on a few games, including another which would fit nicely alongside Scrambo in terms of its flavor, simplicity and tone. I’m not sure if I will take it down the same path or try licensing to a publisher first. However, game design is something I love to do and almost feel the need to do. The publisher of Scrambo is considering expanding the game to the worldwide market, but no decision has been made as of yet. While expansions are common in gaming, I like the compact size and simplicity of Scrambo as it is currently. It certainly is not lacking in replay-ability, so why mess with a great little game?

Q: What was your favorite and least favorite part of making your game?Resized952018100195200656

Favorite part was playing with new people and seeing their reactions. In particular, what mental gymnastics emerged when trying to solve the category dice. For instance, there was almost always a player who would “stutter” the letter as they tried to think of an answer…”ruh ruh ruh,” “juh juh juh,” “buh buh buh…” So actually, for being a “thinking” game, there turned out to be a whole lot of outbursts!
My least favorite part would probably be the enormous task of promotion. I’m not a big social media guy and don’t post on IG or Twitter, though I have accounts. The idea that, to be successful, I was required to make myself into some sort of online personality felt daunting, when all I wanted was to put the game first. It’s still a problem for me, but we’ll see going forward how I can keep a following without having to put my mug all over the place.

Q: Where can you buy the game if you missed out on the Kickstarter Campaign?

I’m working with the online store tabletop.direct to move the rest of the games from the initial factory order. I hope for these to be available in mid-October so people can grab themselves (and all of their friends of course) a copy for the holidays! The big opportunity is with this interested publisher as they would be able to bring Scrambo to big retailers like Walmart and Target as well as FLGS’s. This would not be until 2020 however, so in the short term, tabletop.direct is the destination.

Q: Where can I learn more about the game?

You can visit www.avantigames.com to learn more about the game, and about my wife and me. I also plan to offer a free download of the rules, so that those who own the game can print out a guide for multiple players. You can also “Like” the game on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scrambogame/ and leave a review and rating at BGG: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/204548/scrambo

Q: Were there any rules or concepts that you considered that did not make the final cut?

Rules such as final score total, tie-breakers, and play variants all went through stages of refinement. Anything that didn’t serve to enhance or maintain the game’s elegant simplicity were discarded. Like wise, any rules that did – such as allowing players to use either the first or last part of a proper name in an answer – were kept.

Q: If you wouldn’t mind, please tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a designer by trade, having a degree in Toy Design from Otis College here in Los Angeles. I’ve been creating products for play for over 15 years, and always had an affection for tabletop games. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, wanting to put my experience in design and manufacturing to work for myself, which is what led to the foundation of Avanti Games and the Scrambo Kickstarter!

Q: Who else, if anyone, helped you with this game?

Testers, testers and more testers. Also the community here at BGDF has been critical in exploring ideas, mechanics, and otherwise helping to keep the momentum going for before, during, and after the campaign.

Q: Is there anything that you want our readers to know about your game?

How great it is! And, how soon you can purchase Scrambo at www.tabletop.direct! Also, if you have an idea and the fortitude to make a game a reality, there are tools at your disposal to do so. This is the greatest time in history to be a game designer, because you can truly bring your dreams to life; and you can bring to the public your talents, resourcefulness, and work ethic. Scrambo is my example of that!

What We Thought: 

  • The title is catchy, and easy to yell as required of the game.
  • Gameplay was easy to learn, and you can begin play in minutes.
  • There was a wide variety of categories, and they were depicted well. They allow people from all ages and interests to be able to compete and contribute.
  • Gameplay was seamless, and rounds play well.
  • It is great for a party, family, or group.
  • It is quick for those who like short games.
  • The timer dice were great for a few reasons. First, it adds an unpredictable time element, instead of a standard sand timer. Also, it gives the non-guessing team something to do while waiting. For both teams, it adds urgency and an element to increase their own teams standing.
  • Scoring is simple, efficient, and continually moves along. The addition of a bonus for the timer team to roll faster is great, as is the desire for the guessing team to guess at least two or three categories. In essence, scoring is designed to eliminate the “oh well, we will wait until next round” feeling, because if you ease up on the brakes, the other team catches right back up.

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Comments from our Reviewers:

“Scrambo is a great party game that is great for all ages. I think it’s cool how people with different interests can all bring value to the team. It is fast, challenging, and fun!”

“Wow! If you like a speed game, Scrambo is for you! Quick thinking, challenging, and fast paced. Keeps your mind sharp!”

“Scrambo is a rapid-fire game that engages all players at all times regardless of whose turn it is. This keeps everyone on their toes and constantly thinking! Great team game!”

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