Reviews

Scram! Critters vs. Campers review – Gophers, and otters, and bears! Oh my!

I love it when I get to bring a game to a table and everyone playing has a great time. I also get some morbid pleasure from a game that evokes a visceral reaction from one of the player’s in the game. Who would have thought that a small card game about woodland critters would do both?

Scram! Critters vs. Campers is a small box card game from designer Ted Alspach and publisher Bezier Games. Scram is a card game where players work in teams to draw and play cards to remove cards from their tableau and end up with the lowest collective team score at the end of a round. The standard mode of the game divides groups of four or six players into two teams, and a special two vs. one mode is available as well. At the end of 3-4 rounds, the team with the lowest cumulative score will win!

Overview

Players will divide into teams and sit in alternating order around the table. Each round, all players are dealt a set of two face up and three face down cards in front of them on the table. Turns will be taken in clockwise order around the table. On a turn, players can take one of three actions:

  • Draw the top card from the draw deck
  • Draw the top card from the discard pile
  • Scram

When drawing from the deck, players look at their card in secret and then have an option on how to play their card.

Cards valued 5-13 have actions listed on them. To use the action, players will discard the card to the common discard pile. Actions include flipping cards over and revealing their values, switching cards between campsites, viewing face down cards, and discarding cards. Even though you are playing on teams, you must keep hidden information hidden from all players. Unless specified, players are able to use action cards with any campsites and even the draw and discard piles.

When drawing from the draw deck and discard pile, players have the option of adding the card to their campsite, by exchanging it with one or more cards. This process is a great way to get lower cards into their campsite, but it does have some caveats. When choosing a card to discard, the player can push forward face up OR face down cards from their campsite and their teammates campsites. Once they have selected the cards, all cards are revealed. If, and only if, all the cards have the same value, they are all discarded. If even one card doesn’t match, all cards will remain in their respective campsites face up. At the end of the process, the new card is added to their campsite. There are penalties for having 3 or more unique cards when trying this tactic.

Sometimes cards that are drawn are not wanted for either of the actions above. That card can immediately be discarded. A number of cards in the deck show the = sign. These cards match the lowest card in your campsite.

If a player has 2 or fewer cards on their turn, they can declare Scram! This triggers an end of round phase. Each other player has one final turn. A round can also end immediately if the draw deck is empty at the start of a player turn.

End of a Round

At the end of the round, players will flip all face down cards and add up the values of all the cards in their team’s campsites. If a round ends with an empty draw deck, teams will add this value to any previous rounds and start the next round. If a round ends with a declared Scram, the teams will compare their scores. If the Scram team has a lower score, they will score 0 for the round. If the Scram team does not have the lowest score, they will add 10 to their total team score for the round. 

3-Player Game

In a three player game, players will divide into a team of two and team of one. The two player team will set up the same way as normal and the solo player will create a campsite with two face up cards and six face down cards. Play will alternate back and forth with the solo player taking a turn after each opponent. If the team of two declares Scram, the solo player will get two more turns. The game will end after two rounds.

Gameplay

Scram was a surprisingly fun game for me and played well at all three player counts. The game is easy to teach, but hard to master because different players will have different thoughts on how to play their hands of cards. With limits on communication, you will have to decide when to flip cards, whose cards to view, and when to discard certain sets of cards based on the information available to you. You can also be a little vindictive when exchanging cards with opposing campsites which can cause some frustration on the other team, but none of the odds seem insurmountable. Rounds play fairly quickly, so even six player games, with some experienced players, only took about thirty minutes. I only saw one or two successful Scram calls with most rounds ending by depleting the draw deck. That being said, as players got to the end of a round, most opted for just going to the draw deck to see if they could get actions to release more cards from their campsite. The ability to draw and immediately discard, can, at times, lead to some wasted turns and anticlimactic gameplay.

Production

Scram comes in a small but sturdy box. The instruction manual is a bit small, but reads well and is easy to follow from front to back. An included QR code links to an online copy of the rules and a download link for a companion scoring app. The app helps collect the team scores and indicates who deals and goes first in the next round. The cards are a high quality cardstock and hold up after many rounds of shuffling. The artwork on the cards is colorful and engaging. Each of the 13 different numbered cards feature woodland critters terrorizing the campsite such as bears enjoying the kabobs on the campfire, boars with socks on their tusks, or raccoons absconding with your buttered ears of corn. The theme and the gameplay work hand in hand giving the game a delightful table presence.

Final Thoughts

This game was good, not great, but good. I had a fun time teaching it and playing with some game players that I find it hard to get to the table with anything too complicated. With my extended family growing up with games like Play 9 and Skyjo, the concepts were pretty easy to pick up on and gave some more player interaction. This game does fall into the filler category for me, but I think it is one that I will hang on to, specifically for the artwork, the easy teach, and the amount of joy and angst I got to experience with other players around the campfire.

Lead Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Dan is an educator from Colorado. Growing up as an Air Force dependent gained him lots of new perspectives on the world and a love for making new friends, especially over a good board game. When not at school or playing a board game, Dan is probably at the gym, attending a local sporting event, or performing or attending theater. Dan loves heavy euros, deck builders, living card games, and great solo rules.

75

Good

Scram!

Review Guidelines

An cooperative and engaging card game for 3, 4, or 6-players that will get the party started. May ruffle some feathers with your friends, but a fun game nonetheless.

Dan Hinkin

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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