Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘Great Scott!’

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Great Scott! Image: Sinister Fish Games
Great Scott! Image: Sinister Fish Games

In Great Scott! the whimsical 19th-century parlour game that never was, players draft cards to build ridiculous inventions and then explain them to each other in a bid to impress Her Majesty and become the Royal Inventor.

At a Glance

Now that I find myself hosting my own games nights, I’m constantly on the lookout for fast, fun, and short games we can all enjoy between rounds of more-intense strategy. Great Scott! The Game of Mad Invention is a card game designed to be played in just these circumstances. During each round, players select cards to create the funniest sounding inventions they can, then try to explain their crazy creations to the other players!

Great Scott! Box, Image: Sinister Fish Games
Great Scott! Box, Image: Sinister Fish Games

Components

  • 60 Animal, Mineral, and Vegetable Asset cards
  • 90 Productive, Destructive, and Transportive Concept cards
  • 30 Commendation cards
  • Rulebook

Should the Kickstarter reach its final stretch goal, an additional expansion will be included.

How to Play

To begin the game, all the Asset and Concept Cards are dealt onto the table to create five stacks: Primary Concepts, Assets, Central Concepts, a second Assets stack, and Final Concepts. Two cards from each stack are dealt to each player along with three Highly Commended and three Good Effort cards. Each player then takes one extra card from any one of the five stacks they choose, giving them a starting hand of 11 cards.

During a round, each player creates an invention using five cards from their hand. At the beginning of the first round, the players begin creating their inventions by placing a card face-down in front of them. Cards can be played in any order, but must eventually form the same order as the stacks: Primary Concept, Asset, Central Concept, Asset, Final Concept. Once every player has chosen their first card, the face-down cards are flipped over and the players all pass their remaining hand of ten cards clockwise around the table. Each player adds another card of their choice from the stacks to their new hand before choosing their second card.

Great Scott! Cards, Image: Sinister Fish Games
Great Scott! Cards, Image: Sinister Fish Games

After five plays and passes, each player will have their finished invention on the table in front of them. The players then take it in turns to explain what their invention does to the other players. Naturally this requires a lot of imagination and a willingness to frequently flout the laws of  physics, nature, and the universe in general. Once everyone has had an opportunity to explain their invention, and possibly be quizzed about it as well, players pass one Highly Commended card (worth two points) and One Good Effort card (worth one point) to the players they felt thought up the best/funniest inventions. These cards are not revealed until the end of the game, and, naturally, players cannot commend themselves.

The inventions are then scored. Each card has a points value between one and three which creates the base score. Bonus points are also available for alliteration (two points for a pair, four points for three in a row, six points for four in a row, and eight points for all five) and using multiples of the same concept card type; two matching concepts score two points and three matching concepts score four points.

In this example, the invention scores 18: a base value of 10, two bonus points for matching two yellow (productive) concept cards, and six bonus points for alliteration from a pair of C’s and a trio of B’s).

Great Scott! Example Invention, Image: Sinister Fish Games
Great Scott! Example Invention, Image: Sinister Fish Games

Everyone writes down their scores at the end of the round, and a new round begins. Rounds continue until the cards run out, or until an agreed point, and there are enough cards for five players to play three rounds. Up to ten players can play a single round.

Once the final round has been played, the players add up all their scores from previous rounds. They then flip over any commendation cards they have received throughout the game and add those points to their score. The player with the most points wins and becomes the Royal Inventor.

Verdict

David Clarke, Creator of Great Scott! Image: Sophie Brown
David Clarke, Creator of Great Scott! Image: Sophie Brown

I was able to play Great Scott! with the game’s creator, David Clarke, at my local games store. I was really impressed by the game, particularly the artwork, especially after learning that David had produced the game as cheaply as possible to keep costs down for buyers. The artwork on the cards comes from old textbook scans held by the British Library which adds a fantastic vintage/steampunk feel to the game. Just this week the GeekMoms and Dads had discussed how artwork can really make or break a game, and Great Scott! is certainly helped to the next level by its theming.

The different types of Assets and Concepts are color-coded, and each card type has a unique icon which makes them easily distinguishable even for color-blind players, something I have to consider with my own gaming group. The cards themselves make it easy to create hilarious sounding inventions right from the outset, although thinking up uses for them is definitely trickier. I decided that my first invention, the Accursed Ebony Eradicating Elephant Elevator, burns cursed ebony in order to power the elevator, because who wants to push an elephant up a staircase when there’s an easier option that also eradicates all that cursed ebony that’s been plaguing you? David’s invention, the Deluxe Bird-Borne Bee Defenestrator, meanwhile, releases a small flock of sparrows that pick off the bees infesting your house during summertime and take them right out of the window for you. You might well find yourself learning some new vocabulary while you play!

Card Types, Image: Sinister Fish Games
Card Types, Image: Sinister Fish Games

Listening to players explain their inventions and discussing them together is a highlight of gameplay and one I can only imagine improves with a little alcoholic lubrication, however, as scoring doesn’t hang on this element, if you play with a more introverted crowd (my gaming group contains people who would be made uncomfortable having to explain their inventions out loud to a group) it could always be left out and scoring based purely on card values.

I found Great Scott! a lot of fun to play and I imagine it will slot into one of our games nights very well. I know I will also be taking a copy along when I visit more casual gamers too; it is so simple to learn that anyone can play it. I’m personally finding the steampunk theme overdone these days, but it is a perfect fit for this game and at just £16/$24 with worldwide shipping included, it’s a bargain too! The game has already passed 100% funding and you’ll need to be quick  if you want a copy, the campaign finishes this Wednesday, May 4th.Break 2

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