Game Review: Scruples
The Quick and Dirty:
"Guess what I'm thinking" game with no real moral depth
Players are each issued five yellow Question cards and one red Answer card. Question cards present a variety of moral quandaries (examples: "If you found a wallet, would you return it intact?" or "would you alert a vegetarian dinner guest to the (indetectable) presence of meat in a dish you had slaved over?"). Answer cards say either "Yes," "No," or "Depends." On your turn, you choose a player you think will answer one of your questions with the answer printed on your card. If their answer does indeed match, you get to discard the Question card, decreasing the size of your hand. Otherwise, you discard and have to draw a new Question card. In either case, you draw a new Answer card.
In the advnaced variant, you may "challenge" a player you believe is providing a false answer to your question in order to stymie you, and they have 20 seconds to justify their answers. All other players vote on whether they believe the other player or not using provided voting cards.
The winner is the first player to successfully discard all their Question cards.
As with any game with a significant bluffing mechanic, the best strategy in Scruples is a sincere understanding of your opponents -- not only how they are likely to actually behave, but how they are likely to react to the pressure of the game and their desire to keep you from successfully discarding your cards. However, there are also useful strategies which apply to any group of players. The Questions provided with the base Scruples game are, almost without exception, ridiculously slanted -- very few people would answer "no" to any of the challenges, or at least admit to it in public. Therefore, it is often quite difficult to get rid of a Question during a round in which you possess a "No" Answer card. Your best bet, in this case, is to focus on a player which you think will likely try to stifle you by falsely answeing "No" to the Question -- then, to their consternation, you simply don't challenge their response.
The game is played entirely with cards and yet, oddly enough, is shipped in a full-sized game box. It is possible to cut-down and re-tape the box to save significant shelf space. The cards themselves are printed on lightweight cardstock with a thin layer of lamination, and will not stand up to very much punishment.
For a game which purports to be about divining the morals of those around us, or at least sparking some degree of discussion about moral issues, Scruples doesn't actually possess the depth which its material deserves. Instead, games almost always devolve into bluffing contests or free-form discussion which meanders away from the original topic. While the game is advertised as a way of getting to know people in a social setting, this denies the fact that the entire mechanic depends on players knowing one another fairly well. In addition, who would be confident enough to reveal their actual moral sensibility in an unfamiliar crowd, particularly if it will be open to challenge?
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