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Tom Vasel
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One thing about Scum (4J Enterprises, 2005 – Kevin Johnson) that made me laugh was looking at the rules, and how they designated one player “scum”, and the player in the seat next to them is called “next to scum”. Ha! Well, I thought it was funny, anyway. And as for the game itself, well – that’s the one bright spot; I’m sorry to report.

Scum is a “ladder climbing” card game, in which players attempt to get rid of all the cards in their hands to win each round. Unfortunately, other than the name and a few minor rule changes, there isn’t much to distinguish this game from much better games in the genre (Gang of Four, Tichu, Frank’s Zoo – to name a few). Why buy an inferior game that has nothing to offer to the genre?

Players determine by drawing cards who will be the “President” (highest ranked person), “Vice President” (second highest), “Scum” (lowest), and “Next to Scum” (second lowest). Everyone else sits in between these folk and is called “middle class”. At the beginning of each round, the entire deck is shuffled and dealt to the players. The deck is made up of four suits (purple, green, orange, and red) numbered from “2” to “12”, along with a “Scum” and “President” card of each color. Finally, there are two “wild” President cards. The “Scum” player has to give their two highest cards to the “President”, receiving any two cards in return, and the “Next to Scum” does the same thing with the Vice President, but with only one card. The President then plays a card to begin the first phase.

When a card is played, each player must play either a higher card or pass. The leading player can also play doubles (two cards with the same number) or triples, which requires each succeeding player to do the same. However, no matter what, a single President card will win a round, immediately ending it. The player who plays the highest card then starts the next round of playing cards. This continues until players start “going out” (getting rid of all their cards). The first player who does so becomes President for the next round and receives points equal to the number of players in the game. The next player to do so becomes the Vice President and scores one less point. This continues until the every player has gone out, with the last player becoming “Scum” and earning only one point.

Another phase begins, and players must arrange themselves around the table according to their appropriate rank. Players continue until one player receives forty points, at which point they win!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game comes in a small, black box and is highly portable, although it is a pain to get the cards into. The cards themselves are of a decent quality, although the pixilated artwork is a bit bland; and there is no way for color blind folk to tell the difference between the suits, although that doesn’t matter except in the basic game.

2.) Rules: The rules are on two sides of a sheet of paper, and include strategies, and tips for play. There is a list of definitions of terms, and for someone who has never played a trick taking game before this will be quite helpful and useful. The game itself is very easy to teach, as it is most certainly the simplest of all ladder-climbing games that I’ve played.

3.) Variants: The rules include three variants that are optional, but I treat them as a necessity. In fact, I can’t believe that the rules don’t point out how much BETTER these variants make the game – I’ll never play without them! The first allows players to continue to play cards during a round until they pass – something that I find essential to a game of this type. The second ranks the colors, giving them some meaning in the game, making purple higher than green higher than red higher than orange. In this manner, the purple “8” is better than the red “8”. Finally, the third variant is that the wild President cards are better than a regular card. When you put all these variants in the game, it more than doubles in fun, although it’s still simpler than other variants.

4.) Simple: My main gripe against the game is that it’s just not up to par with other games of the same genre – the “ladder climbing” game. Others in this category include Lexio, The Great Dalmuti, Gang of Four, and Tichu. Each of those four games, while not necessarily my favorites, are much better designs than this one. And even more annoying – there’s really nothing in a deck of Scum that would differentiate it from a standard deck of cards! Now, I realize that some people might be looking for a game of this simplicity, but I want a little bit more of a “punch” to my games, and it’s not found in Scum.

5.) Strategy: I do enjoy the strategy of “ladder climbing” games, although I feel that they pale beside a trick-taking game. In this one, players are dealt a hand of cards they must discard. The trick is in attempting to make the most of your hand. Obviously a hand of Presidents is a good thing, but this is rare; and a player must know when to take control of a round, and when to pass, even if they have a playable card in their hand. I wish there were more combinations other than singles, doubles, and triples, though, because it lessens the choices a player must make.

6.) Fun Factor: Scum isn’t a non-enjoyable game, although playing with just the basic rules is horribly dreadful. I can see passing a pleasant evening with folks playing the game. My problem is that I personally couldn’t play the game without being reminded of how many better games there are using the same mechanics. Perhaps others who want a game that is easier will enjoy it more.

Obviously my impressions of the game are fairly low. The quality isn’t anything to get excited about, and the game play just isn’t there. If this was the only game of this type in existence, I’d gladly keep it; but I’ll never play it next to other, better games. Scum – a funny name – but the game is lacking.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games”
www.thedicetower.com
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Flying Arrow
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Scum/Capitalism has been around for a long time. It looks like someone just marketed a deck of cards with the name of a game on it. Based on the review, the only thing that is different is the scoring mechanism to determine the winner.
 
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Mike Compton
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FlyingArrow wrote:
...It looks like someone just marketed a deck of cards with the name of a game on it...


Yep. That's exactly what they did. If you buy this game you're essentially just buying a copy of the rules.
 
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Ryan McGuire
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compman wrote:
Yep. That's exactly what they did. If you buy this game you're essentially just buying a copy of the rules.


Exactly. Plus, as Mr. Vasel pointed out, the cards suck for colorblind folks. So not only are just paying for the rules, but you don't even get a good deck of cards as a bonus,
 
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