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GREAT SCOTT! The Game of Mad Invention
Designed by David J Clarke for The Sinister Fish Card & Board Game Company of Lincoln England
Check it out at your local game store

The idea of a card game where the titles of the cards form a sentence, anecdote, acronym (or similar) is not new, so to present it again in a newly published game the designer and publishing company must be pretty sure that they have devised a mechanic that is different from any previous such game. In my opinion the pre-story, Queen Victoria summoning the most brilliant inventors from across the Empire so they can create the greatest invention and be "crowned" as the Royal Inventor, is a little weak and unnecessary because you aren't really making, building or creating inventions, what you are doing is stringing words on cards together (filling in where necessary) to make amusing imaginative possibilities, rather like the games where you play cards with titles that create a new movie, the B-Movies range and Reels & Deals amongst them, though in this case you are trying to design the most pleasingly priceless useful or not imaginative concept creations. The author does suggest that you can play GREAT SCOTT! seriously, but in our reality (okay there is a good possibility that the reality we live in, we regards ourselves as experienced games players and thus see things in a different way that normal people) that's really a flight of fancy, it's about as serious as a game of APPLES to APPLES.

So the first thing I have to say is that you approach GREAT SCOTT! with more than a modicum of flippant witticism. The second thing that immediately comes to my mind is that you approach GREAT SCOTT! to have FUN and worry not whether you win or don't win; causing your opponents and creative rivals to giggle or laugh is much more rewarding than scoring higher points simply because you created an invention where all words that describe its main function begin with the same letter (aka an Acronymble which was the title and object of a word game we once owned - you were given a letter and a number and you had to make a sentence that contained as many words as the number you had but all the words had to begin with the letter you were allocated; eg P5 could be "Peter Piper Picked Peanuts Perfectly"). In GREAT SCOTT! during your explanation of your device or creation you are allowed to use filler words where their beginning letter doesn't match the necessary letter; using a similar example; P5 could then be "Peter Piper Picked A Peck of Peanuts"; the A and the OF not beginning with P. These two examples are alliterations and thus serve to show the use of a Letter and a Number.

The Concept cards are shuffled in their separate decks and placed on the table leaving enough space inbetween the three decks for the Asset deck to be shuffled and split roughly in half and placed in the empty spaces - we call this getting all your decks in a row. Then each player takes two cards from each deck giving them a total of 10 cards for their hand, then as the game begins and at the start of each Turn they must take a card from any of the five decks to augment their hand and enhance the possibilities of creating a better device.  Everyone looks at their cards, selects one and places it face down in front of them. When all have done so they pass the remaining cards to the player on their left and then flip over the card they have laid in front of them so it is now visible to all, giving each player an idea of what each of them is thinking about. The playing a card and passing continues until all players have five cards in front of them. Sounds easy but you have to remember that GREAT SCOTT! requires you to play just three CONCEPT cards and two ASSET cards face up in front of you, and to make life more difficult your Concept cards have to be one each from Concept Decks I, II and III plus two Assets from the Asset decks. The reasons for the three Concept decks being specifically marked is because of the words on the cards in each deck. Each Concept deck contains cards bordered with one of three colours; Orange (Transportive), Purple (Destructive) and Yellow (Productive). Using the cards from these three decks I quickly found ACCURSED (I) ALTERING (II) and AMPLIFIER (III) from the concept decks. I can lay them out in front of me in any order but always in their correct position: Concept I // Asset // Concept II // Asset // Concept III

If I had the Assets: AVOCADO and ACORN I could have the Invention "The ACCURSED AVOCADO power of mind ALTERING ACORN AMPLIFICATION" Obviously describing how I get my unique musical sound on my guitar. My score on this would be: 5 (each card is valued at 1 point) + 2 because Avocado and Acorn are both counted as Vegetable + 2 because Accursed and Altering are both Destructive + 8 points for alliteration as each consecutive card uses A-words giving a total of 5+2+2+8 =17. Then there may be extra points awarded for Effort and Commendment by the other players - each player has to secretly award one Silver (Good Effort) 1pt award and one Gold (Highly Commended) 2pt award to different players and not to themselves. We disagree with the rules on the awarding of these points though because it says to give the Gold 2pts to your second favourite Invention and the Silver 1 point to your favourite Invention, surely you would award the best invention with the best award ? (rightly or wrongly we do). 

Of course my all "A" example was created by me looking through the decks and picking cards out. One of my actual hands while playing created the invention I proudly named "The Diabolical Elephant Consuming Cougar (and other wild cats) Envigorator which scored me 11 points for the cards +2 for the 2 consecutive Cs +2 for a pair of Destructives and +2 for a pair of Animals = 17. You get more points if you can lay down Triples (4pts) and Quads (6pts) of the same type plus as illustrated in my first example +8pts if all five cards are alliterated.

More than one of my regular playing group pointed out that in a way GREAT SCOTT! is demonstrative of a Reiner Knizia "colours & numbers" style game which is high praise for the designer to be given and I can see where they originate this idea; it is similarly constrictive though less mathematical than a Dr Knizia design. 

Overall it is extremely well produced in quality and the choice of the colours make it easy to immediately recognise the card type before looking for the identification icons. After several plays we found it was a little too mechanical to play too often, thus we understand the author's recommendation of a game only being played over three rounds. Despite the excellence of the design, the box size, strength and striking cover, the quality and printing of the cards and the effectively concise but easily followed rules, the zip-loc bags that come with it aren't quite large enough to hold the cards in their separate decks and actually do up the zip; seems such a minor thing to skimp on.

Published after a successful Kickstarter Campaign, the backers of which are all listed alphabetically at the back of the rules booklet, and many a well known name can be found amongst them. I believe that GREAT SCOTT! has enough differences from other games in this genre to be worth giving it a whirl. At £17.50 it isn't a bank-buster and there is also a COMMISSIONS expansion for £3.99 which contains 25 new cards and is currently out of stock at the publishers shop. The Commissions expansion for Great Scott! adds an optional module to the game, consisting of 24 (?) all-new cards. Instead of building inventions willy-nilly, with Commissions you have targets to aim for. Match the cards in your invention with the icons shown on a Commission card to claim its bonus points – as long as your invention does what the commissioner wants it to do…



© Chris Baylis 2011-2015