The Scrambled States of America Deluxe Edition Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • About 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Reading
  • Hand/Eye Coordination & Dexterity
  • Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
  • Reflex & Speed

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Think you know all there is to know about the United States, geography wise? Want to test that assumption? Sit down at the table and be the first to find  and slap a State that matches a random condition, but it’s not all about how much you know. Speed is also needed to win the day. Be fast, be smart, and you’ll certainly be the winner!

The Scrambled States of America is comprised of 60 Scramble cards (red), 50 State cards (blue), and 4 small foldout maps of the United States. Also included with the game, but not used as part of the game, is a small paperback book, but more on that later. All the components are of high quality, colorful, and exactly what I have come to expect from Gamewright. These folks make excellent games.

Note: The deluxe edition of this game provides 10 additional Scrambled cards (from 50 to 60) and a full-color paperback storybook. The rules and game play are identical for both versions.

Cards ‘O Plenty

The game comes with Scrambled and State cards. The Scrambled cards will be used by all the players and define the condition that must be met in order for the players to score points. There are two types of Scrambled cards. These are “Find It” and “Go the Distance”.

  • Find It: these cards present a condition that must be met by one of the State cards owned and in front of the players. The conditions to be met include, but are not limited to, matching colors, locations, finding names, and words starting with specific letters. For example, one Scrambled card asks the players to find a State that has two of the same letters in the row and another asks the player to find a State west of Kansas.
  • Go the Distance: these cards are used to identify which of the State cards owned and in front of the players is the closest to another randomly selected State.

The State cards represent the 50 States that comprise the United States of America. Each card has a colored picture of one of the 50 States, includes the name, capital, and nickname of the state. This is all very important information as it will be used to match what the Scrambled cards are asking for. The State cards are collected by the players and counted as points at the end of the game.

Example of a State card

Game Set Up

To set up the game, shuffle the Scrambled and State cards separately. Deal to each player 5 State cards. These cards are then placed, face-up, in front of the player and are referred to as the “State Line”. How clever is that?

The remaining State cards are placed, face-down, in the middle of the playing area to form the State card deck. Place the Scrambled card deck, face-down, next to the State card deck.

Hand each player a map of the United States. These are opened and placed by their owning player for quick reference to where each State is located.

You are now ready to play, but before you do, have each player take a minute to review their State cards. You’ll read why in a moment.

Ready? Set! Geography!

The person who dealt the State cards go first. This individual takes one of the Scrambled cards from the deck, places it face up on top of the deck, and reads the card out-loud. Here is where the fun really begins!

If the Scrambled card asks for a specific condition to be met, the player who can match that condition with one of their State cards slaps that card and shouts the name of the State! The first player to do so ends the round and the following is checked.

  • If the State card they slapped does match the condition on the Scrambled card, they collect the State card and put it in their “Home” pile. They then draw a new State card and place it in their State Line. The used Scrambled card is discarded.
  • If the State card does not match the condition (whoops!), the player has accidentally done a “slip slap”. As a penalty, they take one of the States in their Home pile and place it on the bottom of the State deck. If the player has no State cards, no further action is required. The used Scrambled card is discarded.
  • In the event of a tie, all players involved still check their cards to ensure they have properly met the condition. If they do, they get to collect the State card. If not, they are penalized.
  • Regardless, a new round begins. The player who wins a State card for that round draws the new Scrambled card. If there is no winner because of a “slip slap”, the player from the last round draws the Scrambled card.
If the Scrambled card is “Go the Distance”, a State card is drawn from the State deck and placed on the top of the deck for all to see. All players now use their maps to see which State they have in their State Line that is the closest neighbor to the State card revealed on the deck.
  • As soon as a player identifies a card in their State Line that they think is the closest, they move that card forward, separating it from their State Line.
  • Once all the players have identified a State, the player with the closest State wins and puts the State card from their State Line they selected and the State card on the State card deck into their “Home” pile! Two points!
  • If two or more players have selected States that appear equally close, the player who selected their State first wins!
  • Regardless, a new round begins.

No Match?

If none of  players have a match when a Scrambled “Find It” card is revealed, everyone selects one of their State cards and passes it to the player to their left. The new State card is placed in the player’s State Line and a new round is then started.

Endgame

The game ends as soon as the State deck is depleted. When this occurs, all players count the cards in their “Home” pile.

The player with the most State cards win the game!

The Scrambled States of America: The Book?

Oh, yes! Included with the deluxe edition of this game is a small story book by Laurie Keller. Quirky, colorful, witty, and genuinely entertaining, the book tells the tale of how one day Kansas decided it was bored and wanted to try something new. Kansas, with the help of Nebraska, convince the other States to join them at a big party where all 50 States can meet and mingle. Before the party is over, all the States decide to switch places, giving each State a new perspective. Hilarity ensues and important lessons are learned along the way.

Clearly, this book has nothing to do with the game. It is meant to be a fun “add” and enjoyed. Having nothing to contribute to the game play itself, it does provide a fun story to tell the little geeks that will have them laughing at the illustrations and the adults smirking at the witty dialog. A really nice extra and surprise in the game.

Rule Variants

The following optional rules can be used when playing the game.

  • For Early Readers and Young Little Geeks: No one wants to be left out when a fun game is on the table. For players who are just learning how to read, do not use the rule that states the first person to slap their card wins the round. Instead, reveal a Scrambled card as normal and then let all the players attempt to match that condition with one of their State cards. All players who can match a State card collect it and place it in their “Home” pile. Only one State card can be used per round.
  • Home State Advantage: If one of the States in the player’s State Line matches the current State the game is being played in, announce “I LIVE HERE!” and that State card is immediately added to that player’s “Home” pile.
  • New and Improved: When a player has a State with the word “New” in the State’s name, that player can switch that State with any other player’s State card currently in their State Line.
  • Multiple Match: All State cards that match the Scrambled card’s condition can be sent to the player’s “Home” pile.

To learn more The Scrambled States of America, see the game’s official web site.

Prediction

My little geeks very much like playing games that require quick reflexes. This is mostly because they tend to be faster than their parents. Not more accurate, mind you, but most certainly faster. This game provides this type of game play as the first player to “slap” their State card will win the round, but not necessarily the game. Speed is good, but so is accuracy. My little geeks need to know what they are slapping before they go through the motions. I see three possibilities:

  • Accurate slap, but slower than the rest as they take the time to ensure they are slapping the right card
  • Knee-jerk slap, which is faster than anyone else, but more times than not the wrong card
  • Somewhere in between

I think it more likely that my oldest little geek (7-years-old) will go with the slower but more accurate card slap while my 4-year-old will favor the knee-jerk card slap. With time, they will most certainly find their balance. My 4-year-old will have a significant disadvantage as his reading skills are not yet advanced enough to read cards quickly. My 7-year-old should have no problems. If it becomes apparent that my 4-year-old is being left behind, we’ll use the game variant rule for young little geeks and early readers.

For the parent and gamer geeks, this is pretty much a race based less on reflex and more on an individual’s knowledge-base and short-term memory. Knowing what the capitals are of States and their nicknames will help to quickly recognizing which cards to slap. Those with a good short-term memory will be able to quickly recall the information they just reviewed on their cards to make their choices. All that remains is to see which one of the adults can slap faster, but all it takes is being faster by one second to claim the prize.

I explained the game to my little geeks and provided several examples of game play. They immediately understood what they needed to do and how to win the game. The Scrambled States of America is, after all, not a complex game by any means. I gave each little geek a test run so they could experience the game at top speed without the pressure of performing well to win the game. This threw them a bit as their mom was quick to pounce on cards. Despite his lack of speed and accuracy, my 4-year-old decided to play the game solo without his mom or dad helping. My 7-year-old would have no problem holding his own. Everyone was ready to play!

As I set up the playing area for our first game, I asked each of my little geeks their thoughts on the game so far.

“This is going to be a tough game! I can already tell Mom is really fast!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“I’m going to beat you, Mom!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

“[evil cackling]” ~ Mom

The playing area was set and the cards dealt. I gave everyone time to review their State cards and then asked my oldest to flip the first Scrambled card to start the game!

Final Word

Knowledge-based games tend to divide the players quickly between those who know (usually the winners) and those who do not (more times than not, the losers). Trivial Pursuit is an excellent example as is Scrabble. Both of these games require the players to have a pretty solid and large knowledge-based to tap into in order to be competitive. By and large, I try to avoid these types of games with my little geeks as they are not games they can quickly learn how to play better. I am pleased to report that The Scrambled States of America, while knowledge of geography and State trivia is clearly beneficial to the player, does not require the players to be “all-knowing” to play well. This made the game fun as well as educational without stressing out the players.

All the players, from little geeks to big geeks, found the game rewarding. The questions asked by the Scrambled cards were not terrible brain burners, either. Simple conditions to be met, like “Does not touch an ocean” or “Is orange”, were easy for my little geeks to understand and identify. Others were a little more complex. For example, “Capital has a 3-letter word hidden in it” or “State touches at least 6 other States”. These were only slightly easier for the adults as the pressure to be the first to slap your card is always there, meaning no one had the luxury of  “taking their time”. If an adult waited too long, the little geeks slapped their card first! This kept everyone on edge and it was wonderful.

The great equalizer in this game is the “Go the Distance” cards. Technically, it is still a race to slap your card first, but only to determine who wins the round in the event of a tie. More times than not, it was very obvious which States were the closest without a tie-breaker being required. If my little geeks had the closest card, they would immediately gain 2 points. It became a game of leapfrog with our points where the adults would gain ground only to lose it when the little geeks would gain 2  points with the “Go the Distance” cards. This kept the point-spread very reasonable and no one ever felt left behind.

Another welcome bonus was the fun way the game taught geography. In fact, you can’t help but learn interesting little tidbits about the States while you play the game. After we had played a game, my 4-year-old told me all about what he had learned about his State of Minnesota. Now that’s pretty impressive. Not only did he have fun but he thought well enough of the game’s value to keep it in his memory. Who knows if he is choosing to remember it to make him a better player or because it just struck him as interesting. Honestly, I don’t care. The fact that he learned something new while having fun is what counts. If I can associate “learning” with “entertainment”, I have done my children a wonderful favor.

I highly suggest you use the rules variant for early readers and young little geeks the first time you play the game with kids. Jumping right into the “race” aspect of the game will only serve to frustrate them. The goal is to have fun and to learn, not stress out and get angry. As your little geeks get accustomed to the game and become stronger readers, reintroduce the slap mechanic to breath new life and challenge into he game!

The two most competitive players at the table: My wife and my toothless 7-year-old

Gamer Geeks, you must look elsewhere for a challenging game with this one. While The Scrambled States of America will make you use your reflexes and tap your knowledge of geography, it does little else. I should also mention that the “challenge” is really just being the fastest reader and hand slapper at the table. These are not characteristics that often persuade a gamer elitist to sit down at the table to play a game with friends unless they are highly competitive and are just looking for an easy win. The game is fun, most certainly, but hardly challenging if you are the type of individual who sits down with games that require difficult choices with worker placement and resource management.

Parent Geeks, this is truly a wonderful game for the family and your little geeks. Fun and fast, you’ll be leaning forward to attempt to be the first to hear the Scrambled card’s condition and then quickly scanning your State cards as your hand hovers over your State Line for the slap. For such an easy game, it brings out the competitive nature from just about everyone at the table. The task  to slap your card first is so simple and yet hardly a sure thing when it comes to a victory. The game also does an excellent job of balancing different skill levels and abilities, but you must be able to read in order to play the game well. Individuals who are color blind will also have a difficult time with some of the cards. For educators, this game will serve as an excellent medium in which to teach geography to your students without feeling like a classroom exercise. Your students will have no choice but to memorize locations and capital names in order to play competitively!

Child Geeks, this is a fun and fast game that will test your speed and mind. If you don’t know the answer, read your cards! See a possible match? Better check it twice! Then when you are certain it is a winner, smash your hand down as fast as you can! It might feel like an eternity, but it will only take a second or two. Of course, if you can reduce your time even by a second, you’ll be that much faster! This game will make it fun to learn about the United States and will make you a stronger and faster player, too!

My family and I have greatly enjoyed The Scrambled States of America. It is the kind of game I’d play with friends who have little geeks my children’s age and even bring out at a dinner party to play with non-gamers. The game fits well with larger or smaller groups and the learning and difficulty curve is just enough to keep everyone on their toes and engaged. I have even caught myself learning something new about geography which was a most welcomed surprise. If I could improve my speed, I just might be able to be faster than my kids, or at the least, my wife!

Nah, that’s not going to happen. My wife is gangbusters.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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One Response to The Scrambled States of America Deluxe Edition Game Review

  1. Melissa says:

    My parents have this game and I really enjoyed it every time we played. Even though, you’re right, it gets less challenging over time, but it’s good for me to be able to play with my younger siblings.

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