Here’s a wild guess – if you’re here reading this article, you have a “Friday Night Game Night” coming up with friends or family. Scattergories is definitely one of the most popular game night games out there, and for very good reason. It’s fun, it can get exciting, and it doesn’t take a ton of in-depth knowledge to play (Catan or Dungeons and Dragons, this certainly isn’t). It is very easy to learn the rules and start playing within minutes.
But even though it’s just a fun game to play with friends or family, part of “fun” is winning, right? Isn’t winning the goal for almost all of us?
There are a lot of different strategies to actually win, and keep winning each time that you play. Keep reading for some tips and tricks to make sure that you have fun and beat your Aunt Susan at Scattergories.
Now, let’s be honest – until I started writing this article it had been a while since I’d played Scattergories. It was a very popular game in my household when I was younger, but I have two young kids and this game isn’t exactly their cup of tea yet. And honestly I’m not sure I want to know what a 10-year-old would say for the “Video Game” category.
So…I brought this game to our most recent game night as a refresher for myself. And most of my friends hadn’t played in a long time either, so it was almost a new experience for us all. We all had so much fun reacquainting ourselves with the game though, and ended up playing it all night! Here’s the most important part though – I won, of course. I actually took the time to research for this article, so I had strategies ready to go! And I can also say now, from my own personal experience, that these strategies actually work.
Table of Contents
First, the Rules and Gameplay
Before we get to the strategy of the game, let’s start with the basics. After all, you may not have even played before! Let’s make sure you know what you’re doing.
- Each player gets an answer pad that is going to give them the categories that they’re going to create answers for.
- Someone rolls the die, which has 20 different letters on it. Whichever letter lands up is the letter that everyone will be using for that round.
- Once the timer starts, everyone will begin writing answers for each category that start with the letter on the die. If the category is “Drinks” and the letter rolled is “J”, you might write “juice” or “jasmine tea”.
- When the timer stops, everyone stops writing. Each player begins reading their answers. If someone else wrote the same thing for that category, each player with that answer gets zero points. If no one else wrote the same answer, you get a point. Total up all of your points for all of the categories to get your score for the round.
- If there is any question about whether or not an answer fits a given category, all players vote. For example, if the category is “Things found in a pool” and you answered “dog”, someone can challenge that and call for a vote. Maybe your dog swims in your pool every day, but that’s not common so you may get voted down. Majority rules here, so try to make sure your answers make sense.
Simple enough, right? It’s a very simple game to start and it’s even easier to understand once you play a few rounds. Now that you know how to play Scattergories, let’s talk about how you win.
Strategy for Winning
Learning to play a game is easy. Learning to win isn’t. Think about Monopoly. It’s not hard to play, is it? Roll the dice, buy properties, build hotels…the gameplay is straightforward.
But how often do you win? How often does someone win on their first time playing it? You have to know the strategies for winning. This is the same for Scattergories. Continue reading to get some great tips for how to beat your friends.
Content, Content, Content
To have any chance of earning points for a given category, you have to write something down for that category. You may be tempted to leave a category blank if you can’t think of the “perfect” answer.
But you at least have a chance at points with a bad answer, while you have no chance for points if you don’t answer at all. When the timer starts, just start writing the first things that come to your mind for each category. If you have time left you can go back and think of better answers at the end.
Write the Letters Down if You’re Stumped
Sometimes just physically writing the letter down on the page can help spark an answer. Let’s say you’re letter is D and the category is animal, but you simply can’t think of anything.
Write the letter “D” down in the space. If you’re still stuck write a vowel, if that vowel doesn’t spark an answer try another vowel. Maybe seeing “Du” will make you think of “Duck.”
I only recommend trying this strategy once you’ve looked at every category once and you’re going back to fill in more.
Don’t Waste Your Time
If you’re having trouble thinking of something for a category, move on. This is similar to the previous tip – you have to write as many answers as possible. If you can’t think of a single answer for the first category on your sheet, move on and come back to it. If you waste 45 seconds on one category, you’re not going to leave yourself time for the eleven other categories. Move on and come back if you have to.
Obvious Answers Aren’t Always Bad
Since you don’t get points for answers other people write down, you may think that you always have to have some crazy unique answer for each category. The problem with that strategy is that everyone else is thinking the same thing. If the category is “Colors” and the letter is “R”, you may be tempted to not write “Red”. But everyone else is probably thinking the same thing and they all might write “Rust” or “Ruby” or “Rose”. Then your “Red” doesn’t look so bad, does it?
Keep an eye on how unique your opponents are trying to be. If every answer that your opponents write down is something far outside the box, you don’t have to do the same – just simple answers may get the job done.
I’ve seen someone score 5 points all with the same word before. You’re answers for each category don’t have to be unique on your card, they just have to be unique for that category against the other players.
Let’s say you have categories “Mammal, Cartoon Character, Something Furry, and Children’s Book” if your letter is C, you could put Clifford, the Big Red Dog for all four of these categories. You could score four points from one answer.
And remember the rules, you can call for a vote on any answer. Why not stretch things a bit for an answer and then try to argue for yourself to get the point? If you had Chimpanzee written for “Something Furry,” why not put Chimpanzee down for “Children’s Book” and try to make an argument for Curious George being a chimp?
Always Aim for Alliteration
You get one point for each unique answer, right? Well, you get one point for each word in your answer that starts with the letter. “Hogan” is a good answer for “Professional Wrestlers” if the letter is “H”. Even better would be “Hulk Hogan”. And better still would be “Hunter Hearst Helmsley”. The more words you can put in there that start with the letter, the more points you’ll get. And those alliterative answers are rarely duplicated, so you’re likely to score with that type of answer.
Now, don’t waste too much time trying to think up an alliterative answer for every single category. But if you can, this is a very easy way for the points to add up quickly.
Don’t Question Yourself Too Much
Sometimes you’ll be surprised by what your friends will let slide without being challenged. Think your friends wouldn’t allow the song “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” by The Police? Just try it. I was shocked by how little was challenged in my game because everyone was afraid of getting challenged back. One of my friends answered “Drywall” under the category “Minerals”. That’s not a mineral, but it wasn’t an animal or vegetable either, so the group let it slide. Always give your wildest answers a shot.
Let’s Summarize Scattergories Strategies, Shall We?
Let’s summarize all of these tips. JUST WRITE SOMETHING.
This isn’t necessarily a game in which you have to think too much – sometimes you’ll think yourself right out of a great answer. So most importantly, just write an answer for every category. It doesn’t have to be what you’d consider an amazing answer, just start with something.
Don’t waste too much time though – if you can’t think of anything, skip that category and come back to it. Don’t worry if you think your answers are “basic” or “obvious” because everyone else may be skipping those same obvious answers for the same reason. I’ve won many points on the most basic answers!
Try to alliterate if possible as that will cause your points totals to jump very fast. The title for this section would be worth 4 points by itself! Alliterative answers usually aren’t duplicated so you’re likely to score and score big. And try some of your wackier answers too, even if you’re not positive everyone else will think it will fit in the category.
So, now that you know how to play and how to WIN, I’d definitely suggest trying out these strategies against your friends. I know you’ll enjoy the looks on their faces when you keep adding up the points and they’re not. Good luck and have fun!
Veronica is a Green Bay-based freelance writer and editor with extensive experience with board games. When not busy scribbling her thoughts, you might find her in her garden, hiking out in the woods, or exploring new food joints.
Veronica is a die-hard board game and chess hobbyist by night. She likes to try out new games and is always on the lookout to recruit new players for her game night (so beware!). When not playing board games or throwing darts, she is usually busy painting miniatures (or doing other nerdy stuff).
She is the CEO & Content Writer of Indoor Games Zone. She shares her expertise from years of playing chess, board games, and darts.