Japanese Scout was designed by Kei Kajino and published by Oink Games in 2019. It’s a small box card game with a good reputation: it was a nominee for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2022, and several friends have praised it. Since my game group likes tricky card games, I thought Scout might be a good match and bought it.
I’ve now played it twice, and I must say the game didn’t disappoint. The game reminds me of Krass Kariert, which I like a lot. The goal is to get rid of your cards by playing them as sets on the table, beating the previously played set with a better set. As in Krass Kariert, you can only play sets made of adjacent cards in your hand, and you can’t reorder your hand.
Scout adds some extra twists. The cards are double-ended. At the beginning of the hand, you can rotate your hand and choose which side you prefer. When you gain new cards during the round, you can choose which way is up and where in your hand you add them.
On your turn, you can play a set that beats the previous set and gain those cards as points (“show”). If you can’t or don’t want to, you can take one of the cards in the set to your hand (“scout”). Once per round, you can do both (“show and scout”). If someone scouts from your set, you score a point.
The round is over when someone gets rid of their cards, or everybody scouts from a set without showing anything. Cards in hand count as negative points. After several rounds, the player with the most points wins.
I’ve played the game with three and five players. There’s a two-player mode, but that sounds weird. Many people don’t like the three-player game, and I can see why. A robust set is very powerful, as only two players need to scout for the round to end. In a five-player game, playing a set that would go around the table is very hard. But based on the one play so far, I like the game with three players. Five was better, and four is probably the best.
If you like weird card games, Scout is a fine choice. Of the two hit weird card games of the season – both Japanese, by the way – I don’t know which one I prefer, Scout or Cat in the Box. Both are delightful in their own way.
Both photos in this post are the same hand, by the way, just rotated. I chose to play the hand as below, as it’s significantly stronger that way.