Official Rules of Scattergories

by Petra Turnbull
Scattergories is a popular party game.

Scattergories is a popular party game.

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The Game of Scattergories is an intricate word game that requires fast thinking skills and a good vocabulary. The game was first was licensed in 1988 by U.S. game producer Milton Bradley, a subsidiary of Hasbro, and is suitable for two to six players from the ages of 12. Hasbro also has released the official rules and instructions that are included in every box of the game.


The Game of Scattergories box includes a special 20-sided die that shows a different letter of the alphabet on each surface. Also included are 48 category cards, a set of notepads, six folders with clips to hold the notes and cards during play, and a rolling board for the dice. Looking at the category cards, you will notice that they come in duplicates to suit six players.


Each category card shows four lists with 12 categories each, and the players must agree which of the lists they wish to play. Categories include insects, college majors, television shows or presidents. Each participant is then given the same card with the chosen list which he clips in to his folder next to the answer sheet from the notepad. The first player rolls the die and calls out the letter shown by the die. The timer is started and the game begins.


The official time for the Game of Scattergories is three minutes, but the timer can be adjusted to 2.5 minutes or two minutes to make it more difficult for the players. The aim is to find words in all categories beginning with the letter displayed. The word should be unusual to distinguish it from the answers other players might choose. Each game lasts three rounds with different letters chosen through rolling the die, but the same categories.


After each round, the players compare the words they have found. Each unique word will receive one point. Players who share the same answer in a category will not receive any points for that specific word. After three rounds, all the points are added up and the player with the highest score is declared the winner. In the case of a tie, the players with the same numbers have to play a fourth round with the same categories but a new letter.

Acceptable Answers

The first word must begin with the key letter from the die. The determiners "a," "an" and "the" are disallowed in the game even though they might be part of an official title. Extra points are given for names or terms that begin with the same key letter, including "Ronald Reagan" or "Brady Bunch." When choosing a person, either the first or the last letter of his name can qualify as long as the part of the name that carries the key letter is written first. Players are not allowed to use the same word twice within a round.


Players can dispute each others' answers when a word does not seem appropriate for the category. If the players cannot agree whether a term is acceptable or not, they must vote, the offending participant included. Players who accept the term show thumbs up while disagreeing members show thumbs down. The majority rules after the vote. If the vote results in a tie, the offending party is discounted.

About the Author

Based in the U.K., Petra Turnbull has been working as a journalist since 1989. Her articles on the film and book trades have been published in "Screen International," "Dagens Naringsliv," "Film Magasinet" and other Scandinavian newspapers and magazines. She now manages her own book shop. Turnbull holds degrees in law and economics from Goethe University, Germany and Oslo Business School in Norway.

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