Review: A Question of Scruples
Publisher: Maruca Industries
Year: 1984
Tagline: (none)

Scruples box cover

how we met

If you become a follower of this blog, you will likely begin to notice that one of my weaknesses is a dated box cover (see Circulation review). I must have seen the black & white and gold & white versions of Scruples five thousand times in my thrifting days, and I moved on. But the moment I saw the original 1984 version with its pretty cover it had to be mine. And for $1.99 it was mine.

how it plays

My version of Scruples does not have instructions, so I had to google for some kind of instructions prior to play. The instructions I found were from an alternative version, but I assume they are the same and they worked fine. Here is how they went:

Each player gets five yellow question cards and one red answer card. The questions range from fairly mundane to fairly explosive to just plain absurd. Questions can involve whether you stop for a hitchhiker, whether you tell a friend about their probably-cheating spouse, whether you spy on your significant other, whether you return a dollar that you suspect a friend lost and all manner of other things. The answers can be either YES, NO or DEPENDS.

Cards saying No Depends and Yes

The only possible answers

The goal of each player is to get rid of all the yellow question cards in their hand. On their turn, the active player chooses another player to ask a question card (from the active player’s own hand) in hopes that the chosen player answers the same as the red answer card in the active player’s hand.

For example, I may have the yellow card in my hand asking whether I will make personal long-distance calls from my middle-size firm if I know they can not be traced. I may also have the red answer card YES. In this case I choose the most morally repugnant and/or corporate-averse of my fellow players and ask the question, in hopes for a YES answer.

If the answer matches, the active player is allowed to discard their yellow question card and draw a new red answer card, reducing their hand size by one card. The player questioned gains nothing except the occasional scoff, challenge, disappointment and pearl-clutching of fellow players based on their answer.

If the answers do not match, the active player draws a new yellow question card as well as a new red answer card, so their hand size remains the same.

Play continues in this way, each player in turn asking a question of another player, until one player has discarded all of their yellow question cards. That player is the winner!

There is also a variant involving ballot cards with a halo on one side and a pitchfork on the other. These cards are an additional aspect of the game that allows a player to challenge the answering player, claiming they are insincere. The challenger gets a certain amount of time to plead their case and the answering player gets an equal amount of time to defend their response. All players then vote using the ballot cards where a halo indicates that the answering player was sincere all along, and a pitchfork indicates that the answering player was insincere.

Cards showing pitchfork or halo

Challenge / ballot cards

The player with the most votes removes a yellow question card from their hand and gives it to the other player (either the challenger or the answering player gives a card to the other). A tie is a push, and nothing happens. Hopefully the arguments were amusing.

how it went

Note: We did not use the ballot cards. I, in fact, left them out of the explanation of Scruples. It felt like an easy way to extend the game and force conversation and theatrics.

Oh boy. I do love a party game and after reading reviews of Scruples on BGG regarding its divisiveness, I was cautiously optimistic. But first, let me set the scene.

The scene was a gorgeous BNB on the Chesapeake Bay. I played Scruples a couple of times over the course of a family reunion where players had varying levels of drunkenness ranging from little to extreme, and some of the players I had only just met in the days before. We had eight players each time we played.

You would think that Scruples would be simple with players that you know very well, that you would easily be able to target another player to give you the answer that you need. And that you might avoid the players you do not know as well since their answers are less predictable. The surprising thing was that this is not the case! I think organically all players had relatively equal times in the hot seat. And answers were not as predictable as you might think.

The other curious thing about Scruples is that you will get questions that put you in situations that you would never actually be in, and so it’s a personal decision on whether you create a narrative to get yourself into that situation and try to give an answer from there, or if you go blindly into that situation and just give your best guess at an answer. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, and if the game were entirely made up of this type of content it would probably be pretty dull. Fortunately this issue was not so common as to ruin gameplay.

A card asking whether you tell your husband you may be pregnant with another man's child

The card that caused my sister to rub her belly and mouth “Joffrey” at me the rest of the night

The game definitely contains the fun aspect of party gaming where you are trying to anticipate the reactions of your fellow players, and play accordingly.

I can’t speak to other versions of the game, but the 1984 version does contain some questions that are decidedly dated and all that much more fun. Would I give a bum 25 cents if I knew it would go toward beer? I mean, why not? They probably need at least 11 more quarters to make that work. They want that beer a lot more than I want that quarter. Plus where am I going to keep that quarter anyway? In my change purse? No thanks, 1984.

A set of six sample questions

Sample questions

Likewise there are questions that were probably more innocuous when written, but circumstances have given them a certain gravity that did not exist in 1984. Do I confess to my female colleague that I spent last night at a strip club? A few years ago, maybe. Today? No fucking way.

play or pass

Play. The barrier to entry for this game is virtually nil, and it does lead to laughter, conversation and teasing. I am not a believer that this game will actually shock you by the responses of your loved ones, and if it does you are likely just hypothetically shocked by hypothetical answers; you will be fine. But I do think surprises are in store. Plus, you guys, the 1984 version is super pretty.