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If you've played a modern-day 5-reel slot, you'll have probably come across Scatters.

The Scatter, or Scatter Pay, is a special symbol on the reels which pays anywhere regardless of where it falls on the reels.

Scatters can trigger bonuses, or they can just pay a little cash by themselves. Players love Scatters as they don't have to be included in a payline of consecutive symbols to trigger cash. And if you know your developers, you'll know who offers the best and most varied Scatters.

What Are Scatters?

While online slots software has improved, so have the bonus features. Slots manufacturers keep things fresh by introducing new and exciting types of Scatters which do things other than just pay out winnings.

So, what are Scatters? Scatters are symbols that pay out ANYWHERE THEY APPEAR ON THE REELS. They don't have to be part of a payline and they'll just pay out if you can see them.

Typically, combinations pay from left-to-right, starting at Reel 1. Just as Wilds can "fill in the gaps" and improve wins, so Scatters offer players a little extra cash when they hit. As you play a slot, you'll begin to see how many Scatters are featured on each reel. The Scatters might land fairly frequently in one slot, while another game might not feature many Scatters at all.

The more Scatters you hit, the more you'll win. But there are limitations.

Usually, Scatters can't be substituted with Wilds. So, if you need three bonus Scatters to trigger a Free Spins round, you can't hit two Scatters plus one Wild.

Types of Scatter

Let's take a look at some of the types of Scatters you'll find in today's online slots. As you play more slots, you'll get used to the way certain developers allow their symbols to act.

Scatters Without Bonuses

All Scatters will award cash, regardless of their bonus-triggering power. With bonus Scatters, you'll almost always win a cash pot if you hit two anywhere on the reels.

However, some slots feature two Scatters: one for cash prizes only, and another for bonus rounds. The more Scatters you hit, the more you'll win, and the jackpots can be big (although not as big as hitting a jackpot of Wilds).

A good example is Novomatic's popular Lucky Lady's Charm slot. Two Scatters anywhere triggers a jackpot of 2,000 coins (when betting the maximum). Compare that to hitting two 9 symbols (200 coins), or three Ace or King symbols (1,000 coins). Even two Wilds yields a win of just 1,000 coins.

Bonus Scatters

In online slots with bonus features, three or more Scatters on the reels usually triggers a bonus feature like Free Spins or a Trail Bonus. Hit two Scatters and you can still win something, usually a small cash prize.

Let's take our Novomatic example again. 3, 4, or 5 Scatters triggers a Free Spins round where 15 spins are awarded. Each spin has a 3x multiplier attached (all your wins are multiplied by 3) but you'll ALSO win cash prizes on the main reels or 5,000, 20,000 or 500,000 coins respectively.

The beauty of bonus Scatters is that you can pick up a massive cash jackpot AND trigger a bonus feature at the same time.

Bonus Scatters (Restricted Reels)

Some bonus Scatters trigger feature round only if they appear on certain reels. Cryptologic's Draco's Fire features a Scatter that triggers a Free Spins round, but only if it appears on Reels 1, 3 and 5 simultaneously.

Typically, hitting three or more Scatters in the bonus round will 're-trigger' the round, and you'll amass more free spins. It's good to look for unlimited retriggers (this will be displayed in the Paytable) in any bonus round game.

Bonus Scatters are also used to trigger familiar features like:

  • Instant Win: The three Scatters change into prize symbols. It's the player's choice to pick one of the Scatters and reveal a cash prize.
  • Trail Bonus: Three or more Scatters triggers a bonus feature where the player progresses along a prize trail, rolling a dice and picking up cash, multipliers and free spins.
  • Progressive Jackpot: Progressive jackpots are sometimes triggered by hitting five special Scatter symbols anywhere on the reels. You'll either win a linked jackpot or be transported to a bonus wheel game where you can go for the biggest prize.

Expanding Scatters

A relative rarity in slots, the expanding Scatter features in some Free Spins rounds. Be wary of these additional symbols in the Free Spins feature.

Some games, like Viaden's Luxor Valley, has a Free Spins feature triggered by three or more Scatters in the base game. Before you start the spins, a symbol is chosen at random to become an Expanding Scatter. When it lands it will expand to occupy all spaces on that reel.

However, the expanding Scatter is prone to covering the regular Scatter, potentially affecting the player's payout. Some players think the regular Scatter should pay out first before the Expanding Scatter plays.

Benefits and Downsides of Scatters

So, how do Scatters affect the outcomes of slots? Well, because Scatters trigger bonus features and increase payouts, they will appear less frequently. This makes the "variance" (swings in wins and losses) higher in slots that have Scatters (i.e. you will go longer between big wins). Add in bonus symbols like Wilds and expanding symbols, and the variance gets even bigger.

Having said that, Scatters are exciting, and in the short-term can give players the chance to win big wins you just don't see in Classic slots. Developers like to mix things up, so check out online casinos and pick a slot that's right for you.

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