Let’s get one thing out of the way: I love hot sauce. I’ve been known to drink habanero sauce straight…no I’m not kidding. So when I discovered Scoville designed by Ed Marriott and published by Tasty Minstrel games, I bought it immediately.
In Scoville you are a hot pepper farmer participating in the fictional city of Scoville’s annual hot pepper festival. You’ll be competing with other players to crossbreed peppers and then use them in intensely hot chili recipes or sell them in the farmers market.
So, did this game live up to my spicy expectations?
The first game my wife and I played was less than exciting to say the least; each of us were randomly placing peppers. When the game ended, we tallied up our meager points. But…
Once we grasped the fact that we should be planting peppers strategically to fulfill the randomized recipes and market cards in the game, it became a fiery blast. I printed out an alternate crossbreeding chart provided by the designer that really helped speed along the game for me as well.
Ed Marriott definitely captured a great atmosphere in this game. I can feel myself running around planting and harvesting peppers, cutting off my rivals, “cheating” using 3 special one-use moves, and unveiling my secret pepper stash to finish that 20 point recipe to my wife’s dismay. Oh, and let me just say that the Pepper “Meeples” are awesome.
And I only had to sleep on the couch once (not really)! I managed to cut off my wife on the last move of the game costing her two points and assuring my winby a single point. This is definitely a competitive game where you may not always “be nice” to your opponents.
What about the gameplay?
Each round starts off with an auction between the players. Each player secretly chooses how much they’re willing to bid, and whoever bids highest gets to choose one of the following options:
- Choose new peppers, plant and cook recipes / fulfill market cards first.
- Harvest first.
This provides some very interesting decisions as a player. Do you want to ensure you can harvest that coveted phantom pepper before your opponent? But what if they buy the recipe you’re working on? Do you give up the phantom pepper to ensure you get the recipe? This struggle is only amplified by the fact that you have no idea what peppers your opponent has at any given point in time.
Then players plant their peppers. Like mentioned earlier, you may wind up aimlessly planting your first game or two, but once you have the crossbreeding chart memorized (its pretty easy) then you will be planting with ease. Stick the green pepper next to the purple (harvests as white)? “Cheat” and plant an extra purple pepper next to the purple (harvests as black)? Then when you harvest you can grab the black and a white pepper, which are rare and can get you better recipes, or plant them to get the “first to plant a black/white pepper” bonus!
Now it’s time to harvest! Players move up to three spaces, with each spacebetween two different peppers. The combination of the two peppers you move between results in a different pepper. If you’ve planted correctly, you can pull off some really great moves and snatch that recipe before your opponent.
The final step is to buy recipes, fulfill market cards, or sell peppers. You can do any or all of these actions every turn, in any order you wish. Fulfill a market card that gives you a black pepper and two victory points? Sweet, now you can use that black to finish off that recipe! Got some leftover peppers you don’t think you’ll need? Sell them off to get more money to spend on the auction (or every 3 dollars gets you a point at the end of the game).
Recipes give you more points than any other method, and often require a combination of rare peppers, for instance “The Belfort Blast Furnace” requires: two white, two brown, and two red peppers for 16 points.
My Final Thoughts
Scoville is definitely a great game that will hit the table for my wife and I fairly often. It’s got just the right amount of strategy and is absolutely oozing with spicy theme. Even if you’re not a hot pepper fanatic like me, the gameplay is solid and works very well.
My only small gripes are the small size of the money chits, but the fact that the peppers actually fit into the board (so they don’t slide around) more than makes up for this. Some people may also not like the auction mechanic when playing with two players, however, my wife and I just made one slight rule change that the “loser” of the auction doesn’t have to lose their coins as well.