Time to kick your board game session up a notch!
Scoville by Tasty Minstrel Games is a game about the full pepper experience, from planting, harvesting, selling, and even competing in chili cookoffs. Will you be taking home the Scoville Chili Cookoff trophy?
The goal of the game is to score the most victory points. You’ll earn points by making chili based on one of the available recipe cards, fulfilling orders at the market, being the first to plant specific types of peppers, and by saving your bonus actions. Will admit that there’s a lot of moving parts to this game, but it’s manageable once you break the game down by each step.
Each round is broken up into four phases:
First comes the auction phase. Using the money you have on hand, you and the others will blind bid on peppers in the auction and turn order for the remainder of the round. Whoever wins the auction gets to pick where in the turn order they will go. The trick here is that the auction, planting, and fulfillment phases are completed from highest-to-lowest bidder, but the harvesting phase is completed from lowest-to-highest. You may pay a premium to go last in order to get first dibs on peppers in the field. Once the turn order is settled, players will pick a pepper card from the auction and add those peppers to their stash.
Now it’s time to plant! Four peppers will be pre-planted in the centre of the shared garden. One-at-a-time, each player will plant one pepper adjacent to one already on the board. Placement is key here, as this will determine what peppers can be picked when a player stands between two spots in the field. Though the table is a bit crazy to comprehend, it does the job well enough for outlining the possibilities when two peppers are cross-bred.
After the peppers have been planted, it’s time to harvest. Going in reverse order, players will take their meeple in the middle of the board and move up to three spaces. For each space you land on, you’ll harvest the pepper(s) that grow between two peppers on the board. As the board gets filled with more exotic pepper breeds, you’ll have more options available to you, including the highly sought after ghost peppers!
Last but not least is the fulfillment phase. Going back to the regular turn order, players have the opportunity to complete a market card with a combination of peppers in their stash to obtain such benefits as points, coins, or rarer peppers. You can sell a set of peppers of the same colour in exchange for coins. Most importantly, if you’ve got the right combination of peppers, you can make one of the chili recipes on the board and score huge points!
Before resetting the round, a time check is done. Depending on what’s been triggered, the next round may begin with no new changes. However, it may shift into the afternoon phase if there are fewer morning market cards than players or even signal the end. Points are tallied after the final round and the player with the most points wins.
Despite not being a fan of peppers or spicy food, I love the theme of this game. The idea of being a part of a pepper’s life from beginning-to-end gives players a lot of different mechanics to engage with along the way, from bidding, to hand management, set collection, area control, and more.
Wrapping your head around everything the game needs you to do is daunting at first. But after a few rounds, you’ll get the gist. Even so, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one if you’re new to the hobby, as it’s a touch heavier than other games of this type. That said, if you’ve cut your teeth on games like Ticket to Ride, this is a reasonable step up in complexity.
The most fascinating part of the game are its planting and harvesting phases. When it’s time to plant a pepper, do you plant your rare peppers in order to harvest even better ones? Or do you horde what you already have to complete a recipe or a market order?
Furthermore, your movement through the board is limited by the number of spaces you can travel, other players blocking pathways, and a rule that prevents players from doubling back. A few bonus action tiles that each player gets at the start of the game can help you break a few of these rules, but it won’t be enough to cover every scenario where that jerk blocks your path to the ghost peppers. From what I gather, the expansion does allow players to mitigate blocking somewhat by giving every player a small lab where they can plant their own peppers. Nevertheless, where you plant and what you harvest will be the key to your success!
Scoville impresses by blending together a great theme with plenty of different gameplay mechanics to engage with. It might be a bit heavy to learn at first and it does press players to think way ahead, but it does everything it sets out to do very well while posing a fascinating challenge for all players involved. Spice up your next board game night with this one!
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