Note: All photos here are of the Fall ’13 prototype version of Scoville. The newest version has some reallllyyy nice art and looks fantastic.
Scoville, designed by Ed Marriott and being published by Tasty Minstrel Games, is a hot pepper breeding game that’s all kind of thinkyness and fun. It’s currently on Kickstarter so make sure you check it out before it’s campaign ends.
Scoville is a point-salad game where players have several different ways to score and the winner at the end of the game is the one with the most points.
No matter which route you use when scoring it’s all done by taking various kinds of hot peppers and breeding them to make new kinds. This means there are two main parts of the game, planting peppers and then moving your famers around the board so that they can harvest the peppers.
Each round of the game is dived into four parts: Auction, Planting, Harvesting & Fulfillment.
During the auction, players bid on resource cards and on the turn order. In planting, players place a single pepper onto the field. When harvesting, players movie their farmers two spaces and pick peppers and finally during fulfillment, players fill orders and complete recipes.
What’s really interesting about turn order is that it flips during the different stages of the game. For example in the photo above the purple player would plant their pepper first and do their fulfillment first, however when harvesting the red player would get first dibs. Varying turn order is a neat mechanism that offers both a lot of strategy and adds to the player interaction.
Planting peppers is really easy. You take a color cube that is already in your possession and place it on the board adjacent to another cube.
Although planting is a simple act, the decision is not an easy one. Since peppers are used to fill orders and recipes, it’s in a player’s best interest to hold onto the rare ones so that they can score more points. However, the rarest peppers can only be created by crossbreeding other rare peppers so it’s a push and pull decision on trying to decide which peppers should you hold onto and which should you use for breeding.
The flipside of planting is harvesting. Players move their farmers between two peppers and then consult a chart and take the corresponding pepper. For example, if a player were harvesting between a blue pepper and a yellow pepper then they would take a green pepper. Or if a player was standing between two purple peppers then they would take a black pepper.
The breeding chart, which you can see above, looks intimidating at first but it’s really simple to use. The cubes in the center are what’s created from crossbreeding while the outer Y & X axis are the mommy and daddy peppers that are used for breeding.
In the very early rounds, Scoville is a smooth and breezy, but as the game ages, it grows and becomes more and more thinky. Because players are building a common engine to create different kinds of peppers, no two games play alike. It always feels fresh and different.
Scoville definately has a Euro-vibe but there is still a lot of interaction from both the turn order and how each player plants and harvests peppers. I’ve never played a game of Scoville where someone didn’t groan and say, “Uhhh I was totally going to go there,” in a very Ticket To Ride kind of way.
A nice added touch to the game is that there is a lot of secret information. Each player has their own blind so you never know what order or recipe an opponent is trying to get. Also you never know how much money they have or just how many and what different kinds of peppers they’ve managed to horde.
One of the nicer twists to the game are the bonus tokens, which you can see in the photo above. Each can only be used once and if you don’t use them, each is worth four points at the end of the game, however using them during the game can be super powerful. The first lets you plant two peppers when planting instead of one. The second lets you harvest one extra pepper when harvesting and the final lets you move backwards when harvesting so you can harvest the same pepper twice.
I first got to play Scoville at BGG.Con and loved it so much that I brought the prototype home with me. Since then I’ve played it multiple times, which is a rare thing when talking about a prototype. It’s well designed, flows smoothly and a bunch of fun.
I highly recommend Scoville to any gamer and if you are on the fence at all about it, don’t be. Go back it now on Kickstarter!