Ages 13+ 2-6 Players 60-90 mins.
I have lost days to farming games. I love building my little town and growing my crops. It makes me feel at one with my pastoral upbringing without having to actually get muddy or smell the general aura of animal muck that comes with the country.
When I heard about Scoville I clapped my little hands with glee and did a little on the spot dance. Farming AND a board game. It was looking like my life was going to get that bit hotter.
So I toddled down to my local board game shop paid my money, bought bandages for my singed fingers from handling the hottest game in town and took it home to drink in all the beautiful elements and wonderful rules.
It even has a little back story. The residents of a small town loved Wilbur Scoville (who invented the Scoville scale, the hotness scale for peppers) they named their town after him and have an annual pepper festival where the hottest peppers are the most prized possessions.
What you get in the box
- 1 Game Board
- 65 Auction Cards
- 48 Market cards
- 12 Award Cards
- A load of coins
- 18 Bonus Action Tiles
- 4 Breeding Charts
- 6 Player Screens
- 6 Farmers/Player Discs
- Many, Many, Many Peppers
I just want to take this moment to talk about the pieces you get. They are so well made. From the little coins (which are super tiny) to the board, which is super clear and has an area for all the cards you’ll be using. You even get little pepper meeples. Pepereeples! You don’t feel like the manufacturers skimped on anything during production.
In fact, this was a kickstarter originally and some of the stretch goals were to upgrade from coloured cubes to actual peppers, and to have the hottest of the hot peppers become plastic see through sparkly phantom peppers. They also upgraded the farmer tokens to little farmer meeples for the harvesting phase.
It’s so bright and colourful you’ll feel like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction opening the briefcase of fun. Only this time you’ll get to see the hot stuff inside.
How to play
Each player chooses their colour, and gets a player board for hiding your hoard of peppers and points cards. You also get a counter for the turn order track and a farmer meeple for harvesting the crops.
The aim of the game is to get the most points, points are represented by a number within a flame and can be found on some of the market cards, the recipe cards and your bonus action tiles.
Scoville is played in rounds, and there are three phases to each round.
The round starts with a silent auction, you place how many coins you want to bid, you all reveal at the same time, whoever bids the highest gets to choose where they go in the turn order, the second highest goes next and so on.
It is here that we come to one of the first great things about Scoville. You see, in this game choosing your turn order can be very difficult. In the second phase (planting) whoever is in the number one slot goes first, two goes second etc. In the second phase (harvesting) whoever was last during planting goes first to harvest. Then for the third phase, (fulfilment) back to number one going first. It’s the hardest decision you have to make sometimes for reasons that will become clear.
Once the turn order has been established it’s onto the first phase of the round. Planting. Ooooo, I hear you collectively say.
The player going first chooses which pepper they would like from the auction areas of the board and puts it in their inventory. They then choose any pepper from their inventory to place onto the board. You can place it wherever you like so long as it’s horizontally or vertically adjacent to a pepper already in the field.
After the last person has planted it’s time to harvest your glorious produce. This is the really juicy part of the game for me. It’s where all your plans from the first phase come to fruition, and can be worth going last to plant to go first to harvest.
You grab the farmer meeple of the appropriate colour and start off in the little star in the middle. you get to move up to three steps, always going forwards. Every time you land between two peppers, you consult your breeding chart, see what colour they make and you get that colour pepper in your inventory. So for example if you land between a purple and a green, it would make a white that you get to place in your inventory. Wherever you land on your last step you stay until the next harvesting phase.
Once you have quite a few peppers on the board you can really start to plan out your route, and you plan what peppers you want to plant to get the combo you want for the colour you need. The other really great thing about this is the player interaction. This mechanic allows you to block your opponents from getting to certain peppers, you can’t go through another player’s farmer and you cannot occupy the same space, so if you choose to land between two colours that make a hot, hot, hot pepper, nobody else will be able to swoop in and take it. Likewise it means that you can spend a few turns building up a great route full of brilliant combos to get the peppers you want, can be usurped by another player, if you’re not first to harvest that is.
When we’re all grinning with glee or frowning in frustration at not getting the peppers we wanted we can move onto the fulfilment phase. This is when you can exchange your peppers for chili recipe cards, market cards, or you can just sell up to five peppers for coins. Remember, the turn order goes back to number one going first, so someone else might be able to get in before you and swipe that recipe card worth 24 points from under your nose.
See why it’s so hard choose your turn order? You need to go first to make sure you get that red hot recipe card, but at the same time, if you go last you’re more likely to get the peppers needed to get the card.
I love this game. I’ve played it many times since I bought it last year, and it has been a big hit with everyone I’ve played with.
The theme is just… Lovely, it makes you smile with it’s colours and the farming aspect. Everything looks and feels like a lot of love went into it. It feels like a local village fete. All it’s missing is a WI tea and jam tent.
The game play is simple, yet complex enough to create a beautiful puzzle for you to solve. This ticks a lot of my boxes for the game play. There’s not much, but just enough player interaction, you can plan out your moves way in advance, but can still have it all scuppered by another player’s plans so you have to re-calibrate.
The bonus action tiles can be really useful for planning a massive pepper harvest, they get you the ability to go back on yourself once, move one extra step or to plant one extra pepper. You can use more than one during a turn so you can really have a pepper blast! If you decide not to use the tiles, they are worth 4 points each at the end of the game.
You have to make simple, but tough decisions.
The little player screen makes for an exciting finish. The main aim of the screens is to keep the winner a secret until the end. You keep all your pepper stock and any cards you pick up along the way behind there and then tote up the scores at the end. Which is great because you realise you’ve been doing better than you thought. Someone who you thought was definitely going to win might have been bluffing and will come last. It’s the games last hurrah.
A great advantage of Scoville is that it plays up to 6, a lot of other games of a similar calibre tend to be 4 or 5. So the extra player space can be pretty neat if there are a lot of you.
My main criticism for Scoville would be that once you find a strategy you tend to stick with it, there’s not too much scope for trying out new techniques. Which can limit the re-playability a little. The recipe cards start to get a little dull after a while and you start to learn which ones are the best and what is needed to obtain them.
Thankfully, an expansion has just been kick-started, called Scoville Labs. I received mine a couple of weeks ago. The expansion doesn’t change the main rules, but it does bring up the heat a little more. As it allows you to plant a pepper (after planting on the main board) in your very own little lab. You reap the benefits of any combos made immediately, but after that they just take up more space in your lab. This helps to combat some of those ‘he stole my planned pepper route’ situations and allows you to be a little more selfish with the pepper hoarding. Included are also more recipe cards and market cards that also helps to refresh the game a little.
I liked Scoville labs, I think I’ll need to play it a few more times to really get the scope for what it can do, but it does work well, and I really liked being able to quickly get some of the peppers that I needed without worrying that one of my fellow farmers was going to steal my prize.
I wholeheartedly recommend this game. As part of the Scoville Labs Kickstarter you could get the base game too as one of the rewards. This was to measure the amount of interest in it for a new print run. So, it might be hard to get at the moment, but hopefully it will be winging it’s way to your local board game shop soon!
All you need yo do now is ask yourself. Are you ready to feel the burn?