It’s not often that I miss awesome games on Kickstarter, but in the case of Scoville it definitely happened. Fortunately for me, the game did well enough that they ran an expansion Kickstarter that had a pledge level with the original game in it. After getting it in the mail and reading the rules, I was really happy that the game seems like something my daughters would enjoy playing. Besides Castles of Mad King Ludwig, I don’t really have many Euro-style games to offer them, so this fit into my collection perfectly.
The first thing that hit me when I opened the box is the components are awesome. High quality everything; board, cards, wooden pieces, etc. The player screens could be a bit bigger to hide your stuff….. or I could just get friends with less wandering eyes. But all in all I was pretty impressed with this game’s quality based on the $60.00 price tag. Most games at this level are this impressive, but not a lot of Kickstarter games actually go this far in putting this much work into what is inside the box.
The theme of Scoville is that you are a pepper farmer planting and cross-breeding peppers while selling them in the market and making pepper-based recipes, all for victory points to end out the game. If you want to enjoy the theme more, you have to RP it a bit…..just pretend this is YOUR LIFE. Then smack-talk everyone at the table about how your peppers once shut down a county fair and a hazmat crew was called in. For me, it helps that one of my gaming buddies is an aspiring BBQ Shack cook, so I get to act like I’m on his level while I make better recipes then he does, winning the game at the same time.
Ok, so the game….. One of the things I like most about Scoville is how well they use their board’s space. Check this out:
The board looks cute and thematic, but also has separate spaces for everything you need while you play. It keeps the theme at the forefront as the game unfolds. There are award plaques that are placed on top of the building in the bottom corner, the recipes are stacked on the right side next to the tables with food on them, the market is on the left with an auctioneer station at the top. Everything has its place. The attention to detail on the board is much appreciated and definitely adds to the game, making setup not quite the chore that it normally is.
My favorite mechanic of Scoville can be summed up with aid from this picture:
What that is showing is the order in which players plant, then harvest, then run their fulfillment as the normal turn/phase order. At the beginning of each turn, players auction off to take the position they would like in the turn order with a closed hand of a hidden amount of money. The person that reveals the most money places themselves in the turn order where they would like and so on. If you are first, you will be able to choose a spot to place a pepper from your inventory first and you will have the opportunity to sell peppers or make recipes first. But what is great is that harvesting, which is arguably one of the more important aspects of how you will be getting points in this game, is done in reverse order. So if you are last in the turn order, you are first to move your farmer through the pepper farm to grab the essential peppers. Add that to the fact that you can block other farmers from what they are doing and you can see that depending on the timing of the game, you really need to pay attention to where you want to be in the turn order, and plan accordingly.
The one thing I don’t like about this game isn’t really a critique of Scoville, but more of my personal issues with Euro-style games. The game ends so abruptly and often someone can grab a boatload of points at the end, and that action ends the game. In Scoville most scores are around 60-90 (in a 3-4 player game) and I’ve seen almost every game end with someone grabbing a 20+ recipe to end it. Obviously that is a huge swing and contributes heavily to that person winning. I’ve seen a number of Euro-style games have this kind of ending and it just isn’t my thing. Games like this are pretty rough when you play them 2-player and the games get REAL cutthroat. Scoville gets away with it though cause it is fun and simple enough to play that my daughters love it.
If you were in my game store and pulled Scoville off the shelf and asked me if it was a good game, I would ask you:
- Do you like Euro-style games?
- Does the theme of growing and cross-breeding plants/peppers appeal to you?
- Do you normally play games with around 4 people?
- Do you enjoy games that have a “grab the brass ring” style of win conditions?
If you are answering ‘yes’ to most of those then Scoville is probably what you are looking for. With the impending expansion coming for Scoville from another successfully funded campaign, I can’t wait to continue to play this with my friends and my daughters. Scoville sits prominently on my game shelf and has been continually played since I got it.