28 November 2015

Board Game Review: Scoville

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to a very fun board game called Scoville. The point of the game is to grow, crossbreed, and harvest peppers, which are then combined in recipes. I really enjoyed it, so let's take a look at it now, shall we?

We start, as always, with the numbers:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Ideal
Average Length of Game Play: 1 hour

The game board in Scoville represents a plot of farming land. There are a few other spaces around the board that are important for turn order, special victory point prizes for being the first to plant certain peppers, and other things, but the farming plot is the most important. It's made up of several squares, each of which has a pepper-shaped cut-out in it. The game starts with a couple of the least spicy peppers in the two central squares, and each player has a few of these peppers in his inventory.

The board in the middle of a game. The focus of this photo is the central area of the board, a plot of farmland represented by several brown squares in a grid. Each square has a cutout in the shape of a chili pepper. Some of these have wooden pepper-shaped tokens in various colours in them. There are five farmer-shaped meeples in the board, standing between two squares on the board.

Players bid on turn order each round; this can be crucial, because the harvesting phase goes in reverse order. Sometimes, you want to plant first, and thus will want to bid higher on the turn order; other times, you want to harvest first, which means you want to place a lower bid.

The planting phase involves players placing peppers from their personal pile in the empty squares on the farm plot. The harvesting phase involves moving your farmer meeple along the spaces between the peppers in the farm. Movement is limited; you can't turn around and you can't move through a space occupied by another player. But when you walk between two peppers, you pick up a new pepper. The colour of the pepper you pick up is determined by the colour of the peppers between which you walk. Normally, walking between two peppers of the same colour gives you another pepper of that colour. Walking between two different primary colours gives you a secondary colour (for example, walking between a blue pepper and a yellow pepper gives you a green pepper). Mixing secondary colours starts getting you more advanced peppers, like the brown, black, or white peppers. And if you can mix black and white peppers, you can get the hottest pepper of them all: the clear colourless pepper.

Once you start accruing peppers, you can use them to make recipes. Sitting alongside the board are several recipe cards. They range from simple, not-at-all-spicy recipes like 'Born to Be Mild,' which requires a yellow pepper and a purple pepper, to melt-your-face-off recipes like 'Phant-om-nom-nom,' which uses three colourless peppers and two brown peppers. The spicier the recipe, the more victory points you get for it.

There are a few other steps, like buying crates that give you bonus peppers, but the only other really important aspect of this game (at least in terms of reviewing the game) is the fact that each player has a small screen behind which he keeps all his peppers, scored recipes, awards, and other items. Thus, you never know how many points the other players have. In fact, these screens caused me to be very surprised when I won the game I played; although I had managed to score some high-point value recipes at the end of the game, I was worried that they wouldn't be enough to exceed the point values scored by the many lower-point recipes that the other players had been accumulating throughout the entire game. But because I couldn't see what recipes they had, I simply didn't know how far ahead of them I really was.

I really enjoyed this game. I may have to pick up a copy for myself some day. But I will leave you with that for now. Until next week,

Game on!

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