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Returning to Ed Marriott's Fictional Town of Scoville

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The Inquisitive Meeple
Returning to Ed Marriott's Fictional Town of Scoville

Back in February of 2014, one of the first people I interviewed for The Inquisitive Meeple was, Ed Marriott, about his game Scoville, which at the time was on Kickstarter (The True Story of Ed Marriott and His Fictional Town of Scoville). Well we are back with Ed Marriott with a follow up about Scoville, now that the game is finally starting to ship to backers. Hopefully, readers enjoy getting to know Ed even more or for the first time. Without further ado..

It's been almost a year since I first interviewed you about Scoville. In fact you were one of the first interviews featured on The Inquisitive Meeple. How time flies! Let's start this interview asking about some of your favorites things of 2014:

- Favorite published 2014 board game?

Ed: Five Tribes. It’s so excellent. The artwork is fantastic. The gameplay is tense, interesting, and flows smoothly. It provides moments of awesomeness where you feel really good after a big play. Definitely my fave of 2014.

- Game you really wanted to try in 2014, but didn’t get to?

Ed: Imperial Settlers. I didn’t pre-order before Gen Con and they didn’t have any available for sale to non-pre-orderers. I did, however, receive it as a Christmas present and have since played it 4 times. It’s awesome.

- Favorite new beer (to you) of 2014?

Ed: So difficult to pick one. I guess I’ll go with the 2011 Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale brewed by Unibroue. My friend Adam had cellared it for two years and it was phenomenal.

- Favorite Con you attended in 2014?

Ed: I only attended local Protospiels and Gen Con, but Gen Con is always my favorite. I go down there with a great group of guys and we’ve got some fun traditions now.

- Favorite book your read 2014?

Ed: Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. I’m guessing I’m not alone with this pick. It’s an excellent fantasy novel written by a fellow Wisconsinite! I also read the second book in the trilogy, The Wise Man’s Fear, which was also excellent.

- Favorite article you wrote for your blog, Boards and Barley in 2014?

Ed: My favorite article to write was probably the How To Teach Games article. Too often players struggle with their first play of a game because they weren’t taught it well. The goal of my article was to help game teachers have a better structure for teaching games to new players.

For those that either missed the Kickstarter or our original interview (or both) – could you tell them what Scoville is about and how it's played?

Ed: In the game you are a pepper farmer in Scoville trying to bring the most heat to the town during its annual Chili Festival. To win the game you’ve got to bring the heat by planting, harvesting, and utilizing the hottest peppers in the Farmer’s Market and the Chili Cook-off. It has a unique harvesting mechanism that players really seem to enjoy. During the game you’ll try to find the best way to spend the hot peppers you’ve been harvesting. Each round of the game has an auction phase, a planting phase, a harvesting phase, and a fulfillment phase. Turn order is also a big deal, so players have to consider what is more important to them. Ultimately the game is about building up to the hottest peppers. Can you feel the burn?

Scoville is finally starting to be shipped out and reaching Kickstarter backers. What was it like to get a final version of the games and see all the bits and final art and whatnot? To finally have one of your games published and on your gaming shelf?

Ed: It’s weird. It’s hard to explain how it makes me feel because I can’t really put it into words. It’s really unbelievable. I secretly want to go hide at the local game store and watch as people check out the box on the shelf. I couldn’t be happier with the quality of the components and the amazing artwork. It’s been such an awesome experience.

Since our last interview about Scoville, It seemed that prized and rare platinum peppers only found in the small town of Scoville were wiped out in some kind of freak "stretch goal" storm. Numerous residents of Scoville reported that some kind of mysterious phantom peppers popping up in their stead. For those that don’t know – could you tell them how the phantom peppers look different than regular ones in the game AND what are you thoughts on how they turned out?

Ed: The phantom peppers are currently the hottest peppers available in the game. All of the lesser peppers are made of wood. The Phantom peppers are transparent acrylic with little flecks. The different look really helps differentiate them from the lesser peppers. When you’ve got a Phantom pepper in your hand you know you’ve got something special.

As for how they turned out I think they look absolutely fantastic! I’m very happy with the result. They look so cool when they’re planted in the fields.

Why not just called them Ghost Peppers, instead of giving it that "off-brand" name?

Ed: People have wondered that very thing. We definitely would have preferred to use "Ghost pepper" in the game since there is a lore surrounding that name. However, it turns out to be trademarked and we preferred avoiding any legal issues with the game. Plus, now we can build our own lore about the Phantoms!

What was your favorite part about working with TMG in getting Scoville published?

Ed: It was that moment every morning when I woke up and realized that I would become a published board game designer. I’d log in to TMG’s filesharing software and see that people were working on a game I designed. Overall I’d say that TMG was very easy to work with. Both Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee are incredibly cool people to work with.

Besides the pepper shaped peppers (over cubes) – what was your favorite Kickstarter stretch goal? The Phantom peppers, the indented board, the farmer meeples or more cards (recipe/market) added to the game?

Ed: The farmer meeples are so cool, but my favorite would be the indented board. The whole idea of planting peppers really comes through due to the fact that you are basically planting peppers into the field. And having played with the final production, I love the board even more. It’s nice and chunky. The peppers all line up nicely. And it simply looks amazing.

Picture of Scoville in play by Ed Marriott

Now that all the recipe names has been finalized – what is your favorite name that made it into the game?

Ed: It’s so hard to pick since there are so many good ones. The Kickstarter backers came up with so many awesome names! If/When I design an expansion I’m hoping to use some recipe names from the backers that didn’t make it into the game. But I suppose if I had to pick a favorite it would be “Four Sore and Seven Tears Ago.” I love the puns that people came up with and this one plays nicely off American history. Plus, it makes me picture some poor dude who ate something so hot that he’s sweating and making a mess of himself.

For those that may not know, you are a beer connoisseur and even do a little homebrewing. I know that when you celebrated the end/funding of the Scoville Kickstarter – you did it with some chili pepper beer …er…thoughts on the beer?

Ed: I will never have a chili beer again.

Hahahaha. That good huh?

What was the best piece of feedback you received from a play tester when you were still in the prototype stage of Scoville?

Ed: My friend David provided feedback for the auction phase that ended up solving an early problem with the design. It was such a simple fix and it worked perfectly. In fact, it ended up making the game immeasurably better. Thanks David!

What was your favorite part of designing Scoville?

Ed: It was when my friend Jeremy and I playtested it the very first time, January 11th, 2013. During the game I remember thinking to myself how interesting the decisions were and how tense some choices became. After the playtest Jeremy mentioned that he’d put Scoville in his Top 10 games list. That’s a huge compliment coming from him since he’s played a ton of games and really knows his stuff.

What was the most challenging part of designing it?

Ed: Figuring out how the harvesting mechanic worked was the most challenging. In the game it seems so simple, but when I was designing it I was mentally working through so many different forms of how to cross-breed the peppers. I finally had to just tell myself to go with the simple option and try it. Turns out the simple option worked and I’ve never looked back. Designer tip: Try the simple stuff first. Add complexity only when needed.

For those that are getting Scoville on their tables for the first time - what is the number one mistake you see new players make when playing Scoville?

Ed: It’s actually sort of difficult to make mistakes in Scoville. But I suppose the most common thing is when people don’t recognize the best cross-breeds in the fields. That’s often not a huge deal. Especially if they are having fun.

If TMG came to you today and mentioned they wanted you to make 1 more ability token, as say a promo, what new token would you add to Scoville?

Ed: This one is easy. It would be a “Trade 3:1” token that would allow you at any one time in the game to trade three of any pepper in for any one other pepper of equal or lesser value. This would help people get out of a bind and I could imagine it becoming the most commonly used token.

When you step back and look at the finished product, what is the thing that makes you most proud that you designed Scoville?

Ed: Its uniqueness. As far as I know there’s nothing out that that uses a mechanic like the harvesting/cross-breeding mechanic. That mechanic is what sets the game apart and it is what makes me happiest to have designed the game.

Finish this sentence in 12 words or less. Scoville is ________.

Ed: ... a beautiful balance of unique gameplay, interesting decisions, stunning art.

We started this interview talking 2014 earlier, so let’s talk 2015 as we end it. What are your design goals for 2015?

Ed: My main design goal for 2015 is to design a game that I love as much as Scoville. If you’ve followed my blog, Boards & Barley, then you’ve probably read that I’ve tried several different game designs without much success. So for 2015, I’d just like to design a game that hits the right spots for me like Scoville did. Those spots are simple to teach, easy to play, rewarding moments throughout, and a fun theme. I’ve got a few games in the pipeline that I’m hoping to fall in love with.

Do you have any games you are looking forward to that are being published in 2015?

Ed: There is usually a Stefan Feld or Uwe Rosenberg game that I look forward to. Also, Steampunk Rally by new publisher Roxley Games looks like good fun. I really wish I had had the budget to back the game since there were some awesome Kickstarter exclusives.

For those looking for design advice – when do know it's time to shelve game/mechanic prototype you're working on and when you should keep working on it?

Ed: That depends if you are doing it full time as your job or if you are a hobby designer. Assuming the latter, shelve a game when it’s no longer fun to work on. This is a hobby all about having fun. So if a design becomes stale and is no longer enjoyable to work on, why bother to continue with it?

As we wrap this interview up, is there anything else that you would like to add?

Ed: I’d like to thank you, Ryan, for the interview. Your questions are always excellent. I’d also like to add that I’m always open to suggestions for articles to write for Boards & Barley. If there are any ideas related to brewing beer or designing board games that any of you would like to read about, just let me know.

Thanks, Ed!

What's that you say? Inquiring meeples want to know more?
You may want to check out these links:

Scoville's designer Ed Marriott's personal website

Geeklist - Facts about peppers

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