In Scoville, players will be competing to plant and harvest different varieties of peppers and combine them into various chili recipes or sell them at the town of Scoville’s local farmer’s market. The game is played in two phases – the morning and the afternoon. Let’s take a look at how players attempt to become the most successful pepper farmer in Scoville!
The Board and Components
The board exists as 4 separate quadrants which are linked together. There are a few different areas to notice. On the left side of the board is the farmer’s market, where players will be able to buy market cards by paying certain combinations of peppers.
On the top of the board is the auction house. There will always be one auction card per player in this area, and these cards will be drafted towards the beginning of each game round. Each player will always end up with a single card.
On the right side of the board is the chili cookoff. There will be between 8 and 24 recipe cards here, depending on the number of players in the game (4 per player). These serve as end of game VPs and are collected throughout the game.
At the bottom of the board is the turn order track and city hall. City hall is where players will collect plaques as they plant specific types of peppers in the field. There are 5 different types of plaque, and for each type there are either 2 or 3 individual plaques to be gained. The plaques generally decrease in value, placing emphasis on getting to them first.
And finally, in the center of the board is the pepper field. The game starts with only 2 peppers in the field, but it will quickly fill up with peppers of all colors. The board is actually full of holes where peppers are placed. This keeps them snug in the board and usually free of movement as the game is played. The board seems thick and sturdy enough to handle the peppers being inserted and removed game over game.
As mentioned there are many cards that are used in Scoville. In the image below, you’ll see separate decks of morning and afternoon market cards, separate decks of morning and afternoon auction cards, and a deck of chili recipe cards.
Each player is also given a farmer, 3 bonus tiles which can be used at any point in the game, and an extremely necessary pepper breeding chart. Oh, the breeding chart…you will become good friends with it as the game progresses.
The mechanics of Scoville are actually pretty straightforward. During setup the players are granted one red, blue, and yellow pepper, 10 coins, and the aforementioned bonus tiles to place behind their player screen. Starting turn order is randomized.
Each round is played in 5 phases.
1. Auction (skipped during first round)
In this phase, players bid for turn order and draft auction cards. Each player puts an amount of coins in their hand and once simultaneously revealed, the players select their turn order from highest to lowest bid. This is important; sometimes it’s best to be first and sometimes it’s best to be last in turn order. Once turn order is settled (ties broken in favor of the player previously earlier in turn order), the players will draft auction cards, starting with the first player. Each player immediately receives the peppers on the card they drafted. Auction cards for the following round are dealt face-up at this time.
In turn order, each player must plant one pepper vertically or horizontally adjacent to an existing pepper in the field. They will want to take careful note of which peppers they’re placing next to each other. The breeding chart will allow the player to see what harvest options will be available following their planting. If the player planted a pepper color for which an award plaque still exists, they may take the highest valued plaque remaining of that type from the city hall. In the below example, the planting of a purple pepper in this location would allow players to harvest a brown (red x purple) or black pepper (purple x purple) during a future harvest phase
This is where turn order becomes really interesting. After each player, in turn order, plants their pepper, the last player in turn order gets to move their farmer. In the first round, each player’s farmer will start in the center of the board. Each farmer can move up to 3 steps, but must move at least 1. For each step the farmer takes that leads them between two pepper plots, a pepper is harvested. This means that a farmer can harvest up to 3 peppers in each round. The cross-breeding chart is referenced to determine what color pepper is harvested in each case. In the example below, the red farmer has landed between red and yellow peppers. He or she checks their breeding chart and collects one orange pepper from the supply. Farmers may not move through or land on the same space as another farmer. Because this phase happens in reverse turn order, the players earlier in turn order will often end up blocked from prime locations.
This is when players, in turn order, decide what to do with their harvested peppers. Their options are:
a. Take them to the farmers market and trade them in for some combination of victory points, coins, and other types of pepper.
b. Use them to complete a chili recipe for victory points.
c. Sell up to 5 peppers of one color for coins. For every 2 peppers planted of the matching color, each sold pepper is worth 1 coin. In the below example if a player sells 2 blue peppers, they will gain a total 4 coins, due to 4 blue peppers being planted.
5. Time Check
Once the number of market cards becomes less than the number of players, the game moves to the afternoon phase. The afternoon is similar to the morning, except the auction cards provide advanced pepper colors, and the market cards require advanced pepper colors. If the number of morning market cards still equals or exceeds the number of players, a new morning round is begun.
The game end is triggered when fewer recipe cards or afternoon market cards remain than the number of players. In this case, one more round is played. If both card types have fewer remaining cards than the number of players, then the game ends after the current round.
Victory points are tallied from collected recipe cards, market cards, unused bonus tiles, plaques, and leftover coins (3 = 1pt) and the player with the most points is victorious!
1. This is a pretty weighty euro game for its ~90 minute play time.
2. There is usually a viable plan B if someone steals your plan A.
3. The turn order mechanism is both fun and vital to success.
4. There are cards named ‘The Spice Must Flow’ and ‘Appalachian Jeb’s Rustic Heat’.
1. It can feel tedious and repetitive, as each round plays similarly.
2. Frequent checks of the breeding chart can slow things down.
3. There can be a lot of downtime with 5 or 6 players.
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this game up at Gen Con 2016. I knew it was a fairly well-reviewed euro game, and that was enough for me to make the impulse purchase. After a few plays, I find myself mostly enjoying this game.
One of the most interesting decisions deals with turn order and initiative. You have to pay for the privilege to go first, which allows control over the drafting of auction cards and completing of market and recipe cards. But, sometimes it will be crucial to plant last and move first, taking advantage of your freshly planted crop before someone else gets the opportunity. Of course sometimes you will bid what you deem to be a high amount for turn order and still end up stuck in a position you don’t want. Life is hard.
It’s also interesting to decide whether it’s worth completing a market card and low-value recipe card, or saving up the peppers for a 25 point recipe card next turn. Or, did you want to plant the valuable peppers instead, building a sort of engine (as long as you’re the one able to capitalize in the field).
A criticism I have has to do with the nature of the cross-breeding. It’s difficult to look at the board state and immediately see all the possibilities of movement and harvesting. A lot of time is lost due to the constant staring back and forth between the board and the breeding chart determining the best possible path through the field. I think it’s easier to play the game backwards: “What recipe card do I want to complete? What peppers do I need? What combinations breed to make that pepper? Where do those combinations exist in the field? Can I get there?” The planting and harvesting phases take longer than they should due to the layered nature of the board. Scoville seems to confuse complexity with strategy a bit, and it can end up feeling a bit like math homework. This is a hurdle that is probably overcome after a few games, but some may not get to that point.
In summary, this is a fun game with a refreshing theme, even if it can stagnate at times. If your game group tends to play quickly, this could be great option for you. On the other hand, if you and your friends are guilty of analysis paralysis, you may want to look elsewhere for your next game.
How easy is the game to learn?
The rulebook is very easy to follow and teaching new players is easy. They’ll understand how the game plays in no time. Playing the game well is a bit more difficult at first.
Will it be easy to find players?
One look at the game and players will be jumping at the opportunity to play. The artwork is great and the theme is refreshing. However, some players may be frustrated by the breeding/harvesting and decide the game isn’t their speed. The game is more brain-burning that it appears – keep that in mind when marketing it to new players.
Is the reward worth the time spent?
The game is pretty rewarding. There is a decent amount of strategic depth, even with the undesirable complexity of the pepper cross-breeding which adds unnecessary time to the game.
How much fun is defeat?*
Because points are hidden after they are collected, you may not know you’re behind until the game is actually over. In that sense, defeat is just as fun as victory. It’s not fun, however, to be on the opposite end of the board from where the most valuable peppers are being planted, because that will almost surely lead to defeat and sour the last few rounds for you.
*I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!
If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE
- Last edited Sun Aug 21, 2016 5:18 am (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Fri Aug 12, 2016 11:46 pm
Very good review I really enjoyed the read. Thank you.
I had the pleasure of playing this game with this reviewer at GenCon and he had me, my wife, and a 13 year old boy up and running in no time. In the end the young man won the game in a nail-biter. He was quiet and concentrated the whole game, expressing no concern with the cross-breeding after the first turn because the mat the game provides is so easy to use. I think Team D20 is right in his assessment that most people are going to take to the cross-breeding quickly but seeing all the options could definitely take awhile for someone prone to AP. Toss in figuring out where to plant, where to move, and where the other players may move and there is potential for a long wait between turns.
Great review by the way Curtis! Keep up the good work.
- Last edited Tue Aug 16, 2016 5:57 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Tue Aug 16, 2016 5:51 pm