Spicy (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Győri Zoltán Gábor
  • Publisher: HeidelBÄR Games
  • Players: 2 – 6
  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Time: 15-20 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 10

Spicy is a bluffing card game for 2-6 players that feels a little bit like Liar’s Dice with cards.  Released earlier this year, the theme in Spicy is that three big cats, tired of fighting to be top cat, invented a hot spice eating contest.  

Spicy plays quickly, in 15-20 minutes.  It comes with 6 “Spice It Up” cards that offer different ways to play the game, ensuring replayability.  All of the cards have a beautiful foil back, and for a game that consists entirely of cards, I was impressed by the production value.  

My family and I have been enjoying this, playing it about a dozen times in recent weeks.  Spicy is light and innovative enough that I could see it being a SdJ contender this year.

The Components

The main components are a deck of 100 “Spicy” cards (three each of cards 1-10, in three suits, plus 10 wild cards).  There is also a “World’s End” card, used to signal the end of the game, which has a ruler-like feature on one side that shows you how far to put it in the deck depending on the number of players.  There are three “Trophy” cards, worth 10 points each, that awarded to the player getting rid of all of their cards.  And there are 6 “Spice It Up” cards that offer different gameplay variants.  

How to Play

Each player starts with 6 “Spicy” cards, and the “World’s End” card is placed into the appropriate part of the deck based on the number of players.

On a player’s turn, they can either play a card or draw a card.  To play a card, they have to either start a stack or player a higher card of the same suit.  Stacks can only be started with cards numbered 1-3.  Once a stack hits the 10, a 1-3 of the same suit must be played on it.  When playing a card, players announce the card they’re supposedly playing.  

The catch is that players can bluff and actually play any card they want, since all cards are played face down.  And after each card is played, players can challenge it on either number or color.  There are 5 wild cards for suit, and 5 for number, and for purposes of a challenge, those are always correct for their shown feature, but incorrect for the other feature.

The winner of the challenge gets the accumulating stack of Spicy cards.  The loser draws to cards and starts a new stack.  

When a player runs out of cards, they can take one of the three trophy cards, which are worth 10 points, and then they draw back up to 6 cards.

The game ends when a player has two Trophy cards, in which case they win.  If all three Trophy cards are drawn, or if the World’s End card is reached, but no player has two Trophy cards, there is a scoring to determine the winner.  Each Trophy card is worth 10 points, each captured Spicy card is worth 1 point, and cards left in a player’s hand are minus a point.

The Spicy It Up Variant

There are 6 “Spice It Up” cards that can change the rules of the game as follows:

  • We Love Chili: When following a 10, you can play a 1, 2, or 3 card to switch the suit to red.  (Normally you have to follow with the same suit.)
  • Start It Up!:  You can follow an 8, 9, or 10 with a 1, 2, or 3.  (Normally you can only follow a 10 with a 1, 2, or 3.)
  • Change Your Luck:  When declaring a 5, put up to two extra cards from your hand on the stack first, then draw an equal number of cards from the draw deck.  
  • Turn It Up:  You can declare a 6 as a 9 or a 9 as a 6.
  • Copy Cat:  You can declare the same card as the immediately preceding one.  (If doing a challenge after a copycat, both traits have to be correct, or the challenge is successful.)

My thoughts on the game…

Spicy is a tense, engaging card game with excellent production value and some fun variants.  This feels like Liar’s Dice with cards, only this doesn’t have player elimination, and it plays a bit faster.  If you like bluffing in games, you’ll probably enjoy Spicy.

The game tends to start with very few challenges — everybody has a hand full of cards, so the odds aren’t necessarily in your favor as the challenger — but accusations start to fly when players’ hands start to deplete.  Rarely does a final card from a player’s hand get played without a challenge.

Challenging isn’t that costly:  you do draw two cards, but you immediately play one of them.  Players that don’t challenge often tend not to win, since they aren’t gathering many cards from the Spicy stacks.  And players to the right of a challenger are often at a disadvantage, since they end up being skipped quit a bit, but they can fix that by themselves becoming a challenger.  

The cards are high quality, and the artwork and foil backing really make the game pop.  The reaction of each person I’ve played this with has been surprise at how pretty the cards are.  

The game takes just 2-3 minutes to teach, and it plays quickly, with my family finishing games in 10-15 minutes.  Higher player counts are better — I’d say the sweet spot is 4-5 players here — but this works at any point on the advertised 2-6 range.  

The “Spice It Up” variant is a nice touch.  Each rules change is pretty minor, so you’re not burdening inexperienced players, but in the end, the flip side of that is that there isn’t that much more replayability here.  

This won’t be for everybody.  If you dislike bluffing games — and many do — there’s nothing here that will change that.  But if you enjoy the nervous laughter and sly looks around a table that games like this afford, this is a decent entry into the genre.  

Overall, I’m glad I picked this game up.  This is a cool implementation of the bluffing mechanic, and when you through in the excellent production value, I could see this being a SdJ contender this year.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! 
  • I like it. Chris Wray
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…
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