Dale Yu: Review of Spicy

Spicy

  • Designer: Zoltan Gyori
  • Publisher: Heidelbaer Games
  • Players: 2-6
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Heidelbaer / Asmodee USA

spicy

This shiny boxed game came out in advance of SPIEL 2020, but due to the pandemic, the fair didn’t happen, and this was one of the games that only later made its way to me… However, I was interested in playing it as a number of other Opinionated Gamers had raved about it – i.e. Chris Wray back in May 2020. 

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 are awarded to the player getting rid of all of their cards.  And there are 6 “Spice It Up” cards that offer different gameplay variants.  

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.  Cards are played facedown onto the Spicy stack.  To play a card, if there is no stack, they start a stack (with a card numbered 1 to 3) or they must play a higher card of the same suit. As you play a card, you must announce aloud the number and suit of the card that you have supposedly played.  Well, you don’t have to tell the truth – so there is a good chance of bluffing.  If a stack hits the 10 rank, a 1-3 of the same suit must be played on it next.  

spicy fronts

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 topmost card can always be challenged – even if intervening players have chosen to draw cards.  

If someone wants to challenge, they slap their hand on top of the Spicy stack and state whether they challenge the number or the suit of the top card.  Like slapjack, there are no tiebreakers here because only one player will have their hand directly on the top card…  The top card is then flipped over, and the challenge is evaluated.  The winner of the challenge gets the accumulating stack of Spicy cards; taking them and placing them facedown in front of them in their scoring pile.  The loser draws two cards into their hand and then they start a new stack.  

When a player runs out of cards in their hand (and the final card is not challenged or you win the challenge on the final card), they can take one of the three trophy cards, which are worth 10 points, and then they draw back up to 6 cards.  When you play this final card in your hand, you must announce it out loud, or else you must take the card back and draw one card as a penalty.  Since this is your last card, we have chosen to yell out “Cero!” as this rule reminds us of another great shedding card game…

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 Spice 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

Many people have described the game as the card game analog to Liars Dice, and I would say that this is a pretty apt description.  Here, the game is all about being able to bluff well and managing your hand to have cards that are playable at the end of your hand.  It is inevitable that someone’s final card will be challenged by someone (because no one wants to let someone have a free 10 point Trophy card), so it takes a bit of planning to have a suitable card in your hand when that time arrives.  

Unlike Liars Dice, there is no math involved here nor interim probability computations – it’s pretty much all about the bluff.  And I think that people will tend towards one of these games depending on their preferences.  In Spicy, there aren’t any reveals or re-rolls – so, other than the challenged cards, you really have no idea what has been played over the course of the hand.  This means that each card play and potential challenge has the same odds because you have almost zero knowledge about what has been played or what is in someone’s hand – you can only go on what people have said they have played.  In one way, this is easier, you can just focus on the other players and their tells – but I can see how this can devolve into some random play for some groups.  

For me, this game is a bit too much on the free flowing bluffing than I prefer.  I like the mix of probability and bluffing in Liar’s Dice where at least I have a little bit of a framework to assess what other people are doing.  Here, it’s more on reading your opponents and the game situation – because that’s all you have.  For the record, I do not feel that I am good at bluffing, and I do not like games such as Hold Em Poker for the same reasons (though at least you have the face up cards to reason with there).  Again, YMMV, and if you are interested in bluffing games at all, this is a worthwhile game to try.

spicy backs

The production quality is good, and with the other Heidelbaer games, I’ll admit that I was worried about the foil finish to the card deck, and I’m glad to say that I haven’t seen any signs of wear yet to the cards.  I must also admit that I love the ruler mechanism on the End of the World card, and I kinda wish that other games used a similar method.  It’s so much easier to do this as opposed to counting out  X cards, making stacks and then organizing a deck to have the right composition.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Chris W
  • Neutral. Dale Y
  • Not for me… 

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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