- Designers: Wolfgang Kramer and Christian Stohr
- Publisher: AMIGO
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 30 minutes
In Sauscharf (loosely translated as Super Sharp), players collect cards to try to make the best chili sauces and win the competition at the Fuego Festival! Given that this was a card game, chosen and published by AMIGO, designed by two SdJ winning designers – this was one of the games I was most anticipating from SPIEL 2022.
The deck of cards are made up of 8 copies of ranks 1-13, and 6 wild cards. These cards are shuffled, and then they are dealt face up into the special 7-slot card holder. Each slot holds a different rank, though there is a maximum of 3 regular chili cards in any slot as well as a limit of 1 wild card in any slot.
Before going any further, choose the difficulty level of your game – this will determine the initial hand size of chili cards as well as which chili sauces will be available to be made in the latter portion of the game. Someone is determined to be the initial starting player and given the spoon card.
The game is broken up into two distinct phases. In the opening part of the game, you will be collecting chili cards to make up a personal ingredient deck. In the latter part, you will use your own ingredient deck to cook up chili sauces, though you can still collect new chili cards if you need.
In each round, players start by playing chili cards from their hand, in order, starting with the current starting player. You must play a combination of cards; that is any number of cards of the same number (or wild cards). It is possible to play wild cards without a number card as well. Once all players have played, you resolve the order. The player who played the most cards goes first, ties broken by rank – with the exception that wild cards played without number cards are the strongest combination for that number of cards played. If two identical sets are played, the one played earlier is higher.
The player who played the highest combination takes the wooden spoon and will now go first. Turn order for the rest of the round is determined by the rank of combination played. When it is your turn to choose, you may take all the cards in any one slot on the board; though you can also choose not to take any cards at all. If you take cards, place them face down in front of you in your personal ingredient deck. You must keep all the cards you take from a board slot. Then, decide if you want to keep the combination that you played. If so, place those cards face down in your ingredient deck as well. If you do not want the cards, place them in the discard pile.
All other players take their turn, again going in order based on the combination that they played. When all players have gone, refill the board by dealing cards face up until all 7 slots are filled. If you deal a rank which is already on the board, stack them together (up to a limit of 3). Wild cards always occupy a slot on their own. The player who has the spoon card now starts the next round by playing a combination. This process continues until no one has any cards left in their hand. If you run out of cards before other players in this phase, your turn is simply skipped until the next phase begins.
When the second phase begins, start by making the hot sauce display. Shuffle the hot sauce tiles and reveal 2 sauces more than the number of players. Each of these tiles has a point value in the upper right as well as a minimum combination requirement at the bottom. All players pick up their ingredient decks to use as their hand in this phase.
Each round is started as in the first phase – starting with the Spoon holder, play a combination from your hand to determine play order for the round. You can choose to pass and not play a combination. If you do this, you can pick up your facedown ingredient deck from the table and add it to your current hand.
When it is your turn, you now have two options. You can collect chilis from the board as in the first part of the game. Otherwise, you can choose to cook a chili sauce. To make a chili sauce, you must discard at least the number of same ranked cards as written on the bottom of a chili sauce tile. You take the chili sauce tile and put it in front of you.
As in the first phase, always refill the board slots when everyone has taken a turn. Additionally, any player who has no cards left in hand is allowed to pick up their ingredient pile to make their new hand.
The game continues until one player has cooked the goal number of sauces (in a mild 4p game, it is 3 sauces, in a hot 4p game, 4 sauces). When a player reaches the target number, finish the current round, and then score your points. You score positive points as printed on your chili sauce tiles. Then there is a 1VP penalty for each chili card left in your hand/deck. The player with the most points wins, there is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
This is a neat set collection game played in two phases. At the start of the game, you’re trying to get matching ingredients into your deck. Here, the higher cards seem to be more coveted, as they may be able to win you later tricks due to their higher value. However, if you are presented with the chance to pick up a pair or a three of a kind of a rank you already have, that may be too good of a deal to pass up. You will have to try to analyze what you think your opponents are going for, and you might be able to get the cards you really want without having to spend a valuable/high combination of cards from your own hand. In this first phase, it may also be beneficial to discard ranks which you do not have multiples of – though they may still come in handy in the next round to spend and discard them when collecting more chilies.
In the second round, you now have the option of making a chili sauce on your turn as well – there is an interesting interplay in trying to figure out what you need to bid in order to get the desired turn order slot. If you think there is going to be competition for a particular hot sauce tile, maybe you need to make sure you go early. If not, you can burn a singleton and still get the same reward at a lower cost. You want to try to be efficient in your bids in the second round as you will essentially lose a turn picking up your discards to add to your hand.
The scoring rewards both large sets as well as efficiency. The chili sauces made up of more cards tend to have a higher VP value. However, you are penalized for any cards left in your deck at the end of the game; so you might do better with a thin deck, making four smaller chili sauce bottles but having nothing left in your hand at the end of the game. In any event, trying to figure out your discards to leave you with as few cards in hand as possible at the end of the game is a challenging aspect to Sauscharf.
I have really liked the game so far because it is admittedly fairly light in complexity, yet there are plenty of decisions to be made as far as when/what cards to collect and when/what to discard. The bidding also presents interesting decisions as it is done in turn order – which means you get the advantage/disadvantage of the timing of your bid to take into account as well.
Highly recommended for a spicy filler to your game night!
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Jonathan: I have only played it once, but look forward to playing it more and understanding the flow. It is great that the two part structure ties the two together so tightly, rather than having them feel like independent mini-games.
Joe Huber (12 plays): This is one of my favorite 2022 releases. The one recommendation I would make is that the “mild” game setting be skipped – the “hot” setting isn’t any more difficult to learn or teach, and makes for a much more interesting game as there’s real incentive for players to spend a little more time collecting cards before switching over to making sauces. “Scorching” makes for a very enjoyable game as well, just a little longer and with a little more hand optimization.
Ben B (4 plays): It’s an alright game. Very short, very compact so good filler. I struggled with the rules and Huber helped me out. I had a real time understanding that if there’s a phase 1 and phase 2, that phase included phase 1 in it (you don’t go back to it). The art is cute and the few decisions are important but I wouldn’t expect this game to go over 20 minutes in any run.
Dan B. (3 plays): A good solid game, vaguely reminiscent of Kramer and Kiesling’s Abluxxen/Linko but with a bit more going on.
Jim B. (3 plays): I have been surprised in by just how quick this game can be and as a snappy filler game it’s hard for me to imagine asking for more. There are interesting and meaningful decisions to be made from the first turn to the last but little room for endless AP due to the limited decision space. I have played across all player counts and had fun in each but it definitely shines brightest with a full group. This is one I plan on adding to my collection.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y, Rand, Jeff A., Jim B.
- I like it Jonathan, Joe H., Dan B.
- Neutral. Ben B.
- Not for me…