Designed by Zoltan Gyori Illustrated by Jimin Kim SPICY is a 2-5 player bluffing game that takes about 15 minutes to play.
Published by Heidelbar Games, SPICY has a retail price of €14.95 You should be able to find it at Your Local Game Store
SPICY is a card game with a weird back story. Three big cats, perhaps a Tiger, a Leopard and a Cheetah or maybe a Lion (this has, after all, a Chinese theme) were always fighting with none of them ever coming out on top long enough to be hailed as the leader. To relieve their boredom, and to preserve the remainder of their 9 Lives, the trio of the Panthera genus put their heads together and derived an eating contest' the winner being the one who could eat the hottest, spiciest meal. Of course they never kept to the rules and soon began to bluff each other into trying the strongest, tear-bringing, throat burning spices possible in the hope that eventually two of them would resign from the game due to the painful experience of swallowing the most intense Chili, Pepper and Wasabi dishes.
There are 110 cards, their type noted by the colour of their flip-side. The main deck, the Spicy cards, contains 100 cards denoted by their Black backs and the colours and numbers on their business side. The remaining 10 cards are 6 Spice it up! cards which are used in a variant or advanced version of play. One or two Spice it up! cards may be added to the main deck to make the game a little more tasty. Three cards are White backed and all have a +10 front side; these are the Trophies and the 10th card has a Turquoise back, this is slipped into the deck at an appropriate height to player ratio and signals the end of the game when it appears on top of the draw deck.
Another thing I would like to say about the cards is that they are good quality and excellent for shuffling, coming straight out of the compressed production wrap to a clean shuffle without any need to separate, riffle or arch them them. The artwork is dramatic in the style of what most people would regard to be Chinese, showing mainly the three large cats (or their tails), sometimes with one or more of the Spices and sometimes without, sometimes the Spices alone are shown. Amongst the cards are a few 'Wild/Joker' cards which show either ALL numbers or ALL spices.
To determine how many cards are used in play the Turquoise card is slipped into the deck at the appropriate height, determined by the number of players. To determine this height the complete deck is shuffled ands then the Turquoise card is stood next to it. On the lower right-hand side of this card, picture side, there is a number (of players) height chart. With 2 players less cards are in play, with 3-4 players a few more are included, and in a 5-6 player game there are but a few cards remaining below the World's End card.
The SPICE IT UP cards are not required when learning the game and indeed are only added in after you are au-fait with the basic game, as a means of Spicing it up! Adding one or two of these cards advances the rules by introducing different variants for bluffing and challenging.
The game is a simple bluffing game, very similar to 'Liar's Dice' though obviously with cards, in fact only one card per turn being the subject of the Bluff.
On your turn you play a card from your hand face down to the discards (aka the Spicy Stack). As you play it you say aloud the Number and which Spice are on the card, although you DO NOT have to tell the truth. For example, you might declare "3 Wasabi" when in fact you are playing a "2 Chili". The reason you would probably do this is because the card played previously was a lower valued Wasabi (and you hold no, or only as a lower value Wasabi in your hand). Thus you are bluffing in the hope that you are not challenged on it. The better you bluff the closer you are to winning. Playing with 2 players, especially those who know each other very well, is often a test of who can keep a straight face; needless to say Fran beats me every time (she knows me too well and I can't lie to her). We believe that 4 players is optimum, at least I have a chance then - but seriously with 5 or 6 players it gets a little too chaotic, very amusing and quite insanely funny.
The card you declare (the card you play) has to be called higher (not equal to or lower) than the previous card. If you do not wish to play a card you can declare 'Pass' and take a card from the top of the deck. The next player can then challenge the top card of the Spicy Deck - the rules state, boldly, that the top card can 'always be challenged' which means in a 2-player game if one player passes the other player only has to remember what they played last and be able to play a card to challenge it and thus win the hand. The winner takes the cards from the stack as points, the loser takes 2 extra cards into their hand. To win the game you need to win a hand and gain a Trophy (+10) card, twice, or you can successfully play your last card and win if it is challenged - as it's the player's last card we have yet to play a game where the last card isn't challenged.
After a few games we found we were challenging virtually every card played just so we could get extra cards in our hands that would allow us to play legally the next time. When you get down to one card you must 'knock' (let all players know you have one card remaining) and of course it is going to be challenged as it is always obvious what the player (of the last card) will call. There is always a little luck in the guessing - eg the Challenger has to be specific in their challenge, calling out either WRONG [insert Spice] or WRONG [insert number]. For example the player (of the last card) makes their call to beat the 4 Chili previous call. They say aloud "6 Chili" keeping in contect with the rules for card playing, higher number in the same set (although their card is actually a 6 Pepper). The challenger says "Wrong Number" and the card is revealed. The player of the card wins despite playing the wrong spice because they were challenged on number not on spice.
It can get rather silly with everyone challenging the player who plays a card. As anyone can make a challenge there are often many shouts of 'Challenge' every time a card is played. This is a happy, daft, amusing way to spend a short time playing cards with equally daft-minded friends. SPICY isn't a classic and it isn't likely to be your first go-to game when you have the odd 15-30 minutes of frivolity available, but it may well be your second or third choice. In a session where players bring games to a meeting for a days or weekends gaming, or at a convention where there is a games library, it is likely you will find SPICY there amongst the piles of games.
Credit where credit is due:
The artwork by Jimin Kim immediately catches the eye, as does the game's title. SPICY: The Battle of the Spices.
The game development crew (all named at the back of the rules) and graphic design team (Annika & Marina) along with the editor, Sabine Machaczek, and Produce, Heiko Eller-Bilz, have done an excellent job on bringing the game rules to the box in a concertina'd 8-page fold-out sheet. The Rules flow easily and are good for new players to pick up, read and play. Chris Meyer gets credited with proof-reading.
Heidelbar have also given me a 'Thanks to' in the also-ran credits, because I rewrote the rules into viable English. I spent a lot of time re-arranging sentences into sensible literacy, and also proof-reading the grammar, removing or including commas mainly, as languages translated into English tend to be comma heavy.