When you think of spicy food, what’s the first thing you think of? That’s right, three mythical tigers having a chili eating contest to find out once and for all who's top cat. Well, maybe not. But in the card game Spicy, designed by Zoltán Györi, that’s exactly what’s going on. It’s a lively game of big cat bluffing and it’s off the Scoville scale for fun.
Spicy is super simple to pick up and play. During setup players draw six beautifully illustrated cards from the deck before sliding the world’s end card into the remaining draw pile at a depth dependent on the number of players. Cards are arranged into three suits representing the three spices of the game: chili, wasabi, and pepper. Cards are numbered 1 to 10 and there are also wild cards for both spices and numbers.
Play begins with the first player placing a card face down on the table and declaring it to be 1,2 or 3 in any of the suits. Players then pass and draw a card or continue laying down cards on the pile that both match the suit and are higher in value of the previous card played until they reach 10. At this point the next player must begin again at 1,2, or 3 in the same suit.
Obviously, at some point, someone is going to have to tell a big fat fib about the card they played. Either they won’t have a card in the correct suit or one with a legally playable number or both. So, they can play any card from their hand and lie about what it is.
However, just because you told a lie doesn’t mean you get away with it. Any time, any player may place their paw on the top of the pile and challenge the last card played. A little twist in Spicy though, is you must provide a specific target for your incredulity. You’re almost certain they are telling a porky, but was it the spice or the number they were kidding about?
This ability to half bluff provides a bit more strategy to playing your hand out not usually present in these bluffing games. The wild cards add to this, protecting you from challenges against spice or number, but not both. It also makes for some hilarious moments when the challenger could have got you on the spice but accused you on the number instead.
When a challenge is resolved, whoever lost (challenger or challenged) must draw two cards and begin a new pile in the spice suit of their choice. The winner takes the pile of cards from the centre which will count as points at the end. Points can also be scored by playing your entire hand out and taking one of three ten-point trophy cards from the centre. If one player takes two trophies, they automatically win the game.
If someone doesn’t win by taking two trophies, the game continues until the teal ‘world’s end’ cars appear in the draw pile. At which point the game immediately ends. Players count the cards in their pile, subtract the number of cards in their hand and add any trophies they might have gained. The player with the most points is the winner.
Cards on the table (if you’ll pardon the pun), I adore Spicy. Every time I play it with a group of friends we collapse in fits of laughter. The number of times I’ve been caught out in an untruth because I’ve forgotten how I was going to lie halfway through saying the lie. Or said what was on my card instead of what I was going to pretend was on my card. Spicy requires you to fib fast and can often leave you open jawed umming, erring, and garbling nonsense.
Then you could do that on purpose to coax another player into challenging you on a perfectly legal card. The game is slick, duplicitous and you get to trick your friends again and again and again. It’s so fun and if the base game is a little light for you there are optional rules included to… well, spice things up.
Enjoyment of the game is helped massively by the gorgeous artwork and production of the cards. The cards are gold foil backed, but it’s the illustrations by Jimin Kim on the front that bring the real wow factor. I bought the game originally based on seeing someone tweet pictures of the cards and I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the prettiest games I own, and I own a lot of pretty games!
Spicy is quick, easy to learn, and portable making it a good hors d’oeuvres or palate cleanser for a full blown game night or just a casual café or pub game in its own right. I keep it in my little messenger bag wherever I go cause I’m always up for playing it. This means it’s either really good or I’ve got a problem with compulsive lying. I’ll let you decide.