Developer Diary: Spicy, or Three Years Full of Half-Lies | BoardGameGeek News

Our little bluffing game Spicy from HeidelBÄR Games, which was recommended by the Spiel des Jahres jury in 2020, stands out not only because of its simple rules, but also because of the long-lasting process it took to get the rules down to that size.

First Contact: Multiplied Tension

In 2017 at the annual SPIEL convention in Essen, my colleague Sabine and I had an appointment with our old partner and friend Zoltán Aczél from the Hungarian publisher Gém Klub. Zoltán showed us an already finished prototype with the title “Rossz Cicus!” (Bad Kitty!) by his friend Zoltán Győri.

After Zoltán explained the game, I thought: “This I already know! A schoolyard classic known by various names: Bullshit, Cheat, I Doubt It, Lies, Cheating, etc.” On a turn, you should play a card of the proper type that’s higher than the previous player’s card, but you can play what you want and say what you want at the risk of being called out by others. Get caught, and you take the played cards, losing points.

Nevertheless, we started playing. At the first challenge when I accused another player for lying, I felt a strange, new, stronger emotion than with the cheating classics — I had to announce what was wrong: color or number? The tension didn’t disappear with the calling of a lie. Indeed the moment of doubt became stronger on both sides. On one side: What do I doubt? On the other side: What if I fall for a half-truth?

Apart from that element, the game was very simple: five suits with numbers from 1 to 14, with each card appearing once and with the main objectives being to get rid of all cards and receive as few penalty cards as possible. I wanted to take it with me and work on it.

First Frustration and Research

After tests in various pubs and with my children, I was quite frustrated. With five suits, the last card usually turned out to be the wrong spice. With anxious players, the card pile in the middle grew fast, which made them even more anxious. Those who took a big minus pile were frustrated and hopelessly behind. The middle ranks felt meaningless — yet there was still this moment of doubt after you had announced that something was wrong: suit or number?

For research, our publishing team played their way through the bluffing sector landscape; this is only a small selection of titles that a new bluff game must be able to stand next to

I wondered whether the question “Correct suit or number?” had been asked in other bluff games. It’s so simple, so seemingly compelling. I went through the bluffing category on BGG, browsed Hugo Kastner’s Kartenspiel-Enzyklopädie [url][/url] (this being a German card game encyclopedia), and skimmed various books in our archives. Nothing was exactly like that. The closest game that came to the idea was MammuZ from Hobby World, a game in which you claim to play several cards of the same type with the challenger revealing only a part of them, but I was not sure.

In 2018, I took the prototype to the Hippodice competition and played it with eight other editors in the evening. No one was familiar with this concept of the half-lie, but I sensed that they liked it, which

We tested additional chips that could be used to change the number or the suit of a card. It was way too brain-locked. Then came the wild cards: We didn’t want to have wild cards that were always right as in Uno or MauMau. You should always keep a certain amount of risk. We tried the game with two suits without numbers and fou

The first real progress was the reduction to three suits and numbers from 1 to 10. Thus the suit of the last card was wrong in only two of three cases — and probably less if you had started the round yourself. With three suits and numbers from 1 to 10, we could triple the quantity of each card, which made memorizing superfluous.

A second advance was the introduction of trophies for the successful playing of your final card in hand. These trophies prolonged the game, and the game end did not seem so random anymore.

Here are trophies with ascending values or the ability to kill penalty cards of a certain color, along with 2VP markers for correct challenging to encourage it

Credit: Developer Diary: Spicy, or Three Years Full of Half-Lies | BoardGameGeek News