The Great Chili Cookoff
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Players are chefs looking to win the Great Chili Cookoff by assembling their secret chili recipes. Players do this by playing cards in rounds and selecting ingredients from among the cards just played -- so someone is bound to collect a wrong ingredient! A hand takes 5 minutes to play and play can be kept for a number of rounds or until a certain score is reached.
- wooden peppers
Average Rating: 3 in 1 review
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
It is rare that my wife requests that I purchase a game, as she is already appalled by the magnitude of my gaming collection. However, she was smitten by The Great Chili Cookoff and desired a copy. It was just the type of light card game she tends to enjoy, and the cooking theme was the “icing on the cake”.
Designed by Dan Baden, The Great Chili Cookoff challenges players to acquire the necessary ingredients to successfully make one of their chili recipes. Each recipe requires a unique combination of seven ingredients, and range from the beefy “Meat Lovers” to the peanut butter laced “Nutty Buddy”.
Each player receives two recipes and seven ingredients, all of which are kept secret from their opponents. Ingredients range from the common tomatoes and beef, to the super rare chocolate. A handy player aid card lists the number of each ingredient type that is in the deck, as well as their value. However, not all ingredients will be in play in any round, so it is impossible to utilize card counting techniques with one-hundred percent accuracy.
In turn order, players each play one ingredient card to the table. Each card pictures the ingredient, as well as its point value and bidding strength. The player playing the ingredient with the greatest strength gets to choose the ingredient he desires from those played. Ties are broken in favor of the players playing last. When choosing an ingredient, the player marks it with his cute wooden chili pepper marker.
After all players have marked an ingredient card, these are taken by the players and kept separate from the cards remaining in their hands. These will be the ingredients a player uses to fulfill the requirements of his chili recipe. The next round is led by the player who played the highest-valued strength card during the previous round. This is a nice balancing mechanism, as playing later in a round gives the player more control over when he will be selecting ingredients.
This is card play and selection process is the “meat” of the game, so-to-speak. When desired rare ingredients surface, the player will seek to acquire that ingredient by playing a high strength card. Of course, if he has already played a card during that round, he may suffer the agony of watching that valuable card be scooped by an opponent before he can grab it. It seems wise to play low-strength cards early when the player still needs a variety of ingredients to fulfill one of his recipes, saving the higher valued cards for later when it is important to select early in the turn order. On the other hand, I’ve seen this strategy backfire many times!
Once all cards have been played and each player has selected seven ingredients, players reveal if they have successfully completed one of their recipes. If so, the player earns the amount listed on the recipe, which ranges 16 – 27 points, depending upon the scarcity of the ingredients required. If a player failed to collect all of the ingredients required to complete a recipe, he still earns points for each of the ingredients that he was able to use. Points are recorded, new recipes and ingredients dealt, and another round is conducted in the same fashion. After three rounds, the player with the most points is named “Master Chef” and wins the game.
While there is nothing terribly taxing or deep here, The Great Chili Cookoff is fun to play. I compare it to games such as Richard Borg’s Pig Pile or Reiner Knizia’s Too Many Cooks. There are some choices to make, although none of them are terribly taxing. My one big concern is that by the third round, it is quite possible that one or more players are out of contention. This situation can be mitigated, if not outright resolved, by doubling the scores in the final round.
The Great Chili Cookoff plays to completion in about 30 minutes or so, making it a good choice as an appetizer before, after or between main courses. It is also a good choice for family outings or social gatherings, with an added bonus being that it can accommodate up to seven players. I actually plan on obtaining several more copies, as they will make great prizes for our neighborhood chili cookoff! It appears that the game is diverse and tasty enough to satisfy many different palates!