Bluff and Bribe with Bottles in Soda Smugglers | Casual Game Revolution

Bluff and Bribe with Bottles in Soda Smugglers

Soda Smugglers

Smuggling your soda through the border checkpoint can be tricky, but a well-judged bribe might just see you slip one by the border guard.

Published by Bitewing Games and designed by Reiner Knizia, Soda Smugglers is a light bluffing game for 3-8 players, with a 20-minute playtime.


At the start of the game, each player begins with ten points worth of bottle cap tokens. Each round, a different player will be the border guard. The border guard takes a certain number of bribe, inspection, and arrest action tokens depending on the number of players. At the start of each round, the border guard shuffles the suitcase cards and deals five to each of the other players who will be the travelers.

Each traveler looks at his hand and chooses two cards to play face-down as his luggage. He then chooses one card to play face-up as his bribe.

The border guard now uses his action tokens. He doesn’t have to use them all, but he must use them in a certain order. First, he decides whether to accept any bribes, playing a bribe token next to the bribe card he is accepting. That traveler then pays the guard bottle cap tokens equal to the number of bottles shown on the bribe card. The player then reveals his luggage and earns bottle cap tokens equal to the number of bottles that appear on his two luggage cards.

Next, the border guard chooses whether to use his inspect tokens. He plays one next to a face-down luggage card he wishes to inspect. That card is then flipped face-up. If, due to player count, he has more than one inspect token, he must play them on separate players.

Finally, the border guard chooses whether to arrest a player by playing an arrest token on that player. The player then reveals his two luggage cards. If the luggage cards show two or more bottles, then the border guard gets that number of bottle caps from the supply and the traveler gets nothing. If the traveler had one or fewer bottles, the border guard must pay him two of his own bottle caps. If the traveler had one bottle in his luggage when he is wrongfully arrested, he also gains one bottle cap from the supply.

After the border guard has finished using his tokens, all the remaining travelers reveal their luggage cards and gain bottle cap tokens equal to the number of bottles in their luggage. When determining the number of bottles each player has in their luggage, any bottles depicted on bribe card are not included.

The player with the most bottle caps at the end of a certain number of rounds wins the game.

Soda Smugglers Components


Soda Smugglers is a very straight-forward, accessible bluffing game. The rules are simple, gameplay is fast, and it’s all about reading other players, trying to make the border guard second guess himself, and trying to out-bluff your opponents.

The use of the tokens is a nice way to add a little extra suspense to the gameplay. Limiting the number of bribes, inspections, and arrests the border guard can make, increases the challenge of the decision-making process and also gives the other players more room to maneuver. Offering a big bribe upfront, knowing the guard can only accept one, can be a powerful move. Similarly, if the guard has inspected a suitcase and found it empty, it can increase the suspense of whether he doubles down on that same player and arrests them, or chooses to arrest someone else completely. All of this leads to a great level of mini-escalation each round as the actions get resolved.

While the game says it can be played with 3-8 players, the sweet spot is definitely going to be in that middle range. Three players are just not going to be as much fun, with fewer players for the guard to spread his actions around on.

Remembering that the luggage and the bribe are two completely separate things when calculating how many bottles a player is carrying, can also take a couple of rounds to get down, but other than that the rules are easy to learn.

Soda Smugglers is a fun, light bluffing game that distills everything down to a fast and enjoyable 20 minutes.

Pros: The action tokens for the border guard, speed of rounds and games

Cons: Probably shouldn’t be played with three players

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.