Note: I begin my journey into board game reviews with this new format and style. I have tried to read through many, many board game reviews from across the web and those other great blogs I follow to get a basic format together. I will put together and summarize my scoring scale just like I do for video games.
Number of Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
For my first review, I’ve decided with a solid, easy title to get my format and thoughts in a presentable format.
Sushi Go! is a perfect candidate as a quick to play, easy to learn game that accommodates all ages and types of players. With a wholesome presentation and easy to learn ruleset, Sushi Go! is an easy return on investment for a family game for five.
Sushi Go! makes a mark with a small footprint. The game itself is under $10, and comes in a small, easily transportable, tin. Inside the tin are two stacks of cards and a rulebook.
The cards are used as one complete deck during the game, and the rulebook is a small booklet with a quick reference guide on the back. The whole presentation is part of the appeal — minimal need for setup or takedown, and easily taken over to any get together for quick games.
Every player is given a hand of cards. Each player (up to 5 players allowed) chooses one card and places it facedown. Then, each player simultaneously reveals their card and passes their hand to the player on their left. This process is repeated until all the cards are exhausted.
Each game consists of three rounds. A round consists of passing until all the dealt cards are evenly distributed between everyone. The various card types dictate an amount of points to tally at the end of each round, and then adding up all three rounds for a total score and winner.
Choosing the cards is dictated by how the player plans to score points. A basic nigiri card might only give 2 points, but if the player has a wasabi card from a previous choice, that nigiri-wasabi combo suddenly becomes 6 points. The more ambitious players will aim for the sashimi cards, which give a whopping 10 points, but only if three such cards are collected in one round.
Points are tallied after each round, but the smiling pudding card gives the long-term planners additional points to stack at the end of the game. Likewise, those players completely ignoring the pudding can be penalized. Timing the choice of these various sushi-themed delights is key to getting the top score.
My expectation of Sushi Go! was an easy pick-up-and-play game that I could play with my family or others. Not only does the game fit this purpose perfectly, it adds a surprising amount of replayability despite its low complexity.
First, the game’s simple and straightforward approach makes teaching and setup take about 5 minutes total. Low setup time makes the whole task less intimidating and certainly less daunting to family members everywhere, whose likely exposure to card games hardly goes beyond Go Fish.
In addition, Sushi Go!’s rounds are extremely quick, especially after the players have fully grasped the pick-and-pass concept. Playing a full three rounds with scoring, dealing, and actual playing might take a total of 20-30 minutes. Given the appeal, you will be playing several total games once you get your players hooked.
Despite my insistence on the virtue of Sushi Go!’s low complex approach, that factor does not negate the surprising substrategy that can be implemented in both the rounds and the game as a whole.
As mentioned, points are accumulated within a round, and the various types of cards can reward a risk-taker looking to go for sets of cards that are all-or-nothing for points. Because you know who passes you cards, and because you will see all hands after a full set of passes, you will quickly learn how to anticipate what is coming next (or not coming, for that matter).
This starts to work at a higher level as you decode the other players’ styles or risk taking proclivities. Perhaps your sister to your right likes to collect nigiri’s and will pass all puddings. Learning each player’s preferences add a level of personal strategy to the light veneer of smiling sushi pictures.
In addition, the pudding aspect puts a little focus on long term strategy. Should you take a pudding early to sit on to make sure you aren’t left with the least when the end points are totaled? Or should you wait until round three to nab a couple once you’ve built up a successful cache of points? The balance of risk-reward with the slow accumulation of information on players and cards dealt gives the replayability some meat.
While the presentation of the game is clean and family friendly, it does not quite translate into an effectual theme. Further, the interaction between players is more about guessing or controlling variance then direct strategic impact.
Thematically, the premise is that the sushi is being passed down a sushi line and each player is picking their favorites for their meal. While that basic concept makes some bit of sense, the gameplay itself does not evoke the theme through its mechanics. The art and the pictures have an appeal, but overall, Sushi Go! is not oozing with theme.
Next, despite the substrategies that can be employed by decoding players and building some information from the card passing, ultimately the game does rely on come variance and luck in distribution. For instance, you may see a sashimi card in your opening hand, but you have no way of knowing how many may actually be in play that round. Thus, you can take a risk based on hardly any knowledge, or play it safe because you simply don’t know yet.
Following that, the actual interaction, gameplay-wise, is minimal. While you can take some educated guesses at other player’s picks, you have no ability to actually change that player’s choices. While you can steal a sashimi to deny a player a set of three, you have no impact on the players sitting several passes away. Without any real level of interaction, players are more exposed to the mercy of how the cards are dealt.
Sushi Go! is a great, quick, easy-to-learn family/party game that all ages and groups can enjoy. The game has minimal components, and can be taught with an easy 5 minute explanation. Completing a three-round game only requires 20 minutes for a full accounting of card drafting and point totaling.
The game revolves around the individual player’s interest in risk-taking, and, while competitive, does not really deliver a head-to-head mindset in declaring a winner.
However, Sushi Go! does lack a truly meaningful player interaction mechanism. Without a way to manage the variance, players may be slightly frustrated with the exposure to the randomness of the draws. Despite this fact, the game’s final point totals normally end quite balanced, and the same player was not consistently winning in our games.
Overall, Sushi Go! is a game that fits a purpose and it excels at that purpose. For a low cost of entry, Sushi Go! will quickly return value, and may serve as that all important gateway to bigger and more complex board games.
+Easy to Learn, Easy to Teach
+Quick set-up and quick total game time
+Inviting and wholesome art presentation
+Surprising level of substrategy and weakness targetting
-Lack of meaningful interaction between players
-Susceptible to randomness of the card draws without a mechanism to control or alter the variance
-Theme not strongly present in the gameplay mechanics