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Subject: Sushi Go! - A Detailed Review rss

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Dr. Dam
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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Image Courtesy of zefquaavius

Summary

Game Type - Card Game
Play Time: 15-20 minutes
Number of Players: 2-5 (Best 3+)
Mechanics - Set Collection, Card Drafting
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in under 10 minutes)
Components - Very Good
Release - 2013

Designer - Phil Walker-Harding - (Archaeology: The Card Game, Cannonball Colony, Dungeon Raiders, Flicochet, Pack of Heroes and Small World: Cursed!)

Overview and Theme

Sushi Go! comes to us from the creative mind and self-publisher Phil Walker-Harding. In this design the players are trying to grab the tastiest sushi dishes as they whiz past them in order to achieve scoring combinations over the course of 3 rounds.

Sushi Go! has been deliberately designed to be easy to learn and light enough that non-gamers can engage with it very easily.

The game was inspired by the drafting mechanic featured in games like Fairy Tale and 7 Wonders.

It became a reality thanks to a successful Indiegogo Campaign.

Grab your Sushi Mats folks and let's see if this Sushi is fresh to go or past its use by date... gulp

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The Components

Like previous Adventureland Games designs, Sushi Go! relies solely on its deck of cards. This not only reduces the fiddliness factor but also keeps production costs down too, which is super important for self-publishers.

d10-1 The Sushi Cards – In all the deck is made up of 108 Sushi Cards, which offer up 11 different types of dishes. The artwork on the cards is quite simple but very cute and it reminds me of the artstic style used in the recent hit 'Dumb Ways to Die'. I would not be surprised if this art style was originally Japanese and was ripped off by the western world.

The game also comes with scoring cards for each player. Each player gets 2 cards called a Train and a Tray and they can be used to display any score from 0-70 and are a great little addition, which allow players to avoid resorting to pen and paper.

All of the cards do a great job of summarising the scoring rules on the cards themselves, which eliminates excessive checking of the rulebook.

The only negative here is that the cards are a little thin for my liking and it can lead to card bending if players (children in particular) are not careful. Having said that my copy has stood up to 20 odd plays in very short time (often with 9-10 year olds) and still looks fine so I shouldn't nitpick too much.


Image Courtesy of Odd_Bloke


d10-2 Card Backs – I don't often examine the backs of the cards but here a visual pattern is used that reminds me of classic Japanese anime style for surprise or excitement (you know where the background changes with the flashing lines of colour to show surprise or excitement?). This is a really neat little feature that serves to remind us of the thought and passion that self-publishers like to put into their designs. meeple


Image Courtesy of Odd_Bloke


d10-3 Rules - The rules come in a nice booklet and are clear for the most part except one small scoring rule, which I will cover later. The rules also feature a set of small comic strips with corny puns, which make them more interesting to read than most rulebooks.

The rules also offer up an excellent summary on the back page which highlights how many cards are dealt based on the number of players and a condensed version of the scoring rules. This is quite satisfactory to help players once they have a basic grasp of the game and enables quick queries to be solved in moments.


Image Courtesy of Odd_Bloke


All in all the production of Sushi Go! is very good and the only thing that lets it down just that little bit is the thin nature of the cards. I really like the packaging though as that small box format is great for transport and lines up with many other light card games on my shelves.


Image Courtesy of gavinpaul


Set-up

There is almost no set-up required of Sushi Go! before play gets underway. Each player takes a pair of scoring cards and sets their score to zero, the deck is shuffled and then a number of cards are dealt out to each player.

How many cards are dealt depends on the number of players -

2-Players : 10 Cards
3-Players : 9 Cards
4-Players : 8 Cards
5-Players : 7 Cards


Once the cards are dealt out the game is underway.

The point worth highlighting here is just how quick and easy the game is to get out and play. There are really no barriers to getting in a game of Sushi Go! and this is a major advantage over a game like 7 Wonders that can have quite a bit of set-up required if the cards need to be modified for the number of players and expansions need to be added or removed.

The Play

Sushi Go! is played over 3 rounds, with scoring taking place at the end of each round. The play of the game really couldn't be simpler.

d10-1 Card Drafting – Each turn of each round the players will be holding a set of cards. They simply need to select a single card and place it face down.

Once all players are ready they simultaneously reveal their card and place it in their scoring area in front of them before passing their hand of cards on (to the next clockwise player) and receiving their new hand from the player that preceeds them.

This is repeated until all cards have been selected and added to the player's score area. When the players are down to 2 cards they select one and the card they pass is simply revealed by their neighbour as there is no longer a choice.

Cards are always passed to the left for all 3 rounds although the game does offer a variant that allows the cards to be passed to the right in the second round (ala 7 Wonders), which I tend to like but it is really up to the preference of the group playing.

d10-2 Chopsticks – There is only one non-Sushi dish card in the deck, the Chopsticks. When a Chopsticks Card is taken it is worth nothing but it allows the player on their next turn to select two cards instead of just one. This can be great for grabbing a scoring pair in the one go or quickly amassing a certain type of card before the other players know what you are after, which makes it harder to block you in the short term.

When the players reveal their selected card(s) for the turn, any players that took two cards with Chopsticks must pick their Chopsticks Card up and add it to the cards that they are passing on. In this way Chopsticks can be used by more than one person in a round, but they are certainly more useful earlier in a round as opposed to late in a round.

I really like the fact that Chopsticks can be passed around to as it negates that annoying aspect of some games where the lucky draw of a powerful card or two can unbalance the play.

d10-3 Scoring – So as you can see the mechanics of the game could not be easier. But they do not drive the game alone. Instead (and as in 7 Wonders) it is the scoring combinations that determine the decision making in Sushi Go! so it is important that you have a good grasp of what is possible...

Image Courtesy of Steerpike.Instace


mb Tempura - Tempura will only score if a player can secure 2 in a single round, which earns 5 points. If a player manages to collect a 3rd tempura, they will need to secure a 4th to earn a second set of 5-points.

mb Sushimi - Sushimi works in exactly the same way as Tempura except 3 are needed to score a whopping 10 points. This is a big score but it is fraught with danger as collecting only 1 or 2 will earn nothing.

mb Sushi - Sushi cards come in three types, offering 1, 2 or 3 sushi icons at the top of the card. At the end of a round the player with the most Sushi Icons will earn 6 points and second place earns 3 points. So in effect Sushi works as a majority scoring mechanic.

In the case of a tie for first place, all tied players share in the 6 points available and nothing is earned for second place.

mb Dumplings - Dumplings represent a multiplier scoring option. If a single Dumpling is collected it earns 1 point. However having two earns 3 points, 3 earns 6-points, 4 earns 10-points and 5 earns 15-points. Just remember though that these cannot be kept from round to round so Dumplings represent something of an all or nothing strategy. What makes Dumplings viable is that other players will often commit to another scoring combo and need to secure other cards to see it through. This is when Dumplings can be left and a player can amass 3-4 very easily for good points.

mb Nigiri and Wasabi - There are 3 types of Nigiri; Squid, Salmon and Egg and each is worth 3, 2 or 1 point respectively if collected in isolation. These are not bad points as they are the only cards in the game that are guaranteed once collected. Everything else must be collected in sets or in multiples before they score or score well.

However Nigiri can be even more valuable if combined with Wasabi. In all there are 6 Wasabi cards and they must be in play first before a Nigiri can be paired with it. If a player has Wasabi then the very next Nigiri card collected must be placed on top and the Wasabi serves to multiply the base score of the Nigiri by 3, hence a Wasabi/Nigiri combo can earn 9, 6 or 3 points depending on the type of Nigiri.

mb Pudding - Finally there is Pudding with its eye catching pink background and its cute little yellow face and saucy top. kiss

Pudding represents the game's only long term scoring objective as it is only scored at the end of the game. The player with the most Pudding Cards earns 6 points and the player with the fewest Pudding Cards suffers a -6 deduction. Any ties simply split these points, rounding down if necessary.

The scoring in Sushi Go! can be quite tight between the leading players so this 12 point differential can be quite significant. With only 10 Pudding Cards in the deck they are usually coveted, but at times the decision to go for them or other important cards can be tough.

d10-4 End of a Round – Once all players reveal the final card for a round it is time to score. To make things easier it is a good idea to remove any cards that will not score. These include unfinished Tempura and Sushimi cards, anyone with Sushi Cards that do not help them finish in the top 2 for total Sushi Icons, any Chopsticks and any Wasabi that wasn't paired with Nigiri.

Once they are discarded, all other cards are scored with the exception of Pudding, which must wait until the end of the 3rd and final round.

Each player adjusts their score cards accordingly and it's a good idea for the players to announce their new totals so the table can get a clear picture of who to look out for.

d10-5 End of the Game - The end of the 3rd round signifies the final scoring and this is the same as the outline above, except that the +/- 6 points will also be awarded for the most and least Puddings.

The player that finishes with the most points wins the game. In the case of a tie the tied player with the most Pudding Cards wins (making them just that little bit more important). If that is tied then they share the win but this is unlikely.

What's Going on in Sushi Go! - What Makes it Interesting?

Image Courtesy of diddle74


Sushi Go! really has two things that make it work...

d10-1 Card Drafting - What card drafting effectively does is pose a problem to the players as they will always want more than one thing but can only have one at a time (unless of course they secure Chopsticks).

But it does far more than that because the players know that their current selection of cards will be passed on. So they begin to question what other players may want, what is likely to be left when it comes back around again and question whether they should take one route over another.

It forces players to weigh up their own self-interest as opposed to denying cards to other players - because both methods can earn a player points relative to the scores of others.

Therefore card drafting as a mechanic creates a meta-game of sorts. That first turn in each round is a bit tricky as the players do not know what other players will go after until their first card is revealed. So in this instance a player can do no more than assess what they hold and weigh that up against the deck structure to determine the odds of pulling certain scoring combos off. If a starting hand contains 4 Sushimi, then the odds of other hands containing many Sushimi is limited and the odds of those Sushimi getting back to you are also limited, so perhaps Sushimi isn't the best option this turn.

Of course after the first and second cards are revealed in a round it is clearer to see what others may be going after and you will also have more knowledge of what is in circulation.

In truth Sushi Go! can be a much deeper game for those willing to explore the psychology of the meta-game, but it can be played just as well and be just as much fun on a simpler level.

d10-2 Scoring Combos - And that is where the scoring combinations come in as aside from the meta-game discussed above. It is those combos that will tend to drive the decision making of most players and in the majority of cases, players will tend to pursue their own needs with the blocking of others being a secondary consideration.

With quite a number of combinations to go after the game is a pretty enjoyable experience and even in defeat a player can feel good about pulling off certain combos and sometimes 'sneaking through the net' as players look up to realise they secured 4 or 5 Dumplings for big points.

Some of the more engaging elements driven by the scoring though are the majority rules of the Sushi Icons and the Pudding Cards. Because these only offer a set amount of points for coming first or second (in the case of Sushi) it really isn't beneficial to collect a majority of cards well above that of second place as they will still only earn 6 points and at the same time deprive you of other card selections. That said if you don't take that 3 icon Sushi card or that Pudding card to give you a 2 Pudding lead, it may well be taken by someone else who begins to threaten your lead...decisions...decisions.

Thus the game poses selection problems and every decision has a consequence. Do you play it safe at the expense of other scoring avenues or take the risk and hope it pays off? This is sometimes referred to as an 'opportunity cost' - 'by taking one thing what does it cost me in return?'

The Final Word

Sushi Go! for my money is a great little design. It could be ridiculed by some for not being original as it combines scoring combos we have seen many times before and a drafting mechanic that isn't new either.

But I don't think a design needs to be 100% new and innovative to be regarded as a good game. And indeed I don't think the design of a 100% new concept was the design goal.

What is on offer here is a game that is totally accessible to anyone willing to give it a go and fun to boot and for me fun that should be the defining criteria for any game.

I have had great success with Sushi Go! with my Year 3/4 students, of which several want to buy a copy (they haven't ever asked that before) and also with family members that are either gateway gamers or have only played party games in the past.

I think this makes Sushi Go! a game that can have wide appeal. I don't think it will ever fill any space other than light filler game for hard core gamers, but it is great as that opener or closer for such groups.

7 Wonders fans may too like what is on offer here if they haven't got sufficient numbers or simply don't have the willpower or time for the set-up.

The only caution I have with Sushi Go! is in playing it with 2-players. I didn't really find this engaging at all as both players will know the odds of certain cards coming back to them and within 2-turns they will know what cards are in circulation. For me this made the game more of a memory exercise and soon enough the players will be forced into too many negative card selection decisions and for me that is just too cut-throat to make it any fun. Other people's mileage may differ however.

Till next we meet may your Sushi be fresh, varied and always smiling! laugh

Review Links

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Other Adventureland Games Review Links

Archaeology: The Card Game

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Tina T
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A very nice review, well done . If you're not fond of the rules as written with 2 players, maybe you should try the 2p variant posted in the forum in which the players alternate in drawing a card from a 3rd "hand" (pile) and adding that to their current hand. It keeps the cards fresh and avoids the problems you mention 100% for me. In fact, I think I like this version better than Sushi Go! with more players.
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Dr. Dam
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schlawiner wrote:
A very nice review, well done . If you're not fond of the rules as written with 2 players, maybe you should try the 2p variant posted in the forum in which the players alternate in drawing a card from a 3rd "hand" (pile) and adding that to their current hand. It keeps the cards fresh and avoids the problems you mention 100% for me. In fact, I think I like this version better than Sushi Go! with more players.


Cool thanks for that.
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Dave's Running Club
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Great review Neil. Will have to play it at your place sometime soon. meeple

(BTW, you've forgotten to make the links to your other reviews hyperlinks at the bottom of your review post )
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Dave Howe
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We played this game twice last weekend as a filler, and wow, a great little game. You're right, it's nothing too innovative, but scratches the 7 Wonders itch, and is very easy to teach!
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Dr. Dam
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davwj wrote:
Great review Neil. Will have to play it at your place sometime soon. meeple

(BTW, you've forgotten to make the links to your other reviews hyperlinks at the bottom of your review post )


Yes we will.

The other two games haven't been reviewed by me yet hence no links - They are now officially on my to do list!
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James Cheng
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tazz wrote:
We played this game twice last weekend as a filler, and wow, a great little game. You're right, it's nothing too innovative, but scratches the 7 Wonders itch, and is very easy to teach!


For all the talk of 7 Wonders being a gateway game, I think Sushi Go completely fire 7W as my go to introductory card drafting game.
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