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Subject: Wasabi! A Review for Gamers and Non Gamers rss

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James Carlton
Australia
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Intro

I live in a house with my two best friends; one is a gamer the other isn't. As we all like doing things together my game collection is gathering a little too much dust for my liking. So begins my quest to convert my non-gaming friend to the wonderful world of boardgames. Seeing that my friend likes sushi and all things Japanese, Wasabi! seemed like the perfect starting point, so I convinced her and another non-gaming friend to play.


Overview

Wasabi! is quite obviously a game about making sushi - in fact the way I pitched it was that it was like Scrabble - only with sushi instead of letters. This was a concept that my non-gamer friends could easily understand.

Each player gets a selection of recipes and ingredients which are then placed on a central board to form recipes horizontally or vertically. Recipes have different lengths and longer recipes are worth more points. If you manage to complete a recipe in the order shown on the recipe card you get extra points for making sushi 'with style' and get to place a number of green wasabi cubes in a cute Japanese dish for extra points.

Completing a recipe also gives you a special action card which lets you move ingredients, place extra ingredients, stack them on top of each other or block off squares on the board.


Contents & Theme

Like every other Z-Man game I've experienced, the quality of the components and attention to detail are superb. Thick card counters, sturdy board and wonderfully designed and laid out rules. The 'menu' screens are probably the only weak point as they don't hold the recipe cards very well and the recipe information on the back serves no real purpose.

The whole game oozes theme from every angle. The artwork is vibrant and colourful and the little wasabi cubes and the Japanese dishes to hold them are a nice touch. The game has so much theme that I couldn't possibly play it without real sushi so I ended up making my own (with many comments about which ones were completed 'with style' and which looked like someone had thrown raw fish at a muddy snowball) If I was to nitpick I'd say some of the ingredient counters are hard to tell apart at a glance when the board gets full - rice and maki especially could have been differentiated better.


Gameplay

The game is extremely easy to teach and learn, and everyone got the basic idea after one turn. We played two games, neither of which went for more than 45 minutes although there is some setup time getting all the counters in the right place. There is a reasonable amount of strategy early on as you try and setup the biggest recipe you can while there is still room on the board. Do you go for a tricky 5 ingredient roll straight away or make a quick 2 or 3 length nigiri in order to pick up a special card in case things don't go to plan.

As the board fills up things get a lot harder, you have to be a lot more flexible in your strategy and eventually everyone ends up racing to get the last few points from the free space available. There are some opportunities to complete multiple recipes at the same time with clever use of the cards and ingredients and keeping track of the whole board is critical.


Conclusion

Wasabi! got a mixed response from our group. The non-gamers really enjoyed it. The game is chaotic and light hearted and while a game like Puerto Rico might punish you for playing each turn as it comes in Wasabi! it is almost encouraged. It’s not that there isn’t strategy; it just doesn’t pay to get too tied down to one in particular.

In comparison my gamer friend and I weren’t so sold. Too often, thinking a few turns ahead would prove fruitless as our plans were foiled not by guile or cunning but by bad luck - and unfortunately once you get a bad set of recipes or ingredients it can be difficult to get back in the game. Playing offensively is also tricky, maybe it’s the theme but it was hard to deliberately block or obstruct a player without it feeling like a pure act of bastardry rather than a sound tactical play. Maybe playing it with a group of hardcore gamers would be better but then I think we’d probably be playing something else instead.

In the end Wasabi! was a great game for introducing people to the world of boardgames beyond Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. While those of us with a wider experience of the genre were left wanting a bit more tuna in our tekkamaki we still had fun and hopefully we managed to convince our non-gamer friends to give something a little more complicated a try.

Roast dinner and Agricola is next on the menu! gulp
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Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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A very well-written review for this game - I agree with you almost completely! This isn't one of my favorite games, but it definitely is one we like to pull out for non-gamers and casual gamers. It's got great components and plays quickly.
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Trey Chambers
United States
Houston
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Start them on Stone Age before you jump into Agricola. You could scare them away from gaming forever if you jump into Agricola.
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