Sushi Go!

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Artist: Nan Rangsima, Tobias Schweiger, Phil Walker-Harding

Publisher: Gamewright

It’s a little morbid that we are gonna eat these cute little sushis (Photo credit: Eric Martin@BGG)

Phil-Walker Harding is definitely one of the most celebrated designers from Down Under. I think I owned his very first game, Archaeology: The Card Game which was published by Z-Man. It was a decent game but didn’t exactly stand out. However, his name really didn’t hit home until the publication of Sushi Go!, Cacao and subsequently Imhotep. Most of his games are on the lighter spectrum, but don’t be fooled, there is some heft in the decision making process for all his designs. For me this is most evident in Imhotep, which remains one of my light-weight favorites. That said, I think people still know him best for Sushi Go!.

Sushi Go! is a card drafting game. If you have played Fairy Tale, Notre Dame, Greed, 7 Wonders, etc. then you are already familiar with the mechanism. Card drafting games are now ubiquitous and you can probably find half a dozen games if not more published each year. I know 7 wonders isn’t the first to do card drafting, but its popularity helped place card drafting games into many mainstream gamer’s collection. Sushi Go! is a much simpler version of 7 Wonders and it taps into a theme that is very family friendly. The sushi pieces are cutely rendered and the cards are shiny, colorful and eye-catching.

In Sushi Go!, players have 3 rounds of drafting a set of sushi cards into their tableau. As with other card drafting mechanisms, players pick a card and pass the remaining cards to a neighboring player . The card selected is played and then you select a another card from the hand of cards that was passed to you from a neighboring player. In this way, players select and play cards across several different hands until all cards are depleted and the round ends. Scores are tabulated based on set collection. For example, a set of 3 Sashimi is worth 10 points; dumplings become more valuable as you collect more of it; a set of 2 tempura is 5 points, only players with the most and second most maki rolls will score points and nigiri sushi is worth 3 points. All scores for the round are tabulated and then discarded except for flan which is collected over 3 rounds and scored only at the end with the player having the most flan getting 6 points and the least -3 points. There are more scoring options of course, and this is just a small sample.

Sushi Go! is obviously light and the theme lighter still. Like many card drafting games, it helps to remember which cards are available this round when cards are rotated among players. Depending on the number of players, you should see the same hand of cards at least twice if not more. This allows you to plan ahead and figure out which set of cards you might want to collect. Problem is, you have no idea if the card you want will still be there after it gets back to you. This makes the game more tactical and less strategic. If someone grabs your card, you might need to find an alternative. You may want to collect a set of 3 Sashimis, but Pete and Amy wants it as well. So, while your initial hand may have 2-3 sashimi, those cards may be gone by the time it comes back around to you. This issue is probably the biggest drawback of card drafting. It has the illusion of control and planning, but only so much. You may think you have a plan to map out set collection, but ultimately, you are at the whim of other players. That said, some cards are inherently “weaker” because the invenstment for set collection is higher and I feel they are often ignored…. like dumplings in Sushi Go!. If I spot lots of dumplings, I tend to go for it especially if no one wants it. People are reluctant to start dumplings after the first few rotations.

I think most of Walker-Harding’s games could be published by Hans Im Gluck, which means they are good quality, mid- to light-weight Euros and Sushi Go! is no exception. It works because it is easy to learn, quick to play and a simple yet solidly designed gateway game. While I love Hans im Gluck, I think Gamewright is the right publisher for Sushi Go! as their catalog is targeted at the younger crowd and also for family gaming. For hard core gamers, Sushi Go! is more an extended filler. The three rounds of drafting makes the game slightly more involved than your standard filler, but not so much that you can’t squeeze it in between games or to wrap up a game night. For those with kids that are even younger, Walker-Harding also published another obscure game called Yummy World: Party at the Picnic Palace by Wizkids. Yummy World shares the same card drafting DNA as Sushi Go! but with cards displayed in columns. The set collection is slightly easier but many of the same elements are shared between the two games. My 5 year old can play it but for some reason, doesn’t ask for it often. However, I hope Sushi Go! will catch on with her in a couple years time.

Initial impressions: Good

Kids Corner

6 years 6 months: Now that my kid has tried Yummy World and is older still, she can start doing card drafts with Sushi Go! The first attempts worked ok. She was able to grasp set collection for scoring because it was something she tried before with Yummy World. However, there is still some disconnect about scoring which will probably take a little while longer to click. In particular, I don’t think she is able to connect the dots about the cards being passed around and providing information on future set collection possibilities. Also the maki roll scoring seems to be a bit more confusing for her as she doesn’t know when to halt the collection when in the lead. The game is still fresh and deserves a few more rounds of play to see if she bites, but the reception toward it is a little cold right now. It’s certainly a step up from Yummy World though.

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