Australian designer Phil Walker-Harding ( Pirates of the Spanish Main: Shuffling the Deck and one of the winners of the Small World : Cursed! design contest) loves Sushi. Interestingly, so do I – which is the exact reason I wanted to follow up with Rob’s recent post on the light Sushi filler (yum!) card game.

Firstly: Sushi Go! is currently 4 Days left and only $140 short on its Indiegogo campaign. (In case you have no idea what I just said, Indiegogo is a crowd sourcing site that functions similarly to Kickstarter), so if you are tempted by this review, make sure you go and pledge$20 for a copy of Sushi Go! shipped anywhere in the world.

Sushi Go! was designed to take card drafting mechanics of games like Fairy Tale and 7 Wonders and distill it into a fun 20 minute filler that anyone can play. Phil wanted to explore the design of “Draft and Pass” while keeping the rules to a minimum. Well, Phil certainly did that.

The artwork is cute to-the-max and indeed we can fit in 3 full games in an hour. Each full game is broken up into three rounds and players take the place of customers at a Sushi restaurant trying to grab the best dishes before the other players from the conveyor belt. Playing (very fairly) from 2-5 players, Sushi Go! is well placed as a mid-level gateway game. Each player takes a hand of cards (9 each for 3 players), then they select one card and “score it” by playing it down. The remaining cards are passed clockwise to the next player and play continues. That’s it. That’s the whole game.

This begs the question: Why is this as fun as it is? Well I have thought for quite a while about this and I have found the reason. Every player has (ish) the same chances in the game, as players will have seen all the cards in a short amount of time. So while some of the substance of the game comes from choosing the highest scoring cards, a lot of it comes from working out what the other guys will do which brings us to The Sashimi Shuffle;

“Sashimi” is one of the cards that you will find. This tasty treat is worth 10 points (which, is a lot!) but only if you have a set of three of them. So you take one Sashimi card, pass your cards around, then another (by this point, that set of sashimi is looking super tasty, you will really enjoy this, you only need one more!) but of course the player who is about to hand you the next set of cards decides to play the sashimi card, preventing you from gathering your set! The player to your right has stolen your fish! He is a fish fiend!

The more we played this game the more we found it to be deep and nuanced: investment, long term strategies, counter plays, short term windfalls … OR it can be super cute and everyone can shout “SUSHI GO!” when they pass you the cards all the time. We liked that style of play too.

For such a simple premise, Sushi Go! really does stand up on its own two squishy rice feet. It completely fulfills its brief as a fast, fun, sushi filled card game.

Devils Advocate says:

If you don’t like Sushi, this game might not appeal. But then, you would be fully aware of that anyway – right? If you only play this game once or twice, the full possibilities of the game might seem limited to you. The game has a few mind bending concepts (the Sushi rolls in particular) to get your head around – the younger player or non-gamer may struggle to “get it” the first few plays. The game supplied didn’t have a score tracker in (and the final release might not either) so be prepared to spend 5 minutes looking for a pencil and paper before playing. Also the highest rated one-shot card is a “Squid Nigiri” worth three points, and Salmon is only rated 2. But the game is wrong here, Salmon is totally superior and should be worth three points … just sayin’.

Defender of the Cause says:

SUSHI! Cute-overload-artwork, perfect for that friend of yours that loves this kind of stuff. Just like 7 Wonders but much simpler and quicker. This game does very well on the “Time-taken-to-fun” ratio; it has very little set up time (simply deal out a hand of cards to each player) and the gameplay continues to the end – thanks to the scoring system and the “Pudding” cards that are only scored after the third round – the final few plays are a tense and exciting affair.

To sum: A nicely distilled card-drafting game that plays quick and well, dipped in a bowl of wasabi.

Sushi Go! was provided free for review by Phil Walker-Harding.