Sushi Go!* is a light-n-fast card drafting and set collection card game originally released in 2013 and reprinted in its current form (in a swanky little tin) in 2015 from Gamewright.
Designed by Phil Walker-Harding it accommodates two to five players easily, takes less than 30 minutes, plays as young as six to eight-years-old and should cost you less than £10.
While the theme has no relevance to game play the cards (there are 108 of them) are super cute and high quality (linen finish), while the tin is nice if you like that sort of thing (I’m a box man myself!).
The rulebook is colourful, nicely laid out and simple to follow. If you took out the cringe-worthy ‘jokes’ (which I can only hope are for the younger audience) and extraneous art they’d probably fill a single side of A4 – including several variants (one of which is great for two players).
As for teaching, it couldn’t be much simpler: deal everyone the appropriate amount of cards (dependent on player count), choose one each simultaneously, reveal and place into your tableau, then pass the remaining cards to your left. The only wrinkle is the ‘chopsticks’ card, which allows you to play two cards in your turn instead of one if you pass on the chopsticks card, but otherwise it’s rinse and repeat until you run out of cards.
Once all cards have been laid, you add up the scores. Scoring is again simple, with several standard set collection scoring methods applied across the different sets of cards. The exception are ‘pudding’ cards which are, of course, only scored at the end of your meal – which is three rounds long. No surprises, at the end the highest score wins.
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: While I think there’s a lot of design space still to be explored within the drafting mechanic, Sushi Go! is the perfect ‘bare bones’ usage of the mechanism: clean, fast and simple. It’s a shame about the end-game pudding scoring, as it’s the only thing stopping you finishing when it suits you; the perfect fillers can be put down at the drop of a hat when that extra player arrives, or another game finishes.
- The thinker: While the chopsticks do add a bit of thought to the game, this is just too simple for me to really enjoy. I’m not averse to a filler game, but I’d prefer them to either test my brain or be super silly and light – for me, this game falls between those into a murky middle ground. I can see younger gamers enjoying it, but it won’t be a keeper for my groups.
- The trasher: I enjoyed the push your luck elements here – especially with the ‘wasabi’ card which allows you to triple the score of a ‘nigiri’ card if you place one on top of it – potentially nine points, or potentially none if everyone else denies you the good ones, as wasabi is worth nothing on its own. Despite the cutesy images, this can be a nasty little take-that game in terms of denying scoring opportunities.
- The dabbler: I love the Sushi Go! art, love the simplicity, love love love it! The two-player game doesn’t get much love, but the variant is pretty cool. You have a dummy third hand, which you take it in turns to draw a bonus card from. This throws in much more luck, but can add some really great moments when you take a risk and the perfect card drops into your hand from the third pile. Great fun!
For such a simple card game, it is impressive to see Sushi Go! sitting in the top 500 games at Board Game Geek. Filler games, fairly or unfairly, average lower scores there so for such a light game to get an average above 7 is impressive. But like every game, it still has its detractors.
As this is a card drafting game, there are the inevitable comparisons to 7 Wonders. Sushi Go is often described as 7 Wonders without the depth, or 7 Wonders lite – but on the other hand, many say it ‘fixes’ 7 Wonders by taking out the pretend complexity and shortening the game considerably.
To those who say it lacks depth, may I remind you – its a filler! And to those who say it just copies 7 Wonders, may I remind you that if anything it copies Fairy Tale (from 2004) – a game it is much closer to in play style and which 7 Wonders (from 2010) also largely copied, simply adding a layer of ‘engine’ on top of a perfectly good game. If you think Sushi Go is a little too light for your tastes, Fairy Tale is definitely worth a shot.
As an exercise in distilling the idea of card drafting into a simple set collection game, Sushi Go! ticks all the boxes. Whether that’s the game for you is of course a very different question, but there really isn’t anything to hate here if you know what you’re getting into.
Personally it has reminded me of how much I enjoyed my plays of Fairy Tale, which really is a game I should add to my collection (its more of the same, but with an extra layer of complexity). But until I get around to picking it up, Sushi Go! will be hanging around on my shelves. If you’re looking for a light family game and have kids in the six to 12 age group, I’d definitely recommend it.
* I would like to thank Coiledspring Games for providing a copy of the game for review.