The first time I looked at Sushi Go! on the shelf in a game store, seeing the small metal box with cartoons of sushi with eyes and grins – kind of cute and creepy all at the same time – I passed it up. This happened repeatedly until I saw a review that said Sushi Go! was like 7 Wonders without the boring parts and that it played in about 20 minutes. That is a pedigree, indeed. I bought the game.
Sushi Go! is a quintessential filler-game designed by Phil Walker-Harding, sells for about $10, really does play 2-5 players in about 20 minutes and is damned fun, odd theme about raw fish notwithstanding.
A Sushi Go! round consists of three rounds of drafting cards of various raw fish for your consumption. The goal is to build up the most points by collecting sets of specific card types. Players can go for instant points or delayed gratification, betting it all that they can collect a big set to cash out at the end of the round, or not. It’s an easy game to pick up and quick to play, with clear scoring reminders on all the different types of cards you can draft.
Each player has a hand of cards and each turn, they select one card to play and all players reveal the cards at the same time. Those cards go into the player’s individual playing area, and then they rotationally pass the hands of cards to each other and do it again. The idea is to build up sets of specific types of cards for points and it’s a fascinating and simple mechanic.
Luck of the draw plays a factor, but the game rewards players with points for some smart planning and push-your-luck risk taking. It’s a solid little game, whether you’re focused on collecting a long term set for a major point payoff or going for some quick points to round off your plate. Strategically using the chopsticks to get an extra card out of the hand at the right time feels good.
As each round winds down and the cards in each hand are fewer and fewer, the game takes on the feeling of a game of hot potato, where no one wants to be stuck with chopsticks or remaining cards that will not add up to any points. No one wants to get chopsticked on the last card, which is useless in the final turn.
By the same token, it’s great to pull off a big Wasabi dip at the end of a round or edge out other players for the big Pudding point swing at the end of the game. The game has some very satisfying moments and despite the chance elements, the endgame scores seem reasonably reflective of the players’ performance in the game.
Sushi Go! is a fun, light filler game and it’s $10! Open your mind to the strange sushi theme and art and you’re in for a tight little drafting game that will be a frequently played filler for years to come. Just don’t let them make a Sushi Go! Love Letter game. For the love of all, please, not that!