Gamewright ended up with a huge hit on their hands in 2013 with a little card drafting game called Sushi Go. It had adorable artwork with anthropomorphized sushi, simple rules, and fast, family-friendly gameplay that made it a must-own filler even for many of the most jaded gamers. Now Gamewright is back with Sushi Go Party, a bigger version of the original. This new game supports more players and sports more cards. The question is, does it make for a more satisfying meal or do the additions just make you feel bloated and nauseated?
How It Plays
Sushi Go Party is a card drafting and set collection game where players pass adorable sushi cards around in an effort to accumulate the most points by grabbing the best cards for themselves. The various cards offer different scoring opportunities and I won’t explain every one here, but generally you are rewarded for having the most of something and punished for having too few of something. You want to collect valuable sets and avoid cluttering up your hand with useless junk.
At the beginning of the game, players choose which cards make up the “menu” for the game. The rulebook includes several recommended combinations, but you are free to make your own. The only restriction is that each game must include the following: All of the Nigiri cards, one type of rolls, three types of appetizers, two types of specials, and one type of dessert.
Once the cards are chosen, the corresponding menu tiles are placed into their respective slots on the board. The tiles simply act as a guide so that players can see at a glance which cards are in play and how they are used. Chosen dessert cards are placed face down in one deck next to the board and all of the other chosen cards are shuffled together to form another face down deck.
A game consists of three rounds. At the beginning of a round, a group of dessert cards from the dessert deck is shuffled into the main deck. (The number shuffled in is determined by the number of players.) Players are then dealt a hand of cards from the main deck. (Again, hand size is determined by the number of players.)
Turns are played simultaneously. Each player chooses a card from their hand that they want to keep and places it face down in front of them. After everyone has done this, players simultaneously reveal their chosen cards. While most cards score at the end of a round, the “Special” cards have effects that are played on the current turn. These are resolved before continuing play.
Once any special cards are resolved, the round continues. Players repeat the card choosing and revealing process, and then pass the cards again. This continues until all cards have been played and the hands are empty. That marks the end of a round. Any dessert cards in your hand are placed off to the side and will be scored at the end of the game. All remaining cards are scored and your pawn is moved on the score track accordingly. All cards except for the set-aside dessert cards are collected and reshuffled together (including a new set of dessert cards) and a new round begins.
The game ends after three rounds. The points you’ve earned on the board are added to any points you receive from dessert cards. The player with the highest point total wins. If there’s a tie, the player with the most dessert cards wins (because he who has all the desserts is already a winner).
On a Roll or Dead Meat?
First of all, let me say that for the bulk of this review I’m going to assume that you’ve never played the original Sushi Go. This isn’t going to be a comparative review. Toward the end I’ll make a small comparison, but I’m not going to try to explain the card and rule differences between the two versions here. If you want to know more about the original, please read our earlier review of Sushi Go. Okay? Okay. Let’s get reviewing.
The thing I love most about Sushi Go Party is the fact that it’s an excellent introduction to card drafting. Whenever I try to explain the mechanic to non-gamers, I’m often met with a blank stare. But if I give them this game, they get it. It boils it down to the basics: Take a card, pass the rest, and try to gather the most points. It doesn’t complicate things with other mechanics or components.
Because it’s uncomplicated, it’s very easy to see that the strategy in this game revolves around first trying to score the best cards for yourself and, second, trying to deny your opponents what they might need. Since cards are revealed and left face up in front of players, it’s easy to see what others might be trying to accumulate. This is great because on a turn where you can’t get any of the cards you want, it may work in your favor to take something that you know someone else needs. Since some cards punish you score-wise for failing to accumulate enough cards to make a set, keeping an opponent from completing that set can be just as valuable as scoring points for yourself.
Gamewright has gone out of their way to make Sushi Go Party easy to learn and friendly to non-gamers. The rules couldn’t be simpler. There is an exhaustive card guide in the back of the rulebook that details what each card does and how it scores (with examples). The menu tiles representing each of the cards chosen for the game are on the board at all times and they also show how each card scores, eliminating the need to pass the rulebook around every turn.
This makes it a very family friendly game. Everyone can play this. And they’ll want to, because it’s so darn cute. I mean, the sushi smiles at you for crying out loud! Since Party accommodates up to eight players, it makes a great game for family gatherings, or game groups looking for a filler.
And speaking of player count, Sushi Go Party scales very well. Certain cards are removed from the low and high ends of the scale, eliminating cards that may be overpowered or just don’t work with that number of players. Certain cards also score differently based on the number of players in the game, creating a better balance. All of this combines to make for a game that is enjoyable no matter how many people are at the table.
The other thing I love about Party is the endless replayability. The game suggests several card setups depending on what type of game you want to play. But if none of those strikes your fancy, you’re free to create your own, as long as you adhere to the card requirements. You can randomly pick card sets, or create your own favorite staples. The gameplay retains its core simplicity, but the different card combinations can make the game easier, harder, more interactive, higher scoring, or better at certain player counts. It’s hard to get bored with Party.
Now here’s where my only comparison between Party and regular Sushi Go comes in. I love Sushi Go Party, but I will keep regular Sushi Go in my collection, as well. The original (which is just a deck of cards in a small tin) is more portable, less fiddly to set up, and so great to pull out for a small group or a quick game. Its limitation is that you use the same deck of cards for every game, so it’s essentially the same game every time.
However, Sushi Go Party does so much so well that it’s earned a place in my collection, as well. I love having more cards and the ability to create an endless “menu” of card choices. Since you can play with more people, it’s more useful in a variety of settings. The board with its score track is a nice touch, too, when compared to the pen and paper you must use with the original.
However, I already owned Sushi Go before getting Party. If you don’t, you may find that there is no need to purchase both. You can play regular Sushi Go with the Party version, but you can also play so much more and have more players. The only thing that the original can offer is a smaller, more portable tin. If that doesn’t matter to you, just buy Party and be done with it.
There are no real negatives to the game, only nitpicky things that may not suit your personal preferences. First of all, there is luck in the game. As with many card games, the cards you are dealt will either help you or hammer you. Yes, you can mitigate your draw somewhat through the draft and by denying your opponents their needed cards, but sometimes the cards will just work against you. This doesn’t bother me because I expect it in a game of this type and length. However, I know some people who desire total control in every game they play. If that’s you, Sushi Go Party isn’t for you.
Also, the game comes in a tin and not a box. Personally I don’t care, but there are a lot of tin-haters out there. If you hate tins, avoid the game or find an alternate storage solution. Tin or not, though, the insert is excellent. Each card type can have its own slot, taking a lot of time out of set up and tear down.
Sushi Go Party is a real charmer of a game. I honestly recommend this game for everyone, unless you either hate adorable sushi or you’re looking for a brain burning, epic game. For everyone else, it’s a terrific filler, party game, and family game.
iSlaytheDragon.com thanks Gamewright Games for giving us a copy of Sushi Go Party to review.