So, weirdly, I think I got this game at like, my first Gen Con? I think it was $20 and I was like what the heck, and then it kept getting backburnered for other games and I mostly broke it out for parties and other larger gatherings. Anyways, was going through my “unreviewed” pile and I was like wait why is Sushi Go Party! here and now, well, here we are. Sushi Go Party! is a reimplementation of the classic drafting game Sushi Go!, with a wider menu and a player count expansion of up to 8 players.
In Sushi Go Party! You and your friends are visiting one of those restaurants with a conveyor belt for sushi which sounds super fun but I haven’t yet gotten to do personally. Not bitter; just an observation. You’ll get to choose your menu, sure, but you’re gonna need to make sure that your needs are met, first, and then your friends can have whatever’s left. It doesn’t help, though, that your friends are thinking the same thing. Who will end up having the superior meal?
So, your setup depends on a few things. That said, no reason why we can’t get started without that, just yet. Set out the board:
And let every player choose a pawn:
The pawns at 8 players don’t all fit on the board, so … just kind of make it work, placing them all on the 0.
Now, it’s time to choose what sushi you want to fight over!
You’ll slot the tiles into their various spots on the board, just picking what you want to use. No matter what, you always need:
- 1 Roll
- 3 Appetizers
- 2 Specials
- 1 Dessert
That said, the game (and I) have some recommendations:
- My First Meal (good for your first game): Nigiri, Maki, Tempura, Sashimi, Miso Soup, Wasabi, Tea, Green Tea Ice Cream.
- Sushi Go! (the original Sushi Go menu): Nigiri, Maki, Tempura, Sashimi, Dumpling, Chopsticks, Wasabi, Pudding.
- Party Sampler (a selection of new stuff): Nigiri, Temaki, Tempura, Dumpling, Tofu, Wasabi, Menu, Green Tea Ice Cream.
- Master Menu (an expert variant): Nigiri, Temaki, Onigiri, Tofu, Sashimi, Spoon, Takeout Box, Fruit.
- Points Platter (scores lots of points): Nigiri, Uramaki, Onigiri, Dumpling, Edamame, Special Order, Tea, Green Tea Ice Cream.
- Cutthroat Combo (when you just have to have take-that): Nigiri, Temaki, Eel, Tofu, Miso Soup, Spoon, Soy Sauce, Pudding.
- Big Banquet (best at 6 – 8): Nigiri, Maki, Tempura, Dumpling, Eel, Spoon, Chopsticks, Green Tea Ice Cream.
- Dinner for Two (best at 2): Nigiri, Uramaki, Onigiri, Tofu, Miso Soup, Menu, Special Order, Fruit.
- The What’s Eric Playing? Special: Nigiri, Uramaki, Eel, Tempura, Tofu, Wasabi, Menu, Green Tea Ice Cream. Maybe swap in the Sake promo for Menu if you’re feeling up for it.
There are some limits:
- You cannot use Menu and Special Order in a 7- or 8-player game.
- You cannot use Spoon and Edamame in a 2-player game.
Take the cards (except for dessert) relevant to what you’re looking for:
And shuffle them up. You’ll notice there are a lot of cards.
There are a lot of cards.
You’ll want to shuffle in a certain number of dessert cards, based on what round it is and how many players you have:
- Round 1
- 2 – 5 players: 5 dessert cards
- 6 – 8 players: 7 dessert cards
- Round 2
- 2 – 5 players: 3 dessert cards
- 6 – 8 players: 5 dessert cards
- Round 3
- 2 – 5 players: 2 dessert cards
- 6 – 8 players: 3 dessert cards
Now, deal each player a certain number of cards, depending on your player count:
- 2 – 3 players: 10 cards
- 4 – 5 players: 9 cards
- 6 – 7 players: 8 cards
- 8 players: 7 cards
The remaining cards (if any) go in a deck, face-down. The cards each player receives form their hand, and you’re ready to roll!
So, the gameplay, at its core, is a drafting set-collection game. Drafting is a mechanic of taking a card from your hand of cards and playing it, and then passing the remaining cards to another player. For these, you’re trying to collect various pieces of sushi in order to score the most points.
On your turn, simply pick a card, keep it face-down, and then pass the remainder. Once everyone’s picked a card, reveal them, resolve them if necessary, and then repeat this.
When everyone is out of cards in hand, the round is over. If you’ve played any dessert cards this round, set them aside (they don’t score until the end, just like dessert). Then, score the cards you played this round. Once you’ve done that, shuffle all the cards played (again, except for dessert cards), and add dessert cards based on the round you’re starting:
- Round 2
- 2 – 5 players: 3 dessert cards
- 6 – 8 players: 5 dessert cards
- Round 3
- 2 – 5 players: 2 dessert cards
- 6 – 8 players: 3 dessert cards
After you’ve played three rounds, the game ends! Score your dessert cards (if you can), and the player with the most points is the winner!
Player Count Differences
I mean, there are a bunch of cards you can only use at certain player counts, so there’s that.
Beyond that, I think that it has some similarities to 7 Wonders, just without the tech tree. At lower player counts, you can strategize under the assumption / hope that you’ll see certain cards circle back around to you again; at 8 players, you’ve got to pick the “best” card out of every hand you get, since you will never see any of those cards again.
At two, it becomes essentially a game of chicken; do you take a card knowing that your opponent might take another card you eventually want, or do you try to head them off? After one hand, you’ve basically got perfect information (since you have seen both potential hands of cards), so now you should spend some time thinking about what your opponent is going to take. This is part of the reason that, say, Spoon isn’t allowed at two players — it would be kind of obnoxious, since you know what cards your opponent has (in theory) at any given time. Edamame just doesn’t make sense at two players, so it’s out, too.
At higher player counts, the shift becomes less thinking about any one player and more about thinking about the player on your left and yourself. You’re passing cards to them and you’ll be able to give them your final card. Do you give them a third Tofu, thereby rendering the whole stack worthless? Do you give them an Eel, pushing them to -3 points? It’s anyone’s guess.
Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that the game comes down to what cards you choose to play with more than the player count. I have no real player count preference, though I have the slightest antipreference for it at two. I’d rather more people showed up for the sushi party.
- Make your last card count. Like I said, you control the fate (somewhat) of the player on your left. If you can make sure they take a penalty or you can make sure you ruin one of their scoring categories, you might want to do that. If you’d prefer to not have that option, well, there are plenty of not-hateful-sushis you can make friends with and use instead.
- With Spoon, you better know what you want. If you waste the Spoon, it’s a 0. Using it early isn’t too bad, since you can speculate on what other players might have, but using it a bit later when you know what cards are still in play is a great way to back out of a bad decision (or make a better play late in the round, like taking an Eel so you can play another one or using it to snag a Dumpling to up your count surreptitiously).
- Taking an early Eel / Tempura isn’t a bad idea. I mean, the odds of you never seeing a second one is reasonably low, but if everyone does this, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Maybe wait a hand before you go all-in on taking an Eel.
- Multiple Menus in a row is also not a bad idea, if you figure out after the first Menu that you’d like more of those cards. You put the cards back on top of the deck, so just play another Menu and now you know 3 / 4 of the cards. I mean, if you don’t want any of them, then don’t play a Menu, but if you do, now you have information that your opponents do not, which is always nice.
- It’s hard to get more than 3 Dumplings. Other players are mildly resistant to the idea, unless you get lucky with a Spoon or a Menu or Chopsticks. If you do, great! Especially if you play a Tea or something to really double-up on your good scoring fortune.
- Leaving Miso Soup for players late in the round is hilarious, provided you’re not one of them. I mean, if all anyone has left is Miso Soup, then you’ve just wasted a few turns. The question becomes do you take the Miso and play it early (some risk) or do you just leave it until the end and force other players to play it (lower risk for you). For me, it comes down to whether or not I have better scoring options. If my options are a Squid Nigiri or a Miso Soup, I always take the Squid Nigiri. Better not to risk it.
- Honestly, half the time you really want to be making 3+ points / card. To that end, just take the Squid Nigiri. Like I said, it’s a guaranteed 3 points (guaranteed 9 points if you play your Wasabi right). In a game with a fair bit of uncertainty, is the risk really worth it? As a generally fairly risk-averse person, I’m going to argue, no, no it’s not.
- Green Tea Ice Cream is super worth the investment. Not only is it a bunch of points (3 points per card, if you can get four cards), but it also somewhat obfuscates your score to players. Since you don’t have “points”, your place in the scoring ranking might be a bit lower, meaning players might not target you as aggressively (if you’re playing with that option). I generally treat Green Tea as though it were a Squid Nigiri and mentally adjust the score in my head to keep track, but if other players don’t do that, they run the risk of underestimating you. That’s good for you, though.
- A bunch of the racing ones aren’t worth it, as player count increases. Sure, they’re a bunch of points, but you also often end up diluting your plays by trying to stay ahead of other players. Temaki gives you 4 points if you have the most, but if you play more than 2 of them then it’s hardly worth it (provided you can avoid being the least). Uramaki is great, but it may come and go without you even getting a shot. Again, I tend to focus on lower-risk investments, here.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It’s pretty much a buffet of set collection mechanics. If you’re an aspiring game designer and you’re looking for ideas for set collection scoring mechanics, either read Daniel Solis’s tweet about them or play Sushi Go Party!; either way, you’ll learn a whole bunch. Honestly, as a design exercise alone the game’s probably worth checking out; it’s similar to Vast, in that regard, especially since it has so many distinct scoring types.
- The art is wonderful. It’s a very cute style that works perfectly with the light, somewhat whimsical gameplay. I wish I knew more games beyond Sushi Go that were using Nan’s art, but, according to BGG, this is the only game with it. It’s essentially perfect for the game. I also appreciate how colorful it is! The whole thing is shooting for “bright, eye-catching, whimsical, cute, and fun”, and it absolutely perfectly captures that.
- A very good game for learning drafting, as well. I used to think that 7 Wonders was the perfect gateway game for drafting until someone reminded me that tech trees are really intuitive if you grew up playing RTS video games like Age of Empires, but they’re kind of opaque otherwise. This has none of that extra cruft; it’s simple, straightforward, and playable by the whole family. You can even play with less complex cards if you want to introduce a gentler learning curve for the game, which I appreciate.
- I just like modular games a whole lot. I find that they’re harder to review (coughs loudly at Spirit Island and Millennium Blades), but they offer a lot of variety and let players find a set of rules / inputs / cards that work for their group and their playstyle.
- Plays very fast. I really appreciate how fast it plays, being honest. It’s just card, pass, card, pass, card, pass; very quick and transactional. The variability means that you can bust out a few quick games before putting it away, and generally this isn’t a game that people only want to play once.
- Pretty portable. It’d be a nontrivial amount of a Quiver, but you could just take all the cards with you, if you wanted. Nothing is really stopping you. The only limit is your imagination, and, well, the laws of the country you’re currently in.
- As with all games that do this, I always appreciate when take-that mechanics are optional. They’re not just optional, but the game is so modular that you can gradually introduce them to players. If you want a game with really light take-that, then add in the Tofu or something. You can essentially add or remove it as you’d like. I wonder if someone’s made an app with like, sliders to adjust the kind of game you’d like to play, rather than just picking the different card sets at random? That would be neat.
- I wish the board had bigger spaces. You can fit two, maybe three tokens on a space, tops. Honestly, most of these Mehs can be summarized as “the box is a space-saving tin and I wish it were a bit bigger so space were not so much of a consideration”.
- The cards aren’t particularly durable. I don’t even play this game that often and the cards are starting to fray, a tic. I mean, worst case, it’s $20 for a new one, but that’s still surprising. Perhaps it’s because the cards get handled so much in one game?
- This will ultimately be too light for many players. This is not a heavy strategy game in the slightest; it’s a 20-minute drafting party game. Know what you’re getting before you get into it and caveat emptor and so on and so forth. I don’t personally think it’s an issue that it’s light, but like The Tea Dragon Society, it feels like it’s worth mentioning.
- Tins are definitely my least favorite way to store games. They’re hard to photograph, weird to transport, and it doesn’t really fit super well on the shelf in a way that makes it discoverable.
- Fitting the game back into the box is an adventure. The tiles are a bit too wide to fit in their designated spot, so it means that one of the exactly-as-many-as-needed card slots should have some tiles in it, meaning that you should double up on at least one set. Additionally, the rulebook is a rectangle with sharp corners, whereas the tin has rounded corners, so the rulebook needs to go under the board, lest you crimp the corners when you put the lid on. Getting the game back together is half the fun!
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, Sushi Go Party! is a great little drafting game. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s my favorite game in my collection, but I’d happily point to it as one of the more important games in my collection. It’s a great game to take with me to a game night or to use to introduce a friend to modern gaming, and it expands to a high-enough player count to accommodate most situations. It’s also super welcoming! It’s fun, bright, colorful, interactive, engaging, and just neat. It’s my primary go-to for teaching drafting to newer gamers (as opposed to 7 Wonders or Sagrada, though those are both solid drafting games), especially because it plays quickly enough that if they latch on to the mechanic I’ve got more games that I can show them that use the same thing. It’s never a bad idea to have games like that in your collection, and if you’re looking for a really nice, pleasant drafting game that’s fun from 2 – 8, I’d highly recommend checking out Sushi Go Party!