Sushi Go! is one of the simplest drafting games.
There are 2 major forms of drafting: simultaneous hidden drafting and sequential open drafting. Sushi Go! uses simultaneous hidden drafting.
Simultaneous Hidden Drafting
In this form of drafting, every player starts with an equal number of hidden resources, usually cards. Each player simultaneously picks a resource (keeping it hidden) and then passes the remaining resources to the player on their left (sometimes right). This then continues until there are no resources remaining to pass.
For example, in a 4 player Sushi Go! game each player starts with 8 cards. Everyone picks a card and passes the remaining 7 to the player on their left. Then everyone picks a card from the 7 passed to them, followed by the remaining 6 cards being passed, etc.
Simultaneous hidden drafting is also used in Epic’s cube draft and dark draft formats, Magic: The Gathering’s 8 player draft, Medieval Academy, Seasons, and 7 Wonders.
Sequential Open Drafting (Not used in Sushi Go!)
This form of drafting is not used in Sushi Go!. Sequential open drafting involves a set of resources available to all players. Players then take turns selecting resources. This is usually done by “snaking” between the players. For example, in a 4 player game with Adam, Becky, Carl, and Diana the order could go like this:
Adam picks 1st
Becky picks 2nd
Carl picks 3rd
Diana picks 4th
Diana picks 5th
Carl picks 6th
Becky picks 7th
Adam picks 8th
Adam picks 9th
Some other games that use Sequential open drafting include Epic open draft format, Catan (opening settlement placement), Smash Up (official faction selection), and Heroscape (unit selection).
How to Play
The goal of the game is to score the most points over 3 rounds of drafting.
Sushi Go! uses Simultaneous Hidden Drafting, described above, for each round.
For a 2 player game, 10 cards are dealt to each player.
For a 3 player game, 9 cards are dealt to each player.
For a 4 player game, 8 cards are dealt to each player.
For a 5 player game, 7 cards are dealt to each player.
Since this is Simultaneous Hidden Drafting, each player simultaneously picks a card from their hand, and then all players reveal their chosen card at the same time. Afterwards, the remaining cards from each players’ hand are passed to the player on their left. The round completes after the last card of hand is picked.
After the 3rd round, the player with the most points wins.
Nigiri (Egg, Salmon, and Squid)
Nigri is worth a set number of points at the end of the round. Egg Nigiri is worth 1. Salmon Nigiri is worth 2. Squid Nigiri is worth 3.
Wasabi triples the value of the next Nigiri card you draft. So, say you draft a Wasabi card on turn 1. Then, on turn 3 you draft your first Nigiri card, a Squid Nigiri. That Squid Nigiri goes on top of your Wasabi and those cards together are worth 9 points total. You may not use multiple Wasabi cards on a single Nigiri card, and you may not use a single Wasabi card with multiple Nigiri cards.
Tempura and Sashimi
Both Tempura and Sashimi require a set of cards to be worth any points. A set of 2 Tempura is worth 5 points. A set of 3 Sashimi is worth 10 points. If you do not have a full set, you score no points from those cards. If you have 2 complete sets, you score full points for both. So, say you have 5 Tempura and 2 Sashimi. You have 2 complete sets of Tempura so you score 10 points from Tempura. You do not have a complete set of Sashimi so you score 0 points from Sashimi.
The more Dumplings you have, the more points you score per Dumpling. If you have 1 Dumpling, your Dumplings are worth 1 point (1 point per Dumpling). If you have 5 or more Dumplings, you Dumplings are worth 15 points (3 points per Dumpling).
Maki Roll cards have 1, 2, or 3 Maki Rolls on them. They are depicted at the top of the card. At the end of the round, the player with the most Maki Rolls scores 6 points. The player with the second most scores 3 points.
If players tie for the most Maki Rolls, the points are split between those tied players. In that situation, no second place points are awarded. If players tie for the 2nd most Maki Rolls, the points are split between those tied players. In both cases, ignore any leftover points after evenly splitting the points.
Puddings are the only cards that carry over after each round (the rest are discarded). At the end of the 3rd round, the player with the most puddings scores 6 points. The player with the least puddings loses 6 points. Points are evenly split for ties.
Chopsticks let you take 2 cards instead of 1 when drafting. If you have a drafted Chopsticks card in front of you, after everyone (including you) has picked their card, you say “Sushi Go!,” and you replace your chopsticks card with another card from that hand.
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: I love drafting. Sushi Go! is an excellent game for introducing people to drafting. The art is adorable which can attract people, it’s quick, and the drafting strategy isn’t too complex.
In general, the idea of drafting can be bit tricky to get your head around initially. This is because most of the interesting aspects of it are emergent and not directly explained in the rules. When drafting, you want to look at not only what will be the best card for you right now, but based on the other cards in the current and previous hands, what are you likely to get back later in the game. (Since, in a 4 or less player game, you will see each starting hand at least twice).
In addition, once people start taking cards, you can deduce whether you can finish Tempura or Sashimi sets, or if you need to prevent another player from getting all the Dumplings, etc. So, in other words, a large portion of a drafting game’s potential relies on reading your opponents and paying attention to what is happening around you. Although, with this game you can still have fun just working toward your own goals and enjoying the art/theme.
The game I largely want to compare this to is Medieval Academy. (Click here for my review of Medieval Academy.) I think Sushi Go! is a bit simpler, it gives a better feel for drafting with the larger starting hand sizes, and the theme can be a bit more accessible. However, I prefer Medieval Academy. I prefer playing it, and it is the game I use when introducing new players to drafting. Medieval Academy adds on a spatial racing type game-mechanism, and I feel like it can be a bit more engaging. Sushi Go! is strictly drafting. A strictly drafting game is good for teaching the mechanism, but I just don’t feel like there is enough to keep me interested. On the positive side, Sushi Go! is quicker and requires less setup than Medieval Academy.
Overall, if you are looking for a game to teach new players drafting, I would personally recommend Medieval Academy over Sushi Go!. If, however, you want a smaller, quick to play, strictly drafting game, Sushi Go! does work for that purpose. Sushi Go! is a nice game to start or wrap up a gaming session. It’s easy to break out and play since you can carry it in your pocket and you just need a little table space. But, it isn’t a game I would specifically get people together to play.