Sushi Roll is a brand new dice based drafting game, published by Gamewright as part of the Sushi Go! franchise. Designed by Phil Walker-Harding, featuring artwork from Nan Rangsima, the game sees 2 – 5 players claiming sushi treats – with the food traveling round on a conveyor belt. Be it gaining wasabi to make nigiri better or going for sets of tempura, this time the food is on dice not card. However, is it a worthy game of the series? Let’s find out!
Setup is short and simple, with little bits done between each round. At the start of the game each player takes a player board and a random conveyor belt piece from the box. One player must take the red outlined belt, indicating they are the first player for the first round. Everyone gains 2 chopsticks and 3 menus, before drawing a number of dice from the bag – the amount determined by the player count. Rolling their dice and putting them on the conveyor belt piece in front of them is the final setup step for each player.
Each round players will move one of the dice from the conveyor belt in front of them onto their plate – the top of their player board. Starting with the first player, each player will take their turn. Before taking a die the player can discard a menu token to reroll as many of their conveyor belt dice as they wish. Chopsticks can also be used at this point to swap a die on their conveyor belt with one on someone else’s. Note, it is not possible to swap or remove a die from anyone’s plate, only their conveyor belt. Once they have locked in the die they want play moves onto the next player clockwise around the table.
Once everyone has taken a die it is time to slide on the conveyor belt, clockwise around the table. This sees the dice available to you and the starting player of the round change. The process of taking a dice then passing the rest on continue until all the dice are claimed. At this point points are determined. Each type of sushi scores slightly differently, though the method is similar per dice type.
The normal scoring dice are white, red and blue. The white dice have nigiri which score straight points, ranging from 1 – 3 points. The red dice have 1 – 3 maki symbols on their sides, with 6 points awarded to whomever has the most on their plate – and 3 points to second place. The blue dice have three different types of sushi that all score in sets – with more points awarded for the more you collect.
Rather than scoring points the green dice are more of a utility. Green dice can show wasabi (which triples the points of the next claimed white dice), extra menus or chopsticks. This is the only way to gain extra menu or chopsticks tokens. The last dice is pink and only features puddings, which do score points. However, unlike the rest of the dice these are only awarded at the end of the game. Whomever has the most puddings gaining 6 points and whomever has the least losing 6 points. Once points and pudding tokens have been claimed accordingly all the dice are put back in the bag. Round 2 and 3 play out the same way, with dice once again being pulled from the bag in setup.
Sushi Roll is a quick and easy game to get to the table, in part due to how well laid out the rulebook is but also the simplicity of the gameplay. The amount of symbols does daunt a few, there are 11 different things on the dice – ignoring when symbols are repeated. Thankfully, within a few turns this is completely gone even for those whom rarely play games. The core gameplay, the choices of what to take, is very similar to Sushi Go! Therefore, if someone has played that there aren’t many rules that need explaining past rerolling or swapping.
While the rules are simple, there has clearly been a decent amount of playtesting. Little rules can sometimes make a game more pleasant. For a three player game, the game has a small additional caveat between rounds. Players must pass the conveyor belts clockwise 1 step before the new round begins. This is done for fairness, as otherwise the same player starts every round. It isn’t groundbreaking but it’s nice that it has been thought of.
The happy and cute faces that were present in Sushi Go! are back and Sushi Roll is better because of them. They add an additional element of childish fun to rolling the dice. This also serves to disarm the worry of new players looking at the amount of dice – with players often commenting quite how awesome the dice are straight off the bat. The tokens that are used for scoring, menus, etc. could be a bit thicker. Nevertheless they are robust. They just seem thin next to the player boards/conveyor belts. The way players get to push the conveyor belts laden with dice around the table is a nice sushi restaurant touch. It also gets around the problem of passing dice on in any other way that could see them accidentally rerolled.
Sushi Roll suffers in the same way that the original game does, when compared to Sushi Go! Party! While some will like the simplicity, you can get the game out and play instantly, there isn’t the built in opportunity for variety. Party! opened up the ability for different cards to be shuffled in and others shuffled out, so each game could be slightly different. It certainly added to the setup of the game but it gave it a longevity via the freshness of each game, something that Sushi Roll will lack long term.
Sushi Roll might not be 100% perfect. Over time the excitement of the game may wear off and with no ability to shake things up it may not bounce back. However, many gamers still love the original Sushi Go! and this should have the same problem. Sushi Roll is an awesome translation of a card drafting game into dice form. There is the fun of rolling dice that welcomes anyone in, the options available to players when drafting is just the right amount and the theme certainly helps to draw players in. While it doesn’t eclipse Sushi Go! Party! it has certainly provided enough entertainment to earn its gaming shelf space next to it’s card drafting sibling.
[Editor’s Note: Sushi Roll was provided to us by Coiledspring Games for the review.]