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Sashimi – Sushi Go [Game Changer]

Sushi Go is a beloved game in the world of tabletop entertainment, and rightly so. Designed by Phil Walker-Harding, Sushi Go is one of those rare games that takes one mechanic and masters it beyond belief. That mechanic, for Sushi Go is hand drafting, as it has become one of the most played hand drafting card games of the past 10 years.

One of the most accessible hand card games on the market, Sushi Go positions players around the conveyor belt at a sushi restaurant. Over the course of three rounds, players must create the best meal – piecing together maki rolls, tempura prawns, nigiri, sashimi, and puddings into a collage of points. Additional elements such as chopsticks and wasabi add options when it comes to strategy – making Sushi Go a fantastic addition to the tabletop market, especially for those who want something small and easy to learn.

In the past, on this blog, we have looked relatively closely at the scoring profiles of the various different dishes in the game and how to get the highest amount of points (if you really want to play the system). Today, however, we are going to look very closely at one of those cards/meal elements in particular – Sashimi – and how it plays. This is because Sashimi can be a game changer – not just for you if you collect them, but for everyone else around the table.

Sashimi in Sushi Go

Okay, so this may seem like a bit of a bizarre subject for an article, and in many ways it is; however, Sashimi deserves some attention.

You see, in Sushi Go there are a few ways of scoring points quite quickly. You can play the Wasabi game, or focus on Squid Nigiri. That being said, Sashimi remains, to this day, one of the most efficient ways of scoring large numbers of points with relatively few cards. This raises Sashimi’s profile around the table, and it is that raised profile that ultimately means that Sashimi can encourage a whole flurry of strategic decision changes for all players.

So, how do you get points with Sashimi in Sushi Go? Well, the goal is to collect three Sashimi in order to score 10 points in total. That being said, if you only get one or two Sashimi, you get no points for your effort. This can lead to a handful of tabletop tension as you search the hand you are given for the cards that you need.

Getting three Sashimi cards in Sushi Go and Sushi Go Party is, at least in our experience, an extremely difficult task due to a meta-game that has formed around the card. The moment one player picks up one or two Sashimi, the player to their left or right (whoever is handing them the cards) feels the need to block that Sashimi collection from happening.

In order to block the collection of Sashimi, the only effective methodology is to collect the Sashimi yourself, preempting the player you will be passing your hand to from having the opportunity to collect it. This creates an interesting dynamic because, if you start collecting Sashimi to stop the player next to you, then you really need to collect three Sashimi to make it worth your while. If you don’t then you could end up with one or two dud cards in your meal which you won’t get points for. In Sushi Go you want to maximise your scoring each meal, and you don’t do that with dud cards.

The Sashimi Gamble

So, this leads to the Sashimi gamble.

Do you collect Sashimi to stop the player to your left (or right, depending on the round) from gathering Sashimi and potentially 10pts, knowing that you may not be able to gather 10pts worth of Sashimi yourself? Or, do you focus on collecting other cards, and let the player to your left potentially score?

As a gaming group, we’ve played a lot of Sushi Go and Sushi Go Party over the years and Sashimi has always played a major role. Over the past five years of so, we have even see players block players, who in themselves get blocked by other players, all due to Sashimi. It is because of Sashimi, and constantly being blocked that I would always put my money on Nigiri any day.

And thus we have the meta-game. It is possible for one Sashimi to now feel like a waste, and so you decide to go for a different strategy all together. Sashimi is mind boggling.

The Numbers Behind Sashimi

Believe it or not, and it certainly doesn’t feel thus way, but Sashimi are one of the most frequent cards in the game. There are 108 cards in a standard Sushi Go deck, with 14 being Sashimi. Likewise there are also 14 Tempura and 14 Dumplings as well, with lower numbers of the other types of cards. In a game of Sushi Go the maximum number of cards played with will be 105 in a five player game. Some of those will get discarded, but you should see 105 cards go around the table throughout the course of the three rounds.

Assuming that those 105 cards include all 14 Sashimi cards, this means that (in a perfectly average world) you are likely to see 4.67 (or 5) Sashimi each round.

Seeing five Sashimi in perfectly average round means that if you choose to block another player after they pick one up, then there may only be three additional cards out there for you to collect (on average and assuming you have already taken one card to try and block the player). You will need two out of three of those cards to win – a task that is not easy in a five player game.

The Ultimate Sashimi

The ultimate truth to Sashimi is that, although filled with tasty points, those points are not easy to get. Sashimi can be a real slog to try and monopolise on, and if you do decide to go for the Sashimi points then there is a high chance the player passing to you will try to block you. The player trying to pass to them may then even try to stop them in a Sashimi heavy round, and in such a round the player passing to them may even try to stop them. It can be a brutal game.

Sashimi is fun, but there is no other card in Sushi Go that has quite the same potential for helping to determine a mid-game strategy change for so many players. It is for this reason that Sashimi earns a place amongst the world of game changers.

So, what are your thoughts? So you like to try and go for Sashimi, or do you have a different preferred strategy for Sushi Go? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Other Game Changers:
Recover the Magisters Orb (Lords of Waterdeep)
Dragon (Onimata)
Monopoly (Catan)
Second Chance (Star Wars: Destiny)
Pan (Santorini)

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