You ready for another serving of sushi? This time, in dice form! Sushi Roll is the dice adaptation of the hit game Sushi Go and the third entry in the series. But with the first game being such a gem and its follow-up Sushi Go Party improving things with more cards and support for more players, is there anything meaningful that dice could add to the mix?
As with the other games in the series, Sushi Roll is a drafting game where players score points by adding sushi to their trays. Starting with the set in front of them, players will take a die to add to their collection before passing their conveyer belt to the left. Play continues like this until there are no dice left. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.
Items score points in different ways. Nigiri have set point values, but they can be tripled when paired with wasabi. Having the most maki will net you points, but ranking anything lower than 2nd in maki nets you zero points. Getting multiple appetizers can net you big points, but its not always possible to get the ones you need when you need them. Having the most puddings will earn you six points at the end of the game, but having the least puddings of the bunch will cause you to lose points.
Turn-by-turn, you’re weighing all of these factors as you consider which die to pick. Even if the mechanics are straightforward, the choices you make are interesting almost every turn while having the potential to shift the balance of power. The further each round goes, the fewer options you have, making it imperative that you grab what you think are the right ones each time. This is essentially the same appeal of the original and Sushi Go Party.
What makes the experience unique are the dice themselves. Dice are fun to roll and you roll them a lot in this game. As the conveyer belt moves sushi from player-to-player, the sushi dice are re-rolled during each stop. It makes the experience a bit more random than the card game, but it wasn’t really feasible to project exactly what sushi you were getting as the cards cycled around anyway.
Hands may change, but you have the option to modify them to your benefit. Cashing in menu tokens allows you to reroll any number of dice in your hand one time. Though it doesn’t always work out, it gives you a shot at landing those exact items you need. I personally always reroll for sashimi, which have the highest scoring potential but are worthless if you only have one. You can also use chopsticks to swap a die on your conveyer belt with one from another belt. Having this extra bit of control helps to mitigate a bit of the randomness while giving you a few more strategic options.
The shift to the dice format has its benefits, but also some setbacks. With all of the rolling and re-rolling that happens, the overall pace of play is a bit slower than the card game versions. Furthermore, turns are played one-at-a-time vs. simultaneously, adding more time to each game. The overall length of a game plays out in roughly 20-30 minutes, which isn’t bad for this style of game. But the card-based versions can easily run in less than half the time.
As a consolation of sorts, Sushi Roll works much better as a two-player experience than the original. The card game requires you to play with a third dummy player, which adds extra management and randomness that isn’t fun for anyone. Sushi Roll modifies scoring just a touch, without compromising the way its played. Having been disappointed in the game’s lack of worthwhile two-player support in the past, a good two-player version of Sushi Roll is arguably enough for some to make this their preferred version.
At its best, Sushi Roll largely scratches the same itch as its predecessors, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s still a light strategy game that is easy to teach anyone while still giving players compelling choices at every turn. But what it gains in the joy of rolling dice and a worthwhile two-player mode comes at the cost of an overall slower pace of play. Considering how quickly the original game could be played – especially with those who have even a little bit of experience with it – I would prefer to play the card variations and gain the same satisfaction in a shorter period of time. Sushi Roll is still a really good game overall, but its use cases for being chosen over Sushi Go or Sushi Go Party may be slim.
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