Card Drafting Made Easy with Sushi-Go!

I love card drafting games.  I started with Magic the Gathering drafts, and later played 7 Wonders.  Drafting MTG can be intimidating because you must understand how to play MTG, how to build decks, and do it in a limited amount of time.  7 Wonders is simpler, but its symbol heavy cards and resource management rules can still be very intimidating to new players.  Sushi-Go is a much easier card drafting game to learn and play.  In this post, I’d like to take a closer look at how Sushi-Go takes these more complicated games and streamlines them into something more accessible.

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You may be wondering what a drafting game is.  In these types of games, you will be offered a set of cards, then you will take one.  The pool of cards is usually shared by all players. Removing a card from that pool removes an option for the other players.  Some card drafting games may have all options laid out before all players, other break them up into hands that each player holds.  Games like 7 Wonders and Sushi Go have each player reveal the card they chose each round, while in a Magic draft your selections are kept secret.

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What can make card drafting games difficult to play is the evaluation process.  Knowing what cards to take, when to take them, and what cards they synergize with can take multiple plays of a game to totally understand.   This evaluation process can be even more difficult if you are also focusing on making sense of the rules.

Now that we’ve given a rough explanation of card drafting games and the barrier to entry for them, let’s look at 3 points I believe that make Sushi-Go a great entry point.

  1. Simple Rules

Pick a card, pass the hand. No restrictions on what card you can take each round. Decisions are simple, your options are limited by the cards you have in hand.  The chopsticks card can complicate this process, but you could always just pass it.

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  1. Clarity

Cards effects are very simple and easy to understand. Each type of sushi has a different way of scoring: like score 5 points for every set of 2 tempura you own.  Other scoring mechanisms are things like dumplings scoring as a group, and the person with the most Maki rolls at the table scoring 6. None of these are very difficult to understand or add up.  Scoring effects are also printed along the bottom of every card making referencing them easy.

  1. Graphic Design

The icon for tempura cards is 2 pieces of tempura shrimp. Implying through the artwork the importance of having 2.  Using the artwork as a reminder for mechanics is sprinkled throughout the rest of the game too.  A small version of the artwork is present in the top right, for fanning cards in your hand.  It’s also displayed larger in the center of the card, making it easy for other players to see cards from across the table.

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Through these 3 aspects allow Sushi Go to be a very focused game.  Pick a card, put it into play, pass the hand. There isn’t much rules baggage to unpack.  New players can very quickly enter the game and focus entirely on the card drafting gameplay.  Card effects are not difficult to understand, so players will quickly learn how to evaluate certain cards.

Sushi Go’s simplicity comes at the cost of gameplay variety and depth of strategies.  Players will probably explore most of the different strategies after a few plays.  If you are looking for something more varied Sushi Go Party has the same rules, but adds a ton of new cards.  Which one to get depends on how much you want to spend. SGP is almost strictly better than the original due to additional variety, but it costs more.

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For more in-depth strategies you will want to move on to 7 Wonders.  It features a more complex rule system that allows for more dynamic and diverse paths to victory.  7 Wonders mostly suffers from a high barrier to entry.  Card effects are mostly explained through symbols, and often requires referencing on a rulebook.  New players to the game are often more focused on learning its language than they are on drafting.  For this reason, I recommend starting with Sushi Go (or Party) to lower the barrier.

The low monetary, time, and effort cost of this game makes it an easy recommendation.  Use it as a gateway game, give it as a gift.  Pick it up, learn the joys of card drafting, then share that joy with others.

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