I am going to assume you are already familiar with how to play. If you are expecting a review or instructions, skip it and just buy the game it’s super fun and I guarantee you will enjoy it. Now, let’s get into the deep end.
During every round of Sushi Go you have a limited number of picks. Only 8 per round in a 4 player game for example. It is important that you always consider how many points you are potentially getting per pick. I say potentially because often times you are only drafting an opportunity for points, in the case of Maki, Sashimi, Tempura … pretty much anything but Nigiri. Sashimi, for example, is worth 3.33 points per pick, with the risk of totally failing and getting you 0. Needless to say, you should try to stay risk-averse unless you have confidence you will be able to complete the combo.
Before analyzing all of the cards let’s take a look at the card count.
We have 108 cards total. This is important for expecting a certain distributions of cards in fresh packs. This data tells us that 14/108 cards are sashimi. That is slightly more than 1 out of 10 cards. Basically you are slightly lucky to even get 3 sashimi in your pool, so draft carefully.
Anyway, let’s get back to points per card and evaluate each pick. I will use the abbreviation PPC for point-per-card. After the general evaluation I am going to evaluate the first pick potential. After the first pick the answer to everything becomes “in depends” and it is impossible to evaluate. First pick is clean and easy.
PPC – 1/2/3 (+Wasabi – 1.5/3/4.5)
The single egg nigiri is worth a pathetic single point. It is only worth picking over items that give you 0 points and often not even then if doing so will block an opponent from completing a sashimi/tempura combo. Salmon and squid nigiri, on the other hand, are both excellent value. They deliver a good point value without having to worry about hitting a combo; when combined with a wasabi they generate some excellent scores.
First Pick – Squid Nigiri is an excellent first pick. It offers a stronger ppc than tempura (2.5) and nearly as strong as sashimi (3.33). Egg nigiri is obviously terrible. Salmon is probably not good enough to first pick although I can fabricate some fringe hands which would make picking salmon right. For example sashimi, egg nigiri, sashimi, 1maki, pudding, 2maki, salmon, salmon.
PPC – 2.5
Tempura is a pretty decent pick. It appears weaker than sashimi, and it is point wise, but it’s consistency actually makes it a stronger pick. You can frequently manage to grab back to back tempura without giving opponents an opportunity to block you.
First Pick – Rarely. It just isn’t worth enough points to justify taking over wasabi, chopsticks, 3Maki or squid nigiri. However if none of those are in your pack, this is probably your pick.
PPC – 3.333
It’s a trap! Sashimi is very tantalizing, especially if you open a pack with 2 right in it. The problem with sashimi is how easy it is for other players to block you from getting the third one. It only costs an opponent a single dead card to create a pair of dead cards for you. A profitable block, especially deeper in the pack when good picks are thinning out. On top of that, there is a reasonable chance 3 sashimi aren’t even in the pool and you are drawing dead. I would recommend simply avoiding this and taking the easy points.
First Pick – Rarely. I want to say never, however sometimes it’s a fair gamble, especially on pack three if you are already satisfied with your pudding count. Opponents will often prioritize puddings on round three to get out of the danger zone letting you sneak sashimi. However there are massive risks of players simply blocking you out and of course the full trifecta not existing in the pool.
PPC – 3 at best
Dumplings are also a bit of a trap, but unlike sashimi, they always score something. The massive dumpling combo might seem enticing until you realize that even at max combo they are only worth 3 per pick and anything lower than the max is pretty lackluster. You shouldn’t even attempt dumplings unless you are confident you can get four. They appear at the same frequency as sashimi, except they are worth less points. Keep in mind that 6 dumplings is actually worth the same as 5 dumplings. Once your combo is complete all additional dumplings are worthless.
First Pick: Almost never. The only time I would consider first picking a dumpling is if the pack contains 3 or more. That way you can take 1, and be certain at least 1 more will come around. In the mean time you can sneak 1-2 more dumpling picks and catch your opponents unaware. By the time your first pack comes around opponents probably won’t be able to block you. Of course this gambit depends on 5+ dumplings existing in the pool.
PPC – 6 at best
Maki are the opposite of dumplings. Meaning the more you have the less points each one is worth. A single maki, if it wins the high, is worth a whopping 6 points and it’s actually possible! However each maki you draft after the first reduces your value per card. That being said, grabbing a 3-maki is an excellent investment because in most pools it will be enough to at least get you 3 points either from taking 2nd place, or grabbing another later-pick maki for 1st place.
First Pick: Sometimes. Showing a 3maki early is often enough to demoralize/frighten your opponents from investing. A maki count of 5-6 is often enough to secure first place unless someone invests considerable cards. If that is the case, keep in mind how much value each maki will bring you compared to other cards. You do not want to take 3+ picks just to get second place on Maki count if you could have taken stronger picks. Even taking 1st place on maki might not be worth it if you blow through a bunch of picks.
PPC – 6 at best
Pudding is probably the hardest card to evaluate. Pudding cards go up in value as the drafting rounds progress and your future possibilities are reduced. But so does demand for pudding. Generally speaking you should take any card worth 2.5+ over a pudding in hopes that another pudding will appear in the future, letting you make a more profitable pick. However everyone else will be targeting the desert with more ferocity on later picks (just like you are). Sometimes it’s smart to front load your pudding count in pack one when people tend to let it float around so you can avoid the melee on later packs and score some strong cards.
First pick: Sometimes. There are many dependencies on when to take pudding. I would say never first pick pudding in pack one. In packs 2 or 3 you should first pick pudding if it is going to put you into first, or get you out of last. In pack 3 you need to make a choice. You are either going to fight for pudding or not. If the answer is yes, then first pick the pudding and draft each one you see.
PPC 4.5 or 3
Obviously the goal with wasabi is to pair it with a squid nigiri for a whopping 9 points. That is the best value in the entire game, barring the miracle single-maki 6 pointer. Even the fallback plan of salmon nigiri gives you a respectable 6 points; better than a tempura combo. However, the strength of wasabi tapers off quickly. After the third pick it usually becomes egg nigiri fodder… Or worse.
First Pick: Always. The chance that you will score a squid or salmon in the next two picks is good enough that this is the best first pick in Sushi Go. You might need to show some discretion if you are playing with strong enough players to first pick squid nigiri, since they might cut you out of it right away. But even then, you should be able to snag a salmon which is fine.
PPC – 3-6
Like wasabi, the sticks are very strong early and taper off in value quickly. I think it’s fair to say that chopsticks are worth about 6 points as a pick if you take them early because of the combo potential the offer you.
First Pick: Always. If you take them first the chances that you can grab a solid combo like 2x tempura, combo-wasabi, double maki or even double sashimi is very high.
Dead Last Picks
Often this is unavoidable since so many picks can be dead. However you can do something to extract maximum value by planning ahead. For example in a 3-player game, once you get passed a 4-card pack, you need to realize that 1 of those cards is going to be your last pick. Let’s say the last four cards are:
chopsticks, salmon nigiri, 1maki and egg nigiri
Assuming the maki is irrelevant, taking the salmon might seem like a no-brainer, but that pretty much ensures that your last pick is going to be chopsticks. If you take the chopsticks instead your last pick is probably going to be maki, or maybe the egg nigiri if another players finds the maki useful. In the mean time you can probably still get some minimal value from the chopsticks in the next pack. Just something to keep in mind. When you get a pack that is (numbers of players + 1) one of those cards is going to be your last pick. Plan around that.
Memorize the Packs
The most fundamental drafting skill is to remember what you have already seen. You have 100% information after you have seen all of the packs. Have you ever said “I hope there is a 3rd sashimi” after you have seen every pack at least once? If you have, you have some practicing to do. It’s easy to just take what you need from a pack and pass it. But if you want to get better at this game (or any drafting game) you need to try to store as much pack information as possible. Obviously you can play Sushi Go and never memorize the packs, but this is about winning right?
There are only 10 puddings in the entire deck. In a standard 4-player game your group will draft 96 cards, thats 88% of all the cards. That means statistically, you should see 9 puddings total in a 4-player game. Because the pudding stay in play throughout the rounds, you can get a pretty good feel for what to expect. For example if one 1-2 puddings end up out after the first drafting rounds, the pudding concentration is going to be higher than usual in packs 2 & 3. This information is slightly less useful in a 3-player game since only 81 cards are seen, but still relevant.
Don’t Over Eat Maki
Remember you only need enough maki to be first or second. You cannot be MORE first. I often see people taking 1maki over other cards to “secure the lead” when they already have 7 and no one else has more than 3. If you are leading the maki race you need to be diligent about keeping track of how many maki exist in the pool. You probably already first-picked the 3maki right? Do you know how many maki you passed? After you have seen every pack you have 100% knowledge of how much maki exists. Taking other peoples picks into consideration, you should be able to deduce exactly how much you need to stay in first. Do that. Do not just start taking all the maki to make sure.
Wasabi or Chopsticks!?
I realize I said “Always” first pick both of these items. But what if your pack has one of each? Well wasabi is more powerful because it will usually score you 6 or 9 points. However there is a chance it will miss the good stuff and only catch an egg for 3. Chopsticks on the other hand will get you a more modest 5-6 points, but they will never give you 0. It is probably a matter of style. They are both excellent picks.
Understanding Deltas (Know the Score)
A score delta is the difference between two scores. Reducing or increasing a delta (depending on which side you are on) is just as good as gaining points. For example if you have the option to take a squid nigiri for 3 points, or hate-draft a single sashimi for 0 points to block the player to your right from making the sashimi combo you need to consider the delta. If you take the nigiri you gain 3, and he will gain 10. The delta between your scores is 7 (you might call this -7 since you are losing). Now what if you took the sashimi for 0 points, and your opponent takes the nigiri for 3? Well now he is only +3 points on you. A much better outcome for you.
But before you get all excited about your epic block, you need to make sure it helps you! That is where knowing the score comes in. You can’t just play deltas in a 3+ player game because crushing player A might put you behind player B. In the above example if you were in 2nd place, and the player to your right was in 3rd place and your delta with him was already +15 then letting him have the sashimi while getting a +3 with the player in 1st is the better play. Or, if you are in last place (which you shouldn’t be if you read this guide) then you probably shouldn’t worry about deltas very much at all and just try to draft maximum points. The whole delta thing gets really complex when you are trying to figure out pudding… What a headache.
The point is, you need to know the score. You need to know what position you are in relative to your opponents. That information will tell you if you should draft for points, or draft to block your opponents.
Just because all the Sushi images have silly smiley faces on them doesn’t mean this is an easy game. Drafting rewards analysis and there is less luck involved than most people think. Let me know if this guide has helped you, and certainly let me know if you have some tips of your own!