I’d bet my last dumpling: you’ve heard of Sushi Go!, right? Of course you have. It’s a super-popular, super-cute card-drafting game about collecting sets of sushi. Sushi Go! (yes, it has an ‘!’) is one of the best gateway games for the card-drafting genre. Well amazing news, sushi-lovers! Sushi Roll is another excellent game set in the sushi universe!
Sushi Roll is also by gateway guru Phil Walker-Harding and published by Gamewright. It takes the similar winning formula of Sushi Go!, but this time you’re not drafting cards. In Sushi Roll, 2-5 players draft dice. Roll retains the same flavour as Go!, but there’s some fascinating differences. So pull up a seat at the conveyor belt and get your chopsticks ready. It’s time to learn how to play Sushi Roll!
First Things First: How Do I Win?
The aim of Sushi Roll is to pick dice in a set collection, draft-and-pass manner. These aren’t standard D6 dice with numbers on the faces. These are custom dice, with cute, anthropomorphic sushi on the faces! There’s five different types of dice, and on each type sit a variety of sushi. Different types of sushi score in different ways. Everybody scores their dice at the end of the round. The games has three rounds, all in an identical format. At the end, the player with the most points gets crowded the sushi supremo!
The key to winning comes in understanding how to collect sets of sushi. There’s elements of push-your-luck involved, and calculating the odds. Because hey… the dice gods giveth, and they taketh away. Lucky for you, there’s ways to mitigate stale dice rolls in the form of Menus and Chopsticks. But let’s not jump into the main course! Every rules teach needs a starter, and board game starters come in the form of setting up the game…
Set-Up: Take Your Seat At The Conveyor Belt
Sushi Roll has a swift set-up. Give each player a large player mat (their ‘Tray’), and their own Conveyor Belt tile. One of the five Conveyor Belt tiles has a red border. This acts as the First Player Marker, and indicates that this player is the Start Player. Make sure to always include this red-bordered Conveyor Belt, regardless of player count.
Place the four different kinds of tokens in piles to one side, within arm’s reach. The four kinds of tokens are Chopsticks, Menus, Puddings, and Victory Points (VPs).
The Tray has a bunch of icons on it, but don’t worry about those for now. I’ll explain those soon. Notice the bottom row, where on the left, it says: ‘START OF THE GAME’? Give each player two Chopsticks tokens, and three Menu tokens.
Sushi Roll comes with thirty wonderful, chunky custom dice. These come in five different colours, but again, don’t worry about them for now. Put them all into the included draw bag, and shake it like a polaroid picture. (Woah, I haven’t heard that song in a while!) Depending on your player count, each player takes a certain number of dice, at random from the bag.
- In a two-player game, players pick eight dice each.
- In a three-player game, players pick seven dice each.
- Then, in a four-player game, players pick six dice each.
- In a five-player game, players pick… Come on, I know you know, by now. That’s right: they pick five dice each.
You’ll pick a random assortment of dice, but there’s always going to be a few remaining in the bag. Put the draw-bag to one side for now – you’ll need it at the end of the round. That’s set-up sorted. Let’s move onto playing the game!
Structure of a round
The structure of a round in Sushi Roll is easy as one-su-shi! (Groan…) Let’s use a three-player game as an example for this guide. Each player’s picked seven dice from the bag. Everyone rolls their own dice, then places them onto their Conveyor Belt tile. In Sushi Go!, you have a personal, private hand of cards. In Sushi Roll your dice are public knowledge. In a three-player game, then, all twenty-one dice results sit in view.
The player with the red-bordered Conveyor Belt tile goes first. There’s a turn order to Sushi Roll, which is important. You can use this knowledge to help you decide what to draft, if later in turn order. The first player picks one of the seven dice that they want to keep. They remove it from their Conveyor Belt tile – like in a sushi restaurant! – and place it onto their Tray. There’s a red section at the top for you keep drafted dice.
Then, the next player clockwise does the same. They pick one of their seven dice, and add it to their tray, and then the third player has their turn. After this, everybody slides their Conveyor Belt tile over to the player to their left. (Thus, they receive a Conveyor Belt tile from the player on their right.)
Everybody now re-rolls their just-received set of six dice. They place their new dice outcome back onto their Conveyor Belt tile. The player with the red-bordered Conveyor Belt is now the new Start Player. They pick one of the dice on their Conveyor Belt tile to keep for themselves. Then play continues clockwise, as described above. Once everyone’s drafted their second dice, everybody passes their Conveyor Belts clockwise. Everyone re-rolls their (five) remaining dice. And play progresses…
Using this example, everyone ends up drafting seven dice. You have the potential to do some optional bonus actions on your turn, before you draft a dice. These involve the two Chopsticks and three Menu tokens players have at the start. But before I explain those, let’s run through what the dice themselves have to offer. What’s the difference between them? Why should you draft one set over another? How do they score?
If you look at your Tray, you’ll see five rows. These represent the five types of dice in Sushi Roll, and the quantity of die faces for each set of dice. Also stated on your Tray is how each of the dice score. Let’s take a look at them all in a bit more detail.
Most Maki Rolls? Sushi Goals
The maki roll dice are the red ones – they’re listed in the second row on your Tray. Of the 30 dice, six of them are maki rolls. Two die faces on a maki dice have a single maki roll on them. Two faces have two maki rolls. Two faces have three maki rolls – meaning there’s an even chance you could roll any of them! At the end of the round, the player with the highest sum of maki rolls – not maki dice – gets 6VP. The player with the second-most maki rolls gets 3VP. Ties are friendly in Sushi Roll – meaning that both players score the points in a tie-break.
The puddings are pink; they’re listed on the fifth row on your Tray. There’s four pudding dice. Puddings are like the maki rolls’ cousin. Among the six faces on a pudding die, two have one pudding on them; two have two puddings, and two have three. You don’t score puddings at the end of the round. Instead, you get pudding tokens equal to the faces on the dice you draft. At the end of the game – the end of round three – you score puddings. The player with the most puddings gets six points. The player with the least puddings loses six points. Again, ties are friendly. There could be multiple winners or multiple losers!
Appetisers – Why Eat One When You Could Have Three?
The appetisers are purple; they’re listed on the third row of your Tray. There’s ten appetisers. Appetisers come in three different types: dumplings, tempura, and sashimi. All work as set collection for acquiring three of a kind. The more you get, the more their VP value rises. Among the six faces on the appetiser dice, three of them are yellow dumplings. If you end the round with one dumpling, it scores you 2VP. Two dumplings scores 4VP. Three dumplings scores eight VP. If you’re fortunate enough to snag a fourth dumpling, this contribute towards a separate set on its own. It scores an extra 2VP.
Two of the six faces on the appetiser dice are orange tempura. If you end the round with one tempura, it scores you 1VP. Two tempura scores you 5VP. Three tempura scores 10VP. Like dumplings, if you collect a fourth tempura it counts towards a second set of tempura. It scores an extra 1VP, and so on.
One face among the six is the green sashimi. (Think of this like trying to roll a six on a regular six-sided die!) If you end the round with one sashimi, it scores you nothing! This makes collecting rare sashimi a double risk. But the rewards are great, too. End the round with two sashimi and it scores you 6VP. Three sashimi scores a colossal 13VP! Like the other appetisers, if you collect a fourth sashimi it counts towards a second set. This is unfortunate, because as you now know, a single sashimi scores an 0VP.
An Egg, Salmon, And Squid Nigiri Walk Into A Sushi Bar
The nigiri are white; they’re listed in the top row on your Tray. There’s five nigiri dice. Nigiri come in three different types: egg, salmon, and squid. These are straight-up VP – no set collection required. Among the six faces on a nigiri die, two are egg, three are salmon, and one is squid. Each egg nigiri is worth 1VP; each salmon nigiri is worth 2VP; and each squid nigiri is worth 3VP
Specials – The Ace In The Hole
The ‘Specials’ are teal/green; they’re listed in the fourth row on your Tray. There’s five Specials dice. They come in three varieties: wasabi, Menus, and Chopsticks. Among the six faces on a Specials die, there’s two for each – so an even chance of rolling any of them.
Wasabi score nothing on their own. But if you draft wasabi and then later in the round draft a nigiri, you can combine them. (I place the nigiri on top of the wasabi die to remind myself they’re a combo.) When you do this, the nigiri score gets tripled. Meaning, an egg nigiri placed on a wasabi then becomes 3VP, instead of a standard 1VP. Salmon goes from 2VP to 6VP. Rare squid nigiri goes from 3VP to a whopping 9VP! You can only place a single nigiri onto wasabi. Plus, if you draft the nigiri first, you cannot later add it to a drafted wasabi. You have to draft them in the specific order: wasabi first.
If you draft a Specials die with the Menus face, you don’t get any points. Instead, you receive two Menus tokens from the supply. Likewise, if you draft a Chopsticks die, you don’t get any points. Instead, you receive Chopsticks tokens. One Chopsticks face has one chopstick on it; the other has two. Why would you select Menus or Chopsticks, then?
Menus and Chopsticks: Mitigating Stale Die Rolls
I mentioned earlier that drafting a die on your turn is mandatory. But thanks to the Menus and the Chopsticks tokens, these grant you bonus actions, if you want to use them. On your turn you may spend a Menus token to re-roll any number of the dice on your Conveyor Belt. This could be as few as re-rolling a single dice, and keeping the others as they are. It could be re-rolling all your dice – or anything between the two. Still don’t get the outcome you wanted? You can always spend another Menu token to try again. But take note: once your tokens are gone, they’re gone. The only way to secure more of them is to draft a Specials die featuring a Menus face.
Chopsticks are the ace in the hole. On your turn, you can return a Chopsticks token to the supply and take any dice from an opponent’s Conveyor Belt tile. (Note: not a die they’ve drafted and now sitting on their Tray.) This is a super-handy way of securing the valuable or rare die face you need to net you the big bucks. Want to nab squid nigiri to place on your wasabi? Want to pinch that rare, delicious, third sashimi? Spend a Chopsticks token and grab it! You then remove any one die from your Conveyor Belt and, in essence, swap it for the die you selected.
This is a clever mechanism that has a significant weight, in particular with turn order. With some clever swapping, you can not only gain the die face you need right now. You also give a die type to the recipient for one of two reasons. One is that it’s of no use to them right now. Two sits shrouded in sneakiness. You can give someone a die type to someone knowing that it’s going to get passed clockwise at the end of the turn. Of course, all you guarantee is the die type, not its specific face.
Underestimate the power of Menus and Chopsticks at your peril. They grant you an irreplaceable amount of flexibility. Without them, you play the victim of fate, having to draft whatever dross you roll. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t spend the tokens. Don’t fret. For every two leftover Menus/Chopsticks tokens you have at the end of the game, you score an extra 1VP. Win-win!
Scoring At The End Of The Rounds
Now you know how all five types of dice score in Sushi Roll (or what they provide). Now you know why you might want to draft one set of dice over another. At the end of the round, players work out their score according the the dice they drafted. (Remember, you don’t score puddings until the end of round three, the end of the game.) Give players points tokens according to their score.
Then everyone places all their dice back into the draw-bag. You shake the bag up again, and everyone picks new dice, at random, like you did during set-up. The second round begins – the First Player is the person with the red-bordered Conveyor Belt. (Note: in a three-player game, you need to slide this First Player Marker on one space. This is to ensure that there’s a different Start Player at the beginning of each new round.)
After three rounds of regular scoring, you then work out the puddings. You also give each player an extra 1VP for every two Chopsticks/Menus tokens they have remaining at the end. The player with the most points takes a sen-sushi-nal victory! Got a tie-break? The player with the most puddings takes the win. A bit like in real life, then…