In Wasabi! players need to balance speed and style to complete the most well-executed and aesthetically-pleasing sushi menu. The players are competing sushi students trying to prove to their sensei that they are the most talented and worthy to take the mantle of master of your lineage.
Each player shares a pantry stocked full of tasty, exotic ingredients as well as a kitchen with the tools and techniques needed to perform to their fullest potential. They will navigate food shortages, wasabi spills and the talents and machinations of each other to complete recipes.
Don’t forget young grasshopper, that you have recipes of varying difficulty and length. It will not impress your sensei if you complete all the simple recipes or if you go only after the most difficult recipes and ignore the basics. You need to spread your talents out over all of them in order to win.
NOW COOK, YOU MAGNIFICENT MINDLESS AUTOMATONS! COOK!
- Designer: Josh Cappel and Adam Gertzbein
- Year Released: 2008
- Category: Food/Cooking, Family Games, Botulism and Ebola.
- Game Mechanic: Hand Management, Tile-Placement.
- Number of Players: 2-4
- Playing Time: 45 minutes
- Expansions: None
I usually don’t go into lengthy discussions of components. How many colored cubes can one describe? However, one of the best parts of Wasabi! are the components. They are delicious! The game board is drawn to look like a cross-hatched bamboo sushi mat where ingredient tiles, beautifully designed by Josh Cappel, are placed. Small bowls are provided for your green wasabi bonus cubes. These bowls are completely superfluous to the game-play but they make me feel so good! So good! Small menus also provide a blind for your recipes, tiles and cards. The only thing missing is the sake!
Completely amazing, and I am not sure if this was intentional, the menu blinds are just too small for all the components, amping up the stress just a bit as you shuffle and move pieces around for optimum coverage. Everything is thick, glossy and deceptively cute. One of my favorite moments was the delight I experienced when I learned the Wasabi card matched the cross-hatched sushi mat. Glorious!
How do I play?
- On your turn, you must place a tile on the board.
- On your turn, you may play a card in your possession.
- If possible, complete and score a recipe.
- Draw your hand up to three tiles.
The main board is set up. This is where players lay ingredient tiles. For 4 players, the board is 7 tile-slots x 6 tile-slots (6×6 for 3 players and a 5×6 for 2 players). During set-up each player will choose three ingredients from the pantry and pass it to the player to the left of them. This is your starting hand.
Then players chooses three recipes. At the start of the game, each player will have an empty wasabi bowl, a menu populated with three recipes, three ingredients and a set of 10 challenge tokens to score their completed recipes. These challenge tokens limit the amount of recipes each player can complete to four 2-length recipes, three 3-length recipes, two 4-length recipes, and one 5-length recipe.
It is very simple – place a tile on the board and then take a tile from the pantry. You may play a card in your possession. These cards will help you modify the layout of the board and are taken as rewards whenever a player completes a recipe. Players may only have two cards in their possession at any one time and may not choose the same type of card played on the current turn.
The a true culinary ninja, the cards allow you apply some special skills. The cards are:
- Chop ~ removes one ingredient from the board and places it back in the pantry.
- Spicy ~ allows you to play two ingredients on the board.
- Switch ~ allows you to switch any two adjacent ingredients tiles.
- Stack ~ allows you to, obviously, stack onto another tile on the board.
- Wasabi! ~ blocks and/or clears the ingredients from a 2×2 area of the board, remaining there until pulled by a player for completing a recipe.
Completing a recipe:
When a player places the final tile on a series of ingredient that match a recipe in their hand, they completed that recipe! Kanpai! Take a shot! Now they can place the recipe in front of them and place scoring token on it. If the series of ingredients is in the same order as one the recipe [see the picture for an example] then it is completed in style and the player gets some green wasabi bonus cubes in their little bowl. As an added bonus, for every completed recipe, the player chooses a card from the kitchen.
Players can only complete a recipe with a scoring token for that length. So if you complete a 2-length ingredient recipe but don’t have a 2-length scoring token, that recipe is not completed. It doesn’t get scored, and the recipe remains in your menu…forever!
I like what this does to the game-play. It isn’t an option to stock up on the easiest recipes and you also can’t just “go big” and pump out monster recipes. You need to be balanced and combo the simple recipes, and the resulting reward cards to complete the more difficult ones.
How do you win?
The game can end in an instant win for the player who uses all ten of their recipe scoring tokens. Otherwise, play continues until the entire board is filled and then all completed recipes and bonus wasabi cubes are scored.
What was the experience like?
My first experience was while waiting to play a game of Letter from Whitechapel. Since not everyone arrived yet, we figured Wasabi! would be the perfect filler…and it was. 3 hours later we were still playing and poor Saucy Jack was left completely alone for the night…not a victim in sight!
The four player game is delightfully intense. With the board constantly changing, it is extremely hard to keep a strategy. Instead you are formulating tactics for your next few turns hoping the board does not change too much. It feels as if the decision place increases exponentially. We loved it. Cute and chaotic, those tiles were flying around like knives at a Hibachi grill. The game-play does not exist in a vacuum. That awesome string of ingredients for your 5-length recipe? Yeah…STACK! Now it isn’t. Or the dreaded Wasabi card can clear out a whole section you were working on turns ago and return the ingredients into the pantry to be used by another player (I rather hope that isn’t a thematic element of the game…no more sushi bars for me!).
Part of it that made it work really well for a group of new players, is that the cut-throat aspect of the game is mitigated by it’s cuteness. By the end of the game the whole board is a colorful explosion of possibilities…mostly missed ones, but leaving room for more.
What did you [dis]like?
- Design, artwork and components are amazingly bright and colorful.
- Rules are simple and easy to teach.
- Game-play allows for an enjoyable depth of strategy.
- The double-sided English/German tiles and cards mean that I could use this in a German language classroom.
- If prone to Analysis Paralysis, this game may be a strain.
- The cuteness may be off-putting to some (not me, but maybe some).
Would You Rather:
Would you rather play Wasabi! or Carcassonne?
As much as I love Carcassonne, it lacks the player interaction and shear joy that Wasabi! elicits in me.
Would you rather play Wasabi! or The Castles of Burgundy?
I prefer the game-play of Castles of Burgundy but the design aesthetics leave me flat. If I had to tier these games in order of introduction I would go Wasabi! then Carcassonne followed by Castles of Burgundy.
Would you rather play Wasabi! or Alhambra?
Alhambra…I can’t explain it but I love Alhambra. It may not be a healthy love but I can’t fight it. While Wasabi! is undeniably sexy and exotic; Alhambra knows all the places to touch me.
Would you rather play Wasabi! or Voluspa?
Unknown. I have not played Voluspa but admit that it looks interesting. Plays 2-5 in about 45-60 minutes. The tile laying rules are also supplemented with certain tiles, representing figures from Norse Mythology, having special abilities. This adds an extra layer to the game that is lacking in Wasabi!.
OK. Would you rather play Wasabi! or go to an actual sushi bar?
Both. At the same time. I need to play Wasabi! at a sushi bar and we can only eat the recipes we complete!
Has my recipe style?
A most serious question.
If you say yes or no,
Cubes rattle in my bowl.