Nobody brought Dominion! Nobody brought Race for the Galaxy! What were we going to do?!
When I got there most of the attendees were already starting a game of Agricola, which I don’t really like. There was one other excluded player, so we grabbed mnemex’s copy of Wasabi and gave it a spin. And it was fun!
The first thing we noticed, unpacking the game, was that Wasabi has great physical bits. The board, tiles, and action cards all have bright, attractive artwork, and the tiles are on nice, thick stock; the screens that hide your recipes from the other players are done up to look like restaurant menus; and there are even little soy-sauce bowls to hold the wooden wasabi cubes.
The game itself has each player trying to complete recipes by placing ingredient tiles down on the board (which looks like a sushi mat). If you’ve got a straight line of ingredients that matches one of your recipes, you score it, and put a point marker on it. If all of the ingredients are in the same order as shown on the recipe card, you’ve completed it “with style”, and you get some wasabi cubes (bonus points). Recipes vary in length (number of ingredients), from two to five, with longer recipes being worth more points, and shorter ones being easier to complete.
Completing a recipe also allows you to pick up an action card, which can be played later to let you do something interesting: Spicy lets you lay down two ingredients in one turn, Stack lets you a tile on an existing tile, Chop lets you pick up a tile that had been laid down earlier, Swap lets you exchange the contents of two adjacent squares, and Wasabi lets you freeze up a four-square section of the board (and earns you a wasabi cube). This means that having a 2-length recipe around that you can complete easily can earn you the action card that you need to finish one of your longer recipes.
The game can end in one of two ways: If the board fills up, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins. (Empty squares blocked by Wasabi cards count towards filling the board, and I won a game by blocking off two big empty regions when I was ahead.) Or, if one player completes ten recipes, the game ends and that player wins regardless of points. However, you can only complete recipes for which you have unused scoring markers of the appropriate length, and you get four 2-lengths, three 3-lengths, two 4-lengths, and one 5-length, so you can’t just dash out ten 2-length recipes for a quick victory.
We played three games, with two, three, and four players, and the four-person game was the toughest, with a really tight endgame where one player managed to score a last-minute recipe against everyone else’s expectations and pull off a surprise victory. Still, it felt like there was a large and frustrating element of luck to it.
I’m seeing a few variant ideas on the Boardgame Geek discussion boards:
- Any player can remove a Wasabi card from the board on their turn, at the cost of one wasabi cube.
- Any player may pay two wasabi cubes to pick up an action card at the end of their turn.
- Any player who plays the Wasabi card has to eat a spoonful of actual wasabi!
Ingenious is a club classic, one of those games we find interesting enough that you can almost always find people to play it, but not so interesting that we play it when there are better options. We played two 4-person games, but for the second one we played in teams, which I’d never done before. This was good, but a little frustrating.