Review – Hibachi
|Category||Dexterity, Set Collection|
Hibachi is a reimplementation of the somewhat obscure 2010 game Safranito. In this new version, players are chefs trying to whip up the most delicious hibachi they can. Is it a tasty treat to play, or just stale and flavorless? Let’s find out.
Safranito is a game I wanted to play since I first learned about it years ago, but never had the chance to. Assuming that it had been relegated to the “weird, obscure games that never caught on” category of history, I was surprised and delighted to see it return as Hibachi, a rethemed edition from Grail Games.
Hibachi takes a mechanism of buying and selling goods and bizarrely mashes it up with a dexterity element. In this game, players toss tokens onto a board, and their landing location determines the buy/sell value of the different resources. The goal of the game is to complete 3 hibachi recipes first.
The game is played on a central board featuring 9 ingredient bowls and 4 special action spaces. Each player begins with 2,000 money and 6 chips in their color.
At the start of each round, players take turns throwing chips onto the board (3 or 4 chips each, depending upon the number of players). The chips are numbered on 1 side, and ideally, players want to toss them so that the numbered side lands face down—doing so gives their opponents less information.
Chips that end up on a bowl or action space will be counted during the resolution step. When a chip is “hanging” partially on a bowl/action space, players use the hole in the middle of the chip to determine if it counts. If any part of the bowl/action space is visible through the hole, the chip is counted.
Once all chips have been thrown, players resolve the board locations, starting with the action spaces. For each action space, all chips are revealed and the player with the highest total on the space gets to take the action. (Ties are decided by the first player.) The actions are listed below, and resolved in the following order:
- Bonus throw: The player may immediately toss an extra chip onto the board.
- Bonus ingredient: The player immediately draws a number of ingredient cards (more on these in a moment) and chooses 1 to keep
- Reserve a recipe: The player chooses a recipe card for their personal tableau (again, more on these in a moment)
- New head chef: The player takes the soy sauce bottle to indicate they are now the head chef/first player.
At this point, any invalid chips (that is, chips that didn’t land on a bowl or action space) are resolved. For each invalid chip, its owner receives a chili card. Now, about these different kinds of cards. The main objective is to complete recipes, and doing so requires ingredient cards, which can be bought and sold. Selling occurs first—anyone with a card of the ingredient being resolved can sell it for the total amount of all chips in the bowl. As an example, if a bowl had chips of values 100, 200, 200, and 400, anyone with a card of that ingredient could sell it for 900 money.
Then, after selling is complete, players who have chips in the bowl can buy cards of that ingredient, if any are available in the adjacent card display. The player with the highest-value chip gets the first option, and the ingredient costs the sum of their own chips. This means if a player had their 100 and 400 chips in the bowl, and 400 was the highest chip there, the player could purchase a card of that ingredient for 500 money. Then, after buying, the player removes their highest chip and the option passes to the player with the new highest-value chip, if any cards are still available.
Lastly, players can spend their ingredient cards to fulfill recipes. Each player can fulfill 1 recipe from the center (if any remain) and any number of their own reserved recipes. If a player is missing an ingredient to complete a recipe, they may substitute 2 chili cards in its place.
At the end of each round, additional ingredient cards are added and any recipe cards that have been claimed are replaced. The first player to complete 3 recipes wins!
Hibachi is the type of game that is so unusual it just begs to be tried. Mashing up set collection—a mechanism often found in euro-style strategy games—with dexterity—a mechanism often found in zany kids games—makes for a totally unique play experience.
Dexterity games are frequently maligned among hobbyists, but this game does not require pinpoint precision to be fun. Certainly, the ability to toss chips accurately is helpful, but even someone who isn’t great at that can still play well. (After all, chili cards provide compensation for missed throws!) This makes the game work nicely with mixed age groups.
I really like the inclusion of holes in the chips, as it significantly reduces the amount of edge cases and “eyeballing.” (i.e. “Is that chip in the bowl? It’s hard to tell.”) Being able to look through the hole to determine validity is a great solution to what might have otherwise been a major annoyance. The pieces themselves are high-quality poker chips which should hold up well to repeated plays, and the vibrant art fits the theme just right. All told, Hibachi’s production quality is high.
I like this game a lot, but admittedly, it’s not something I want to play all the time. For me, games with this kind of novelty factor are great fun, but they risk losing their luster with too many plays. Hibachi is the type of game that I’ll pull out every so often when I want to play something unlike any other game in my collection—and each time I do, I’ll be reminded of why I kept it in the first place.
A review copy was provided by Asmodee.
The Bottom Line
Hibachi is unusual enough that I'm surprised it works. It manages to combine two disparate genres into something engaging and memorable. Worth checking out if you're looking for something totally out of the ordinary.