Hippos Love Sushi—and lots of other things, too! But it can be hard to keep all the dishes straight when there are a lot of hippo chefs in the kitchen.
What Is Hippos Love Sushi?
Hippos Love Sushi is a light bluffing game for 2 to 4 players, ages 5 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $18 for a copy of the game. The game has rules to make the game simpler or slightly more complex, and is designed for young kids (and adults who don’t mind being silly).
Hippos Love Sushi Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. In particular, the artwork shown in my photos is placeholder artwork and not final.
The game includes:
- 8 Meal cards (2 cards each for Sushi, Sundae, Salad, Pizza)
- 33 Ingredient cards (7 ingredients per meal, plus 3 Drinks and 2 Rotten Fish)
- 1 Head Hippo card
- 4 Hippo cards
- 8 Score cards
The meal cards are two cards that match up to show an illustration of the completed meal in the center, surrounded by several numbered spaces to play cards. The ingredients are all components that make up a particular meal, like ice cream and toppings for the sundae. In the prototype at least, the background color of the ingredients matches the background color of the meal card, so that it’s easy to tell which ingredients go with which meal. The final cards will be illustrated by Maria Keller, who also did the cover image seen above.
Each player will have two cards for keeping score. One is double-sided and has values from 1 to 20 printed on it, and the other is a player reference card. You use the reference card to track your score on the numbered card—it’s nice and compact, but you do have to be careful that you don’t bump them.
How to Play Hippos Love Sushi
The goal of the game is to score the most points by eating meals that are made up of the correct ingredients.
Set the meal cards up in the center of the table, with room between them so the ingredient cards can be played around them. Give the Head Hippo card to the player who has eaten sushi most recently. Give each player the score cards and a hippo card of a matching color. Finally, shuffle the ingredient cards and deal 2 cards to each player. (For first-timers, leave out the drink and rotten fish cards.)
Starting with the Head Hippo, players will add ingredients to the meals until each meal is full. Then, players will choose meals, and offer another player a bite. Finally, players will score their meals.
When adding an ingredient card to a meal, you play a card face-down to the next numbered slot on any of the meals. You don’t have to play ingredients that match the meal, and you’re allowed to say whatever you like about the card you’re playing. Once a meal has 7 cards on it, it is full and you cannot play any more cards there. After playing a card, draw a card from the deck (if there are any left).
After all the meals are filled, players will each choose one of the meals, starting with the Head Hippo. Place your hippo card on the hippo slot of the meal.
Once everyone has chosen, each player offers a “bite” to the player to their left. The taster may choose one card from the meal and turn it face-up. If it’s a correct ingredient, the taster gets a point; if not, the taster loses a point. You may choose not to take a bite and risk nothing.
After everyone’s had a chance to take a bite, everyone eats their meals. Reveal all of the cards, and score 1 point for each correct ingredient (including the “bite” card). You do not lose points for incorrect ingredients.
At the end of the round, collect all of the ingredient cards and reshuffle them. Pass the Head Hippo card to the left and start a new round.
The game ends after each player has had a chance to be Head Hippo. The player with the highest score wins.
There are a few variant rules. First, the drink and rotten fish cards. You can mix in 4 of these 5 cards when setting up the game. The drinks are wild ingredients and are worth 1 point no matter which meal they’re added to. The rotten fish are worth -1 point for the whole meal, and -2 points if taken as a bite. When using these cards, each meal will have 8 cards instead of 7.
For a 2-player game, each player will control 2 hippos and choose two meals, scoring for both meals.
To make things a little trickier, allow players to play their ingredients to any slot on a meal, rather than playing them in numerical order per meal.
Finally, for younger players, use a hand of 1 card instead of 2.
Why You Should Play Hippos Love Sushi
As you can see, Hippos Love Sushi is a pretty simple game, and it’s designed to be easy enough for kids as young as 5. I can confirm that I’ve played this with my own 5-year-old, as well as my older kids and some adult friends too. What I found is that the 5-year-old usually tried to match ingredients to dishes, but the older kids had a lot of fun bluffing about what they were adding to a meal. “I’m totally adding some cherries to this sundae.” “Really? That’s very interesting, because I’m adding cherries to the sundae, too!”
There’s a bit of memory involved, because you want to keep in mind where you’ve put good or bad ingredients just in case you get offered a particular meal. It’s also useful to know what you’ve played in incorrect spots—if you put a lot of sushi ingredients into the sundae, then you also know that the sushi is going to have some gaps that will be filled with other things.
The scores are sometimes very close, because mixing up one meal can mean other meals get mixed up a lot, too, and it depends on how much everyone is willing to risk. You always hope that you can sabotage a meal so somebody else picks it … but what happens if that’s the one you end up with? And what happens when somebody offers you a bite of a meal that you’ve only put bad ingredients in? Maybe you take a chance on an ingredient that somebody else played—or else you opt out, but you lose the opportunity to score an extra point.
Hippos Love Sushi does have a lot of decisions to be made throughout, though they do tend to be fairly simple decisions. It’s a good fit for younger kids, particularly if they’re at the age where a lot of options tend to be free of actual choices that are based on random chance. (Thankfully, we live in an age now where you have lots of excellent games even for young kids!) For older players, the bluffing becomes more of a factor, and that’s what my big kids enjoyed about it, but it may not be substantial enough if you’re gaming mostly with older kids and adults.
Overall, I think Hippos Love Sushi is a nice intro to bluffing and memory games for younger audiences and it has a fun theme. It may not make a full meal for more experienced gamers, but it’s a fun, silly entree for your kids’ menu. For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Hippos Love Sushi Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.