Words by David C. Obenour
Cart after cart. Steamer after steamer. Tart after bun after dumpling after… hey, what are you eating over there? That hadn’t made it to our side yet! In Spin Sum for Dim Sum, players gather around the table for a quick game of delicious set collecting. Have the best experience dining on a mixed special plate, loading up on egg tarts, enjoying a sesame ball here or there… oh, you got the fewest steam buns? You’re really missing out! The world of Sushi Go! got turned right round on a lazy susan for even more fun. Let’s eat!
Off Shelf: Sushi Go! has had remarkable staying power among gamers since it was released ten years ago. What do you attribute its appeal to?
Ken Gruhl: Sushi Go! is a classic for a variety of reasons. It’s a great overall product, starting with an adorable and approachable theme – that also hit one of the fastest-growing food trends in the United States – to its quick-hitting title that captures the fast and flowing essence of the gameplay, and finishing with strong packaging, all at a great final price point.
On top of the great product design, Phil Walker-Harding [designer of Sushi Go!] did a masterful job building the game around a simple card drafting mechanic that was engaging, fun, and accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike. And on top of his simple card drafting engine, he added familiar sources of tensions, using set collection, short-term and long-term race mechanics, score escalation, and combo cards to create an awesome overall game with depth and accessibility. Capping all this off, Sushi Go! is super replayable in part because predicting your opponent’s next action is just as important as finding the best card in your hand. Both of us really love Phil’s work, and were excited to have a game under the same umbrella.
OS: Small dishes shared around a table from circulating carts – Dim Sum is an experience as much as it is a meal. What do you love about that style of dining?
Quentin Weir: I’ve had portions of my life where I wanted to focus on other things and food was more of a necessity – we’ll call these the “black bean days” – but as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown to cherish the moments where I get to share food and time with friends and family. Dim Sum is an awesome example of how food can create a shared experience for everyone. You get to focus on spending time together. You get to taste and talk about new foods and different flavors together. And you get to have people make fun of you for not trying the tripe… together!
OS: What do you love about the foods that circulate on carts of Dim Sum? What are your favorite dishes?
QW: How can you possibly go wrong with plate after plate of warm carbs? But all kidding aside, I think the variety is my favorite thing when eating Dim Sum. Most of the dishes hit various comfort-food qualities for me, and it’s fun to just pick at warm little plates of tasty things. I grew up vegetarian and still lean into things like turnip cakes, but I’d be hard-pressed to call any of the dishes my favorites.
OS: Did you research the foods and traditions of Dim Sum at all when creating this latest game? Was there anything new you discovered? Not sharing its culture of origin, was there any special consideration you had for sensitivities?
QW: It is important to both me and Ken to make sure the tradition of Dum Sum is properly respected and represented, and we have to give a shout out and thank you to my wife, Weixia, and one of my Elderwood Academy staff members, Betsy, both of whom are of Chinese heritage and grew up eating Dim Sum. Their input and direction was invaluable to making sure this game celebrated the traditions of Dim Sum, and hopefully opens the doors for more people to experience and cherish it for themselves.
OS: What parallels do you draw between gaming and sharing a meal?
KG: My favorite games make memories, create laughs, highlight each player’s talents, and typically bring out the best in not just each person, but also the group. When I eat my breakfast yogurt in about three bites, I don’t get much of that – for the record, Quentin makes fun of me, and then chooses to not eat breakfast altogether. But when I get to make pizza with friends or family, eat fun dinners out, or share a meal with my wife and kids, these experiences can do some of the same things that I love about bringing one of my favorite games to the table.
OS: Sharing the name of Sushi Go!, what did you want to keep familiar for players of the original game on Spin Some for Dim Sum?
KG: Believe it or not, Spin Some for Dim Sum was actually designed without any relationship to Sushi Go!. It was when we partnered with Gamewright that we all started thinking about bringing the game under the same umbrella as Sushi Go!. Although Spin Some for Dim Sum doesn’t have simultaneous play, the gameplay is quick and accessible, like Sushi Go!. Additionally, both games were about collecting the best set of food cards, so without any huge design revisions, the two games had similar feel, despite unique gameplay experiences. I do remember that we made some tweaks in card design to help bring the games together, but I can’t remember exactly which changes we made.
OS: From the spinning table, steam baskets, and steamed bun, the components of Spin Some from Dim Sum are a lot of fun. How involved in this process were you? What were you happy with when looking at the finished game?
QW: Ken and I created an original physical prototype out of paper and laser-cut wood to demonstrate the table presence and gameplay, but many of the final details including the steamed bun were touches that got added in the process of working with Gamewright. During development, Gamewright allowed us to be very involved, asking our opinions and help for a variety of higher-level topics including art, rules, and integrating the steamed bun into play. Gamewright also put a lot of work into the details that they pursued without us – I didn’t know they added a locking rotation mechanism to the lazy susan until I opened my first copy! Overall Ken and I both thoroughly enjoyed the process of working with them, and are really happy with how the game came out.
OS: You also worked with Nan Rangsima of Sushi Go! on the art for Spin Some for Dim Sum. What were some of your favorite elements of what they created? How do you think it adds to the game?
KG: I’ve always admired the art from Sushi Go!, so I knew that Nan would create similar fun and cute art that was perfect for Spin Some for Dim Sum. The characters on each dish help bring them to life, and provide for a more playful and approachable game experience.
OS: Are there other cuisines you’d like to explore through gaming?
QW: I feel like every year I see Ken working on at least one burger-themed game, so I’m calling it right now – Ken will have a burger game in the next few years! We also always seem to have a playful taco/burrito game on deck at all times too. And lastly I’ll shamelessly plug that Ken has a light Nacho-themed game in Target right now called Nacho Pile.