15 April 2022
A delicious mix of dexterity and planning
‘What if we took poker chips and used them as a component for a dexterity tactics throwing game with economic elements?’ wondered no one, except for Marco Teubner when in 2010 he designed Safranito, where players would gather delicious Indian spices for their meal. More than ten years later, this idea still has strong legs as it returns to our board game shelves as Hibachi. The cuisine is now Japanese and there is a lot more artwork of cute animal chefs (which is always a plus), but the core of the game remains unchanged.
Players compete as teppanyaki chefs to get ingredients to make their customers a delicious meal. Each meal consists of three different ingredients and, for added pleasant symmetry, players will need to complete three recipes to win the game. And yes, even in cartoon form, everything looks absolutely delicious, and you will be craving food as soon as you finish the game.
The ingredients needed for the meal can be found on the game’s board, in their individual large bowls. Yet, despite those generous portions, landing a poker chip on top of them can be surprisingly difficult. Like in many dexterity games, the throws that land right on the spot feel miraculous, but many zoom in the air right past the board (keep fragile items away from the gaming table!). Hibachi’s board does have a slight thick edge but rather than helping to contain unlucky throws, this is better used tactically to bounce your chip into the opponent’s (air hockey style) and displace it from the ingredient bowl. In fact, as soon as players get comfortable with landing on the spots they need, the game switches into prioritising denying the opponents’ their spots by flicking your pieces into theirs’s.
Yet, Hibachi is not just about a nice poker chip throw, there is quite a bit of strategy to consider too. The board, along with ingredients, contains tactical locations, for example for gaining a first player marker or gathering a random resource. There is also a whole economic element to the game that alleviates the luck of the throw to an extent. A savvy player could use their starting capital along with selling and buying within the game to complete recipe cards just as well as someone who gets all their resources from landing on the correct spots. Even the throw itself can be quite tactical as each poker chip has a value. For buying, you would want to use poker chips of lower value, so the goods cost less, whereas for selling you would want the highest possible total so you could offload an ingredient for a nice stack of cash. In each case having another player on the spot can be a benefit or a deterrent, adding another think-y tactical element to the gameplay. In the end, of course, throwing well helps, but there are more strategies within Hibachi than ‘get good!’.
Hearing about Hibachi it is still hard to believe how all these seemingly mish-mashed elements come together. Yet play it once and all questions or concerns go away. This is the idea that is just bonkers enough to work.
PLAY IT? YES
At first glance, Hibachi looks like a curious collection of game components that should not work together. Yet Marco Teubner masterfully combines the chaos of flying poker chips with thoughtful economic gameplay elements.
Just like in Hibachi you can’t solely rely on good throws, in Flyin’ Goblins precise catapulting of goblins only gets you so far. Both games brilliantly mix dexterity with other more strategic elements.
Designer: Marco Teubner
Publisher: Grail Games
Time: 45 minutes
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