10 January 2024
They say that good things come in small packages. In which case, Sea Salt & Paper should be absolutely awesome, because it has a dinky, minimalist box that’s perfect for tucking in your bag for quick gaming on the go. Awesome, review done. Oh, you want more? Guess we can tell you how it plays too.
How do you play Sea Salt & Paper?
Sea Salt & Paper is a set collection game with some push-your-luck mechanics thrown in for good measure. You start with no cards and each turn must add to your hand by selecting a face-up card from one of two discard piles, or draw two cards from the deck, keeping one and placing the other in either discard pile, offering an element of tactics for the latter move, because you can cover up a card an opponent might want.
You use these cards to score points by creating special sets which are kept hidden from the other players. In typical set collecting fashion, you’ll score more points for bigger sets of cards. There are also duo cards, which you can reveal a pair of for both points and special effects, such as two boats that let you take an extra go, or the savage shark and swimmer combo that lets you steal a random card from an opponent. In a game where you’re trying to carefully collect your chosen set, this can be heart-breaking.
So far, so Sushi Go or Go Nuts for Donuts. However, Sea Salt & Paper throws a curveball by allowing one player to call an end to the round, instead of ending with a set number of turns or deck running out. A player can choose to end the round once they’ve earned at least seven points, through a combination of what’s in their hand and any duo cards they’ve played on the table. Once they have that many points, they can announce ‘stop,’ ending the round immediately and everyone scoring points based on what they’d collected, or ‘last chance,’ giving everyone a final go. The latter may seem counterintuitive - after all, why would you want to give anyone an opportunity to beat you? - but if you manage to win, not only do you score the points for your cards, you also get a colour bonus, scoring points for the most common colour on their cards. Their opponents are forced to only claim their own colour bonus too, causing a potentially massive swing in points.
There’s a sort of ‘Cat and Mouse’ element to deciding when to end the round: Do you keep going to complete bigger sets, or stop others racking up a big score? You’ve then got to decide whether to gamble on that last chance. It’s a really interesting mechanic… that can also be incredibly frustrating. The whole point of a set builder is having the opportunity to actually build sets, but occasionally Sea Salt & Paper can be over before you’ve had the chance to get into your collecting stride. It’s a rule that’s likely to split opinion: we had players that loved it, while others were FUMING when the round ended before they’d collected six seashells. Make sure you know your audience before playing!
Thoughts on Sea Salt & Paper
It would be remiss of us not to mention the game’s gorgeous origami artwork: Each card features photographs of delightful sea-themed origami that’s a joy to flick through the cards without even playing!
Sea Salt & Paper generates some occasionally tough decision-making moments, combined with superb artwork. However, being able to steal cards and ending the round at nearly any time may lead to some players feeling a bit salty.
Written by Rob Burman
Should you Play Sea Salt & Paper?
For such a small box, this game packs quite a wallop and is a great little filler game, albeit with the chances of souring the experience for some with its sudden round ends.
Buy Sea Salt & Paper.
If you liked Sushi Go Party, try Sea Salt & Paper
Another set collector with a sweet art style and fairly portable packaging. Sushi Go Party potentially has the edge for the simpler end of round scoring.
WHAT’S ON THE BOX?
Designer: Bruno Cathala and Théo Rivière
Time: 30-45 minutes
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
- 58 cards
- 6 game aids
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