Dale Yu: Review of Hibachi


  • Designer: Marco Teubner
  • Publisher: Grail Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Age: 10+
  • Played with advance prototype copy provided by Grail Games

Hibachi is a game where players try to construct desirable dishes, using all their skills to collect the right ingredients as quickly as possible.  This game is a re-theme of Safranito, a 2010 Essen release, originally done by Zoch.   The original game was set up in an Indian bazaar; here, the game is played on what appears to be a hibachi tabletop.

Each player has a set of coins, each labeled with a value from 100 to 600.  These coins are hefty clay poker chips.  The board has 9 different ingredient bowls on it as well as a few smaller special action spaces.  At the start of a 4p game, 6 ingredient cards are placed around the board in their slots, 3 recipe cards are dealt out and placed near the table, and each player selects 3 of their chips to play in this round.  Players start with 2000 in paper money.

Play is fairly simple – on each turn players take turns to throw one of their chips onto the board. It is recommended to throw them face down to hide the value of their chip; but there is no rule against throwing them face up, and if the chip bounces around and lands face up, well… then you’re stuck with it that way.  The goal is to get the chip to land on one of the ingredient dishes or the special action spaces. The coins have holes in them, and the simple rule is if you can see any part of the target landing area through the hole in the center of the coin, then that coin is considered to be in that target area.

You must throw your chip from beyond the edge of the board.  The board is a two-level affair and this provides a sort of backboard/bumper for the chips to bounce off of.  It is completely acceptable (and often encouraged) to hit other chips on the table to move them.  If a chip lands off the table, it will not be used in this round.  All chips are left where they are until the end of the round – it could be that they get bumped into legal places as the chips are thrown!

Each player takes a turn to throw a single chip starting from the starting player.  This continues clockwise until all players have thrown all their chips.   Now, the start player is in charge of resolving the board.  The first step is always done in a particular order – the special actions are resolved; any chips on these spaces are flipped so that their values are visible:

  • Bonus Throw- The player with the highest total value of chips on this spot gets to make a bonus throw, using one of their previously unused chips
  • Bonus Ingredient – The player here with the highest total draws cards from the ingredient deck (equal to the first digit of their highest chip here) and chooses one to keep
  • Reserve a Recipe – take one of the 3 recipe cards and place it in your area. This recipe can now only be filled by the owner.
  • Start Player – This player becomes the new start player.

As each of these spaces are resolved, the chips from each action space are removed from the board.  Also, after the actions are resolved, any invalid chips (not on an action space nor a food bowl) are removed.)

After these special action spaces are resolved, then the ingredients are resolved; the order of this done in any order that the start player desires.  Players can either sell or buy ingredients at these bowls.   Selling happens first.  The total of ALL chips in the bowl are added together. Each player is given the opportunity to sell matching ingredients.  It is important to note that you DO NOT need to have a chip in the bowl; all players can sell.  Once all players have sold, any player who sold this ingredient removes their chip(s) from that bowl.  Now, this same ingredient can be bought – but only IF there are ingredient cards of this type available, and only by players who still have chips in that bowl.

The player with the highest total value of chips in the bowl gets to go first, and he can buy one ingredient for the total value of all of his chips.  Then, whether an ingredient is bought or not, his highest valued chip is removed from the bowl, and the totals are recalculated.  Whoever now has the highest current total can now buy a card (Assuming there is still one available).  If there is a tie, it is broken in favor from the starting player and going clockwise.   Continue this until all the chips are gone or all the matching ingredient cards are gone.

The starting player will continue this for all nine food bowls, choosing the order in which they are to be resolved.  As each bowl is resolved, remove any remaining chips from the board.  When the board is empty, now it’s time to make food.

Each player, starting with the start player and moving clockwise, can now fulfill one public recipe card and/or as many private recipes as they like.  Discard the ingredient cards as shown on the recipe card and then put the finished one in front of you to mark you score.  Whenever a player finishes their third recipe, the game immediately ends!

If no one finishes their third recipe card, get the board ready for another round.  Pass the first player marker to the left, replenish the recipe display to three cards, and draw the designated number of ingredient cards.  Continue until someone finishes three recipes!

My thoughts on the game

The original form of this game caught my eye due to its inventive mashup of the dexterity, bluffing and set collection genres.  I remember playing it in Essen then, and bringing a copy of it back home with me.  This new version has a Japanese theme on it, but it still brings that same eclectic mix of mechanisms to the table.

As you are playing the game, I think the biggest thing to remember is that this is simply a race to three recipe cards.  Yes – you have to do a little bit of commodity trading along the way to have enough money to buy the ingredients that you want; but don’t spend too much time doing this – as you can get too far behind in the race to acquire ingredients.  If your opponents are able to garner a lot of ingredient cards at low cost, they might get lucky and have a recipe card come out that suits their collection.

The game has a bit of unpredictability… which you might find predictable from the rules.  As much as you try, the chips seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to stopping (or not stopping) on the places you want them to stop.  I would definitely caution you to make sure that your board is lying flat – if there are any uneven creases in the board surface, i.e. where the cut is, it can stop the progress of a sliding chip.

The rules don’t seem to say, but our group adopted a rule where players had to stay in their own seat during the game.  This put some things closer (and usually easier to reach) for each player but likewise put other things further away – we figured it just evened things out so leave everyone in one position.

There is a bit of skill to getting the chips to land in the right spot.  We had some players in our group try to get the chips to go on a long slide, sometimes using the exterior raised border as a bumper.  Other players tried to toss their chips in and simply get them to flop and stop on the appointed spot.  There is also a bit of billiards/crokinole like strategy at times when you might try to glide into another chip to get both of them to end up on specific locations.  Thankfully, we didn’t have any Strike-like accidents with this game (see our piece later this month) as the heaviness of these chips could cause serious injury!

The artwork is fairly pleasing, but our group uniformly did not like the shadows on the bowls on the board.  This makes it slightly ambiguous as to whether a chip in in the bowl or not as the group does have to make a decision on whether the shadow is in or not, and even once that decision is made, the shadow just makes it a little more difficult to see sometimes.  I would have preferred a cleaner border on these spaces just to make adjudication easier.  Other than that, the art is clean and everything else is easy to read and understand.  Of course, I should re-iterate that I’ve been playing with a prototype copy, so the final product may have different art.

The newest version of this game should be live on Kickstarter later today (I believe 11AM USA Eastern time), and it’s definitely a game worth checking out.  You need a mix of strategy (in getting the right ingredients/recipes), skill (in throwing your chips to the right place), bluffing, and luck (surviving the richochets).

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2020, Preview, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Hibachi

  1. I enjoyed my one play of this… I wasn’t very good at it, but I had fun anyway. :-)

  2. Ori Avtalion says:

    I asked Grail Games, and the official rule is that you can move around during play.
    But I agree with you that players should stay where they are, to make it harder to reach a far-away ingredients.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Agreed. Also, in these COVID times, I’d rather just stay in my own little area and not have to go breathe on someone else or have everyone constantly get up and move around

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