VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

written by David Steffen

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a turn based combat game developed for the Nintendo Switch by Ubisoft, which is a mashup of Nintendo popular Mario Bros. franchise and Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids franchise.

A new invention has just been completed, a visor that allows the wearer to fuse two other objects into one object. Everything is going smoothly until the Rabbids arrive in the labarotory in their Time Washing Machine and start wreaking havoc, grabbing the visor among other things and fusing random things together. The inventor is a big Mario fan, so there are lots of Mario decorations around the lab, and soon the rabbid wearing the visor has fused Mario characters like Peach and Luigi with Rabbids, and the Time Washing Machine takes them all to the Mushroom Kingdom where the Rabbids are running wild, fused with various elements and monsters of the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s up to Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Luigi to save the kingdom.

The gameplay is turn-based, and everyone is equipped with ranged weapons unique to their character and much of the game is based around finding cover from enemy fire while trying to get around the enemy cover to fire on them. You can also move every turn to change cover spots and to tackle an enemy as you go. For most rounds, the last team standing wins (different rules may apply in individual cases). To move from area to area to try to work toward saving the kingdom, they have to fight through hordes of Rabbids fused with monsters along the way.

Maybe it’s because I’m not at all familiar with the Rabbids, but I didn’t find the premise compelling. Who are the Rabbids, why do I care? But the major issue for me was that the difficulty curve was badly designed. The first battles I found too easy; I didn’t have to try very hard, just had to persevere, follow basic rules about finding cover, try to stick to the higher ground whenever possible. For several hours of gameplay this was enough, I was able to advance and didn’t die, and not only was this part not particularly challenging, it was repetitive and dull. This continued until I reached the first mini-boss battle with a more formidable foe, at which point I got soundly beaten by the mini-boss and the hordes of Rabbid minions. The earlier battles hadn’t prepared me for whatever strategies were needed to beat that tougher foe, and I was bored enough of the earlier challenges I didn’t want to go back and try to level-grind if that’s what was needed to stand a chance. I didn’t care enough about making it further in the game to really devote myself to trying over and over again to try to beat this boss, and much of that apathy was the difficulty curve of the game, which ran low low low low high without transitioning from one to the other smoothly.

A mixture of standard 3-D Mario design with weird Rabbid looks.

Nothing remarkable.

Very uneven challenge curve, starts out so easy that it’s boring, then ramps steeply up very suddenly.

The story does not make a ton of sense, and seems to be a lot of work to justify a game mashup.

Session Time
The nice thing about the switch is you can put it to sleep at will no matter what part of the game it’s in.

Easy enough that the early battles are pretty easy to pick up. But could use some more difficulty ramp-up to prep for tougher battles.

Even playing through the first time got boring very quickly.

While game mashups bring their own kind of originality, the gameplay itself is nothing particular original

Unknown, didn’t get all the way through, I played for a few hours so far.

Maybe a fan of the Rabbids would be more into the game than I was, but I found the challenge progression of the game very uneven, not challenging enough at the beginning and then suddenly very challenging. I’m sure someone will find the game fun, but it’s not for me.  You can find it for $60 at major retailers


written by David Steffen

Sushi Go Party! is a 2016 expansion of the fun and fast-paced strategy point-scoring game Sushi Go! (previously reviewed here). The basic gameplay of the game is the same: each player starts with a hand of cards, plays a card facedown and then flips it over, and passes their hand to the person next to them and rotates. Points are scored at the end of each round except the desserts which are saved until the end for scoring.

Sushi Go Party! takes the solid concept and execution of the original game and simply expands it with more kinds of cards. You still only have the same number of types of cards per game, but you can choose a different set for each game–you choose one roll, three appetizers, two specials, and a dessert (and the reliable-scoring nigiri are always included).

The original game had types that you would get points by collecting more of, collect 3 sashimi for 10 points, 2 tempura for 5 points, more dumplings for more points apiece. But Sushi Go! Party has tofu, for which you get 2 poitns for 1 tofu, 6 points for 2 tofu, but 0 points for 3 or more tofu. Or eel, for which 1 is -3 points, but 2 is worth 7. The specials in particular have more weird varieties, like the menu which lets you look at the next 4 cards in the deck and pick your favorite, or the special order which can mimic any other card you’ve already laid down.

The original Sushi Go! is a great strategy game that keeps itself interesting with the strategy, and Sushi Go Party! just multiplies that. You can change the game significantly by swapping in some different cards, and so there’s even more potential for replay. Great game for all ages.

All ages who are old enough to be ready for this type of strategy. My 5 year old plays it very well and loves every minute.

Can be quite challenging, and can be made more or less challenging by swapping in different card sets to make you think of new strategies for different combinations.

Session Time
You can play a full game in maybe 10-15 minutes, so reasonably quick, if not as quick as some other games.

Lots of replayability, your strategies might or might not be rigid, but the variations of the card combinations and the other player’s strategies serve to keep it fresh, and once you’ve figured out a good strategy for a particular set of cards, try a different set.

Even considering the original Sushi Go! the new sets of cards are a huge expansion of variety and originality.

A very fun and fast-paced strategy scoring game where chance plays a big enough factor that the best strategist isn’t going to just walk away with a win easily. Suitable for people of all ages, and is a lot of fun. Highly recommended. Only downside compared to the original Sushi Go! is that the other one is a little more compact and easy to set up, because you don’t have to separate out all the cards like you do with this one–so if you’re going to bring it to work to play with friends at lunch or something the original has the advantage of being easy to move and set up.


written by David Steffen

Sushi Go is a competitive point-scoring strategy game, published in 2013 by Gamewright. The game is based around grabbing sushi as it whirls by and making yourself an excellent three-course meal.

Everyone starts with a hand of cards. You all pick one card, lay it face down on the table. When you’re all ready, you flip the card face up so everyone can see it and pass your entire hand of remaining cards to the left, and this repeats until all of the cards are depleted. That constitutes one round. A full game is three rounds, at the end of which whoever has the most points win the game.

Nigiri are the easiest cards to score; they’re each worth 1, 2, or 3 points flat. If you get three sashimi you get 10 points for the group, but if you have only one or two, they’re worth nothing. Wasabi is worth nothing by itself, but if you play one, your next nigiri is worth triple its face value. Pudding, the dessert, aren’t scored at the end of the round like all of the other cards, but is all saved for the end, at which point the player with the most pudding gets 6 points and the one with the least (including 0) loses 6 points. Chopsticks, once played, can be used for a future round to pick two cards out of the hand instead of one.

It’s a fast-paced game, and can be very quiet as each of you silently picks a card and passes for the round. At the beginning, when you have the most cards to pick from, you have a very incomplete view of the cards in play, so you don’t know if there are enough sashimi to actually get a full set. As you play, you can see how everyone else’s strategies are forming and you can pick the method to score the most yourself or block someone else’s strategy.

The game says that it’s for ages 8+, but my 5-year-old loves the game and wants to play it every night. They’ve got all of the scoring systems memorized and understands the strategies to playing each of them (even if they don’t always make the shrewdest decisions. The game can be played by 2-5 players, and is a great way to pass the time.

All ages who are old enough to be ready for this type of strategy. Like I said, my 5 year old plays it very well and loves every minute.

Can be quite challenging, depending on how competitive your fellow players are. The most ambitious strategies are also designed to be a gamble, so you might play sashimis only to find that there are only 2 in the set of hands being passed around. If you play a wasabi early in the hopes of seeing a 3-point squid nigiri, you might only find 1-point egg nigiri. So there’s a strategic gambling to the whole game setup.

Session Time
You can play a full game in maybe 10-15 minutes, so reasonably quick, if not as quick as some other games.

Lots of replayability, your strategies might or might not be rigid, but the variations of the card combinations and the other player’s strategies serve to keep it fresh.

I haven’t played a game similar to this, fun and original.

A very fun and fast-paced strategy scoring game where chance plays a big enough factor that the best strategist isn’t going to just walk away with a win easily. Suitable for people of all ages, and is a lot of fun, (and inspired us to try eating sushi for the first time).

Game Theory in Writing Part 1: Goals vs. Milestones

written by David Steffen

This is the first of a short series of articles about applying Game Theory to writing. Game Theory is the study of strategic decision making, a field of study made most famous by mathematician John Nash (which the movie A Beautiful Mind was based on). I won’t be getting into the math of Game Theory, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss some applications of strategic decision making in the writing/submitting/publishing process because I’m both a writing geek and a programming geek. A discussion mixing the two topics lights up all kinds of synapses in the geek centers of my brain.

So, for this installment I’m going to talk about the importance of differentiating between goals and milestones. What does this have to do with game theory? Well, much of the focus of game theory is based around “gamifying” ordinary activities by defining scoring rules and ways to determine your level of success in the game, and thus defining ways to look at a scenario that will encourage the outcome you want. By choosing carefully how you determine your own level of success you can exert some control over what behaviors you encourage. Choosing well can generate energy and momentum to drive you to bigger and better things. Choosing poorly can leave you disheartened and weary.

But what are goals and what are milestones?

Goals are things you can accomplish which you have complete control over (or at least as complete control over as you have over anything). In writing, some goals might be:

  • to write every day
  • to finish writing a novel in 2015
  • to write 5000 words a week
  • to never trunk a story
  • to write every other story in a character unlike yourself in some major way
  • to submit to pro-paying markets only

Milestones are things which would laudable and worthy of celebration, but which are not under your direct control.

  • to sell a story for the first time
  • to become eligible to be a member of SFWA
  • to sell a story to Asimov’s
  • to be nominated for a Hugo
  • to get a positive review from Lois Tilton

In some ways goals and milestones are very similar. You can fail or you can succeed to reach goals or milestones, and they are both kinds of ways to measure success. Both are things worthy of celebration if met. So what’s the point in differentiating between them. The primary difference is in how you can best react to NOT meeting them.

Because goals are entirely under your control, you can react however you want to not meeting them. Maybe the goals were too ambitious for your lifestyle or skills–that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t have pursued them, and there certainly can be things outside of your control that may have blocked you (personal illness, death in the family, change in career, eviction, etc). If you don’t meet them, maybe they still helped you reach higher than you otherwise would have, or maybe you need to aim lower to avoid discouragement. However the goals motivate you, run with it. I find that setting goals of daily butt-in-chair time combined with goals that maintain a quick turnaround of a story to another market after rejection have served me well to keep rejection from getting me down and to make sure I sit down and actually produce. (I’ll talk more about setting good motivating submission goals in a later article)

Because milestones are not under your control, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. You can write an amazing story and Asimov’s might reject it for any number of reasons. You can’t control how people react to your stories, and if you beat yourself up for it, that’s a quick route to discouragement and disheartening funk. If you’ve chosen your goals wisely, they will be setting you on a path to try to reach your milestones and that will let you exert your control as best you can, but at the end of the day those milestones still depend on other people and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for what other people do. Milestones are things to be celebrated, and you can even set up structured ways to celebrate them, such as the Bingo Card that Christie Yant uses, but it’s important to remember that they’re still out of your control.