The Hungry Gamer Reviews Saibou
Before I begin I was provided with a review copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid review. If you would rather watch a video review of this review check it out below!
Who likes biology? Who wants to play around with bacteria and viruses? If that sounds like a tough sell you would be right. Heck, I lost myself after the first question there, and since I am not interested in biological warfare the second one didn’t snag me either. I wont lie, when I tried to pitch this game to my wife as a matching game, with cells and viruses she was of the same mind. BUT. You know what changed out minds?; and will 100% change yours? The art. Just take a look at this unbelievably delightful artwork.
I first learned about Saibou on one of my favorite podcasts Tuesday Knight Games, when the designer was featured and he talked about the story behind the game. He is a New Zealander who has lived in Japan as an English teacher for many years. Saibou is the Japanese word for cell, and part of the goal behind the game was to create a game that was no language dependent, my assumption is so that he could play with students whose English skills were still minimal. That is awesome. Then I got the chance to review it and I JUMPED at it. As a teacher myself I was excited by a game that might be both fun and a good educational tool.
The game itself is quite simple. Each player is trying to build a 3×3 square of cells. The first person to do so wins. To do this you play cards from your hand, making sure the colors on the sides match up. Your progress is slowed as other players can play bacteria (which will eat cells of the same color), and viruses (which eat everything). There are, of course, some mitigation cards, like white blood cells which will stop a virus or bacteria from advancing, and cards to outright transmit the disease to another player (oh so satisfying). All in all the game is fairly quick with two players, though with four it can take significantly longer.
So what do I think?
I am going to go out on a limb here and say almost everything is good about this game. Now, since I will not answer the question like all students try to; I will elaborate. First off, as I have already said the artwork is an absolute joy. The cells are just adorable, it makes you want to get them out there in front of you. The attack cards are cute as well, though the virus is a little bit sinister…in a cute way.
Moving on to the game play, it is also on point. It is quick, clean and simple. Yet at the same time because there is some randomness in the game, and your culture is regularly being effected by other players so there is a solid amount of strategy as you try to determine the best time to play your attack cards, and when to use your transfer cards, and where to play your white blood cells. It is an almost perfect balance of strategy for a simple game.
The rule book is fine, though I did have some questions and things that I had to ask about. One or two of them were actually in the rules I just missed them, while the others needed to be clarified. That said we were more than able to play the game without the clarifications, so I will say the rule book is fine.
Second, I will add that the box is too big. Don’t get me wrong, it is a small box game, I easily took it on vacation, and it is about the size of both of your hands laying on top of each other. However, there is a significant amount of extra space in the box. I will also note here that Andrew has told me that the eventual next edition will have a better box.
While the art is stunning, it is a color based game. I cannot see how a color blind player could possibly play it. This is a bummer for such a delightful little game.
Bringing it all together
Saibou is an utterly delightful game. It is simple, easy to learn and fun to play. The art is incredible. The rule book could use a tiny bit of revision, and the box could be smaller. The only real ding against this game is that it is not accessible for a color blind player. I will add that I introduced this game to my family, which included my 70 year old mother, younger sister, brother and his fiance. After I taught folks how to play they stayed up for hours playing the game, and all of them really enjoyed it. If that is not a sign of a good game, I do not know what is.
This is a game that is NOT supposed be dependent on words…why did you write so many?
*Streamlined, and delightful gameplay
*Solid rule book
*Not color blind accessible
*A game that both gamers and non-gamers can enjoy