I grew up playing whatever simple little card games I could get my hand on. Skip-Bo, Uno, Phase 10, etc… are all the types of titles I played with my grandparents nearly every weekend. So when a new title in the quadrant of the hobby pops up, it certainly catches my eye, as was the case with Sunny Day Sardines. Does it live up to the titans of its field, or can it simply not swim upstream to reach their heights?
In Sunny Day Sardines, players will be collecting fish cards in the hopes of fulfilling orders for points. On the table will be two decks of cards: the sardine cards, and the order cards. Each deck will have some options splayed out on the table for players to choose from.
On a player’s turn, they will be taking two actions, and each action can be one of two things: Gather Sardines or Complete an Order. When players gather sardines, they will be picking up exactly two sardines. This could be one or two cards, however, because some of the sardine cards have one fish, and others have two. To complete an order, players must discard the fish listed on the card, and then move the card in front of them to indicate they’ve scored it. This can lead to forced overpayment because of the way the sardines are displayed on the card, so plan accordingly!
The final round is triggered when all of the order cards are flipped up for players to see. Then, that round is played out, until all players have had equal turns. The highest point total from completed order cards wins the game.
As I alluded to in the introduction, this is not a hobbyist card game. This doesn’t even come close to the heights of current games of that ilk. Cat in the Box, The Crew, Haggis, SCOUT… all of these titles have a larger decision space and have much deeper levels of engagement than Sunny Day Sardines. If that is what you thought would be in this tin after seeing 25th Century Games on the label, reframe those expectations or this will fall completely flat.
With that said though, comparing this game to its most analogous titles like Skip-Bo or Phase 10, it really shines. As games of it go by, the few decisions in the game really start to antagonize. Order cards get filled so quickly by you and your opponents that you start to sweat. You start to agonize over each and every card you pick up, and which cards you use for the order cards. And this agony is the mustard jus of this sardine tin. Without the tasty agony, the game puts on all players to fill as many orders as quickly as possible, this tin of salmon would be a bland experience.
The other main ingredient in this recipe is the fact players take two actions instead of just one at a time. There’s nothing more delightful than being able to fill two orders in one turn and watching your opponents squirm, only for them to fill one order on their turn that’s worth more than the two you just filled. The back-and-forth, push-and-pull emotional battle of this game is simple and predictable, sure, but it’s enjoyable each and every time.
As for the production, putting the game inside of a metal tin as if it were a real can of sardines is such a nice touch. It really adds to the toy factor of such a simple game. I do wish that the cards were plastic cards, though, as being able to play this outdoors while camping or, hey, even while fishing, would be nice. The price point of $10 makes this game a no-brainer, but it is a shame that this game hasn’t necessarily hit the saturation to be a counter item at a place like Bass Pro Shops. This is such a “Grandpa Game” that I think people who have been playing card games all their lives would really enjoy this.
If you enjoy simple card games, a tight tug-of-war, and games like Splendor where each and every turn matters, check out Sunny Day Sardines. For $10 this game is an absolute no brainer for yourself or for your card-game-loving family. Keep your expectations in line, though, as this game can be taught and internalized in a minute, and due to the card draw, there will be a decent amount of “no brainer” turns.
Final Score: 3 Stars: A simple card game for all to enjoy, but not enough there to keep hobbyists around for long. Maybe you can finally get Grandma to try one of “your” games.
• Random card draw affects pacing
• Maybe too simple
• No plastic cards