We’ve played a lot of card games this year. This style game is easy to get to the table and is usually very portable. Sea Salt & Paper is one of those games that has stood out and is constantly hitting the table. This small box card game from Pandasaurus Games sold out quickly at Gen Con. After playing, it’s easy to see why it’s in high demand.
Under the Sea
It’s tough not to start this review without mentioning the stunning artwork on each and every card in Sea Salt & Paper. The 58 cards in the game feature origami photography of various sea creatures and boats. These aren’t illustrations, but actual origami set pieces created by Lucien Derainne and Pierre-Yves Gallard.
Cards feature crabs, octopi, penguins, sea shells, sharks and more. The iconography in the game is well done and most have picked it up quickly in their first game. On a players turn, you’ll choose a face up card from one of two discard piles OR pull two cards off the deck, keeping one and discarding the other.
Some cards are “collector” cards which award points based on the number of that card type you collect. “Point multiplier” cards will award points based on the number of that card type in your hand and on the table. Players can play “duo” cards on the table at the end of the their turn, earning a special effect that’s tied to that card type.
These duo cards will allow you to earn more cards during a turn or collect a card that was previously discarded in a round.
Knowing When to Stop
If a player has reached 7 points, between duo cards played on the table and cards in hand, they can trigger the end of the round in one of two ways.
Stop: The player says “stop” at the end of their turn. All players will reveal their hand and score the points both in front of them and in their hand.
Last Chance: The player can say “last chance” at the end of their turn, as long as they feel confident that they are winning. All the other players at the table will take 1 additional turn before revealing their hand.
This end round mechanic is what makes Sea Salt & Paper such a clever design. If a player ends the round with “stop”, the points are straight-forward and you earn what you have. This is the safe route.
By ending the round with “last chance”, you’re taking a bet with limited information. You need to evaluate what duo cards have been played and what you’ve seen players choose on their turn. If you do have the most points at the table, you’ll score all your points plus a color bonus. Your opponents will only score a color bonus meaning that much of their collection is worthless.
If you get this bet wrong, you will only score your color bonus while all your opponents score their full points. You’ll continue to play new rounds until one player reaches the number of points for that player count.
People of the Sea
To maximize your score, you want to catch other players off guard. This round ending decision makes Sea Salt & Paper really stand out. Sometimes, players are timid to end the round which allows everyone the opportunity to collect high point sets. Knowing whether to stop the round or giving everyone a last chance brings tension to an otherwise straight-forward card game.
There are 4 mermaid cards in the game which give you points based on your largest color sets. In the very unlikely chance that one player collects all 4 mermaids, they completely win the game. No need for another round.
I originally was going to say that this hasn’t happened in the 20+ games we’ve played, but that’s no longer true. Two nights ago we taught the game to some friends and one player found all 4 mermaids, ending the game in the first round. This is very rare in our experience.
Small Box, Lots of Fun
Sea Salt & Paper comes in a tiny box and it’s ultra portable. This game is constantly hitting the table when Erin and I go to dinner. With a small footprint on the table, you can play Sea Salt & Paper just about anywhere.
The game feels fresh and unique while still having a familiar set collection mechanic. Knowing the right time to trigger a duo effect can be a game changer. All the duo cards are worth a single point for the set. Players are revealing a small amount of info to the table when playing a duo. Your collections and point multiplier cards stay hidden in your hand, allowing you to conceal how many points you actually have.
I’ve been enamored with Sea Salt & Paper. Every card is a piece of artwork and the clever end of round mechanic keeps rounds fresh. If you’re looking for a unique portable card game to add to your collection, seriously consider Sea Salt & Paper.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Knowing how/when to end the round can be tense
- Duo cards can extend a players turn
- Stunning origami photography throughout the game
- Card quality is stiff and tough to shuffle