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Carroll County Cake Swap

What do you get if you mix cards, throw in a dash of colorful artwork, a pinch of drafting, and top it off with an enticing blue ribbon? Carroll County Cake Swap — a cake baking card game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. But is the game as fun as its theme?

Gameplay

Players are competing to be the first to a certain number of points (or to have the most points when the draw pile runs out). You start the game with one cake card on the table face up for each player. Each cake card has two cake layers depicted on it, one on the top and one on the bottom. When playing a cake card you can rotate it and use either side you wish. Each layer of cake is either vanilla or chocolate flavored, and there are five different types of frosting, plus a wild frosting which can stand in for any of the others.

On your turn, you either take one of the cards that are face up on the table or draw from the draw deck. If you are not able to, or do not wish to, add either one of the cake layers depicted on your card onto your cake platter, you lay it face up on the table. Another player can now take it on their turn. There are five different sizes of cake layers and when adding a layer to the cake you are currently building, you must always place a smaller layer than the one previously added to the cake. You may also only work on one cake at a time.

Also on your turn you may clear your cake. If your cake meets the criteria for any of the three ribbons at any of the six judging stands, you discard the cards to the judging stand and take the relevant ribbon; otherwise, you simply discard the cards. You may also play one of the three action cards that each player starts the game with. These action cards allow you to take a card from another player’s cake, swap out a card from your cake for one that is face up on the table, or slip a larger cake layer beneath a smaller cake layer that has already been added to your cake. You may only use each action once per game.

Each of the judging stands has different requirements. For instance, the showcase stand only awards ribbons to cakes in which all the layers are the same flavor and all the icing is the same flavor, while the premium judging stand gives ribbons to cakes where each layer is a different flavor of frosting. For each stand the white ribbon (which is worth the least points) is awarded to the first cake submitted that is three layers tall, the red is awarded to a four-layer cake, and the blue ribbon (which is worth the most points) is awarded to a five-layer cake. The more difficult a judging stand’s criteria is to meet, the more points the ribbons are worth.

Carroll County Cake Swap

Review

It’s hard to go wrong with a theme as yummy and cozy as cake and baking competitions. Carroll County Cake Swap is delightful, from its theme to its artwork. It has all the charm of a baking show, mixed in with set collection and strategic dilemmas.

The rules are easy to learn and to teach but there’s a lot of strategy in the choices you make. Each time you draw a card, if you can’t play it or choose not to, you’re laying it down on the table, potentially providing your opponents with a helpful card in the future.

Choosing which ribbons you wish to go after and adapting to the cards you draw are both important, and the number of choices you have greatly minimizes the bad luck you could run into when drawing cards randomly.

The judging stand cards take up a lot of room and their purpose isn’t entirely clear. The reason for discarding ribbon-winning cakes on top of these cards, rather than simply using a single discard pile, never really comes into play. But the game still comes in a fairly compact box and would be quite portable.

If you’re looking for a light card game that still has a pinch of strategy and a dash of decision making, check it out on Kickstarter and see if it’s not the right mix for you.

Pros: Fun theme, strategic while still remaining light

Cons: Judging stand cards take up an unnecessary amount of space on the table

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.