Growing up in the land of the Krispy Kreme hot button, it was inevitable that donuts would become my favorite food. It’s a tragedy that they have no redeeming nutritional value and I’ve never been able to convince a single doctor that “they make me happy” is a viable reason for eating them. At any rate, a game that presents me with adorable, smiling, yummy-looking donuts was destined going to catch my eye. The only question is: Is it fun (and better for me than actual donuts), or should I just go to Krispy Kreme and drown my sorrows in sugar?
How It Plays
Go Nuts for Donuts (hereafter known as GNfD) is a simultaneous action selection/set collection card game that has players trying to earn the most points by acquiring useful cards (i.e, fighting over the best donuts). The game is played over several rounds.
During setup, a certain number of donut cards are dealt face up underneath numbered tiles into the donut row. (The number of cards depends on the number of players.) The remaining cards form the draw pile. Each player gets a set of numbered selection cards. (Again, dependent on the number of players.)
On your turn, secretly choose which card you want from the donut row by choosing the selection card in your hand that corresponds to the number of the card you want in the donut row. So, for example, if you want the card under the number two tile, choose the number two card from your hand.
Once everyone has chosen their card, the selection cards are simultaneously revealed. Then, starting with the lowest selection number and counting up, players look to see who, if anyone, gets to take cards. If two or more players choose the same donut, no one gets it. There will be no sharing in this game! (GNfD isn’t a game you use to teach children this valuable life lesson. In donuts, it’s every man for himself.)
If only one player chooses a card, that player takes the card from the donut row and places it in front of herself. If the card you take is an action card, invoke its special power at the time you take it. Action card powers only activate when taken from the donut row, not when the card is taken from the discard pile, drawn from the deck, or taken from another player.
When all of the cards have been taken and all powers resolved, a new round begins. The donut row is refilled and players take their selection cards back into their hands. Play continues until there are not enough donuts to refill the donut row.
At that point, all players tally their points. Points are awarded by the cards you’ve managed to acquire during the game. Some donut cards are worth straight points, others are worth more if collected in sets. Some are worth points only if you have a certain number of them, or if you have the majority of that type. Some cards are worth negative points at the end of the game, but may have provided a beneficial special power during the game. There are cards that reward you for getting through the game with just a few types of donuts in hand, or few cards in general. There are lots of ways the cards can score, so figuring out the combos and working them in your favor is part of the strategy.
The winner is the player with the most points.
Are These Donuts Hot ‘n Fresh, or Day Old Mold?
I loved Sushi Go and Sushi Go Party, Gamewright’s earlier entries into the “adorable, simple, food-related card game” genre. Other than being about food, GNfD and Sushi Go are not the same. (Other than being simple, family weight card games, that is.) GNfD is not re-theme of Sushi Go. However, the one similarity is this: If you loved the artwork in Sushi Go, you’ll like these donuts. They’re cute, fattening cousins to the sushi.
The thing that makes GNfD interesting is that it is deceptively simple. Yes, you can simply pick donuts because you like them or because you think no one else will want them. Amazingly, people who play pretty randomly can be fairly competitive in the end. The scoring is so balanced that even the blindest picks can pay off in the end. This makes it great for playing with children because even though the subtleties might elude them, they’re still in with a chance. And non-gamers, too, can make a good showing simply by accumulating “cute” donuts.
But… If you want to play with more strategy, that is an option. Everything in the game is open knowledge. Everyone has access to the same cards at the same time. Cards you’ve won are kept face up in front of you for all to see (and steal, if special card powers allow). The discard pile accumulates face up so the top card is always visible. (Useful when a special ability allows you to take the top card from the discard pile.) The only thing you don’t know is which cards will come up next to refill the donut deck. Everything else is out there for you to base your decisions upon.
This gives you plenty of agency in deciding which cards to go for. Card selection in GNfD is driven by simultaneous action selection/blind bidding for cards. You know what donut you want, but do you know what your opponents might be going for? What are your chances of actually getting that card? Since there’s no sharing in the game, if you’re confident that an opponent is going for the card you want, it might be advantageous to choose something else you’re reasonably sure of getting. Or, maybe you need to try to actively deny them a certain card. Of course, if your opponent thinks the same way, you could both be shooting yourselves in the feet and leaving that desired card on the table. Or leaving it for someone else to take from under you both.
If players are playing for blood, the game can get a bit mean. There are several cards in the deck that allow you to steal from opponents. (There are none in the two player game, however.) Some cards force you to give up a card of your choice. The meanest option, I think, is to foist the card that docks seven points at the end of the game upon someone else. When taken from the donut row, it comes with an excellent power: Take up to three cards of your choice from the discard pile. That can make taking the point hit worth it. However, once you pass it to another player, they do not get the benefit of the ability. They only lose the points. Ouch. There are other ways cards can be stolen/foisted/discarded in cruel ways, as well. If you’re playing with sensitive people, this can kill their enjoyment.
The good news is that none of the meanness appears in the two player game. In that version, you’re simply playing for points. You can work to deny your opponent cards through the bidding process, but there’s no stealing or forced discarding. It’s a fairly peaceful, relaxing game.
The game does scale well at all player counts and it goes up to six, making it good for larger groups. The bummer is that only 5+ player games use all the cards. That means that if you predominately play with smaller groups, those other cutie donuts will never see the light of day. Getting to play with all the cards can make for a “better” experience, as long as you can tolerate the take that and the chaos that ensues with a larger group. Smaller groups experience less pain and more opportunity for strategy, as others aren’t are likely to torpedo your plans with card theft. All are good, it’s simply a matter of which type of game you’re seeking.
My only wish for the game is that the box had been smaller. Sushi Go and Party came in tins which were sized well for the games. This box has a lot of empty space and the components could have fit into a smaller box or tin, upping the portability. Maybe Gamewright took a lot of flak from tin-haters and decided to go with a box this time. While it does fit easily on a shelf, it takes up a lot of space.
GNfD is another winner from Gamewright in the easy, light, family card game genre. I don’t know if it will hit the heights that Sushi Go did, but GNfD is a fun game in its own right. It’s a great way of introducing blind bidding/action selection concepts to novice gamers, or for killing time among experienced gamers. With a player count up to six and the fact that young, inexperienced players can be competitive, it will be great for holiday gatherings. If you’re looking for a real brain burner, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you want a family game with an approachable theme, I don’t think you can go wrong with these donuts.
Just be aware that it comes with one big con: You will want donuts during and after play. Dieters and health nuts beware!