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A Prize-Winning Review of Carroll County Cake Swap


Quick Look: Carroll County Cake Swap

Designer: David Sensenig
Artist: David Sensenig
Publisher: Jealous Cat Games / 25th Century Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 10-30 min.

From the publisher:

Bake beautiful cakes. Vie for the best ribbons. Swipe, swap, and squeeze your way to victory!

Put on your apron and grab your mixing bowls as you vie for ribbons in the cake decorating contest at the Carroll County Fair. Create the tallest, most beautiful cakes by stacking layer upon layer of frosted sweetness. Will you go slow and steady to create a few cakes with extreme precision? Or rush to submit your cakes ahead of the competition? Draw or draft cards to build cakes up to five layers tall. Elbow your opponents to get the types of cake (chocolate or vanilla) and frosting flavors (five fruits, plus a wild) you need to win ribbons in six categories. Only one player may win each ribbon, so you’ll have to swipe, swap, and squeeze your way to victory. Some ribbons are worth more than others. Choose carefully which ones you go for in this race to outmaneuver other contestants.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Carroll County Cake Swap. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. Carroll County Cake Swap will be brought to Kickstarter later in 2020 or early 2021 by 25th Century Games; in the meantime, you can still purchase the Print and Play files from Jealous Cat Games to enjoy some cake crafting now.

I received a prototype copy of Carroll County Cake Swap for the purposes of this review, but all opinions here are mine or those of my friends and family.


Review: Carroll County Cake Swap

Overview and Theme:
Stroll through the countryside to the gingham-covered tables proudly displaying carefully decorated multi-layer cakes, and enter your own creations to win ribbons at the Carroll County Cake Swap!

Carroll County Cake Swap is a family-weight set-collection and card-drafting game of building the most beautiful cakes.



Components and Setup:
Before I continue, I just want to clarify that what my family has been playing is a 2018 copy of the Jealous Cat Games version of Carroll County Cake Swap. Jealous Cat launched a Kickstarter for this game in the summer of 2019 but has since engaged in discussions with 25th Century Games, who has agreed to republish (and re-Kickstart) the game with updated art. The game components you see in the Jealous Cat version here (also still available as a print and play) will very likely be upgraded for the new release later this year, but gameplay should remain the same.

Carroll County Cake Swap is a card game--the heart of the game is a deck of 60 delicious cake cards with five sizes of cake layers (1-5) and six delectable flavors of frosting (strawberry, orange, banana, kiwi, blueberry, and wild).

There are also six different judging stands (oversized cards) for the six different classes of cake you can enter: Honorable, Premium, Prestigious, Gold Standard, Signature, and Showcase. Each of these has different requirements for the cake presented there (for example, a Prestigious cake must have all layers of the same flavor--either chocolate or vanilla--but the frosting flavors don't matter). In addition, each judging stand will have three available ribbons (white, red, and blue) with a different number of points. Set these stands out with their matching ribbons.


Shuffle the cake cards and have each player draw one to see who goes first (the biggest layers of cake). All of these cards are then set face up in the center of the table (the drafting area) along with the face-down deck.

In addition, each player gets three special action cards (swap, squeeze, and swipe), a character card, and a reference card. Two of the things I love about this edition of Carroll County Cake Swap are that it plays up to six players (many "family" weight card games only play up to four) and that the characters are diverse in gender, race, body type, and clothing styles. I hope that diversity extends to the new version of the art, too!


Game Play and Mechanics:
The premise of Carroll County Cake Swap is that you are trying to build the best-looking cakes in several of the categories to earn points. On each turn, you'll have a chance to draw or draft a card to your cake platter and to clear your cake stand by discarding a cake or submitting it for judging. If you have crafted a cake worthy of one of the ribbons still on the table, you earn that ribbon and its points. The game continues until one player has reached 31 points (fewer in 5-6 player games).


My friends and fellow gamers were drawn to Carroll County Cake Swap because of the charming theme and the light gameplay. One of the most interesting things about this game is its use drafting--any time a player discards a card, they do so face up into a spread of cards in the center of the table, with all cards still showing (instead of in a single discard pile where only the top card shows).

Players have the choice of drawing a card from the face-down deck or choosing any one of the face-up cards, which means there is a certain strategy tied to deciding what to discard, or what to use to build your cake based on what is available in the drafting pool. This drafting pool is quite different from other card games we've played and it allows Carroll County Cake Swap to have a fresh take on set collecting and drafting.


On your turn, you draw or draft a card and then either add it to your cake stand or discard it to the center of the table, following the placement rules: you must build your cake from the bottom up and any new layer added must be smaller than the layer it is being added to.

Before or after adding your new card, you can also clear your platter--either into a face-down discard pile to the side (these will not be used in the drafting pile) or by submitting it to be judged. If your cake matches one of the judging booth requirements that still has an available ribbon, you earn that ribbon. For example, if you submit a four layer cake with all chocolate layers but various types of frosting, you could earn the red ribbon from the Prestigious booth.


Along the way, you have three special action cards (swap, squeeze, or swipe) which can each be used just once per game to swap a card with another one in your cake or in the drafting area, to squeeze a layer of cake in between two already built (if you already had a 5 with a 3 on top and then drew a 4, you could play your squeeze card to add the 4 in its proper place) or to swipe the top layer from any other player's cake. Because you can use each of these just once, you'll have to be very careful with choosing when to use them.

Keep taking turns until one player has the 31 points needed to win the game!


The Good:
The fetching theme of making cakes for the county fair and the family weight of the gameplay plus the interesting twist on a drafting pool kept us playing Carroll County Cake Swap as a family and with gaming friends.

As a gameschooling mom, I love everyday themes like this one, and I appreciate the way that young players can work on planning skills and strategies as well as probabilities and decision making while having fun building beautiful cakes.


The Not-So-Good:
The only negative points that came up about Carroll County Cake Swap talked about production value--the logos, graphics, and artwork could all use a bump, but those things will all be addressed by the upcoming 25th Century Games version. (Please keep the diversity in character cards!)



Players Who Like:
Carroll County Cake Swap will be a good fit for families or game groups who enjoy lightweight, pleasant card games like Arboretum or Dinomals.

Final Thoughts:
I am very excited to see the continued journey of Carroll County Cake Swap. For now, it has earned itself a place in our shelf of small family games near Kodama and Herbaceous, and we look forward to seeing new art and a great upcoming campaign from 25th Century Games.





Check out Carroll County Cake Swap on:

           

About the Author:













My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
A Prize-Winning Review of Carroll County Cake Swap A Prize-Winning Review of Carroll County Cake Swap Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on March 17, 2020 Rating: 5

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