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Subject: Baker's Dozen - A Detailed Review rss

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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Summary

Game Type - Card Game
Play Time: 10-30 minutes
Number of Players - 3-6
Mechanics - Maths, Majority scoring element
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in under 15 minutes)
Components - Good


Image Courtesy of binraix

Overview

It is important to note that this is a re-theme of an already existing game called Poison by Reiner Knizia. This is so much so that BGG has not deemed it necessary to split the two titles.

This version is still by Knizia. The company, Playroom Entertainment also remains the same and the game itself is not changed in terms of game play.

What I think we have here is a re-theme of the same game in order to do several things. First they are trying to hit a new target market and in doing so boost sales. Poison and its associated witches and cauldron theme perhaps excluded it from the lucrative religious market of game players. Especially in the United States.

Second, whilst donuts (the theme for this version) are not girl centric, the package design and use of a shot featuring two girls, suggest that they are aiming for that demographic (someone's been paying attention to the shift in video game sales over the past decade).

Finally, the Baker's Dozen version may well be cheaper to produce as the box size is smaller and they have done away with the large cauldron templates.

At its core however, Baker's Dozen is a straight re-theme of Poison. Here the players are trying to score as few points as possible through the clever playing of their donut cards to the table.

The Components

The components are minimal but well done all the same.

d10-1 The Donuts - Did I say minimal...well...umm...actually the donut cards are all that is needed for Baker's Dozen. There are 4 types of donuts in all; chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and moldy. The first three types are all the same in that each card ranges in score from 1 to 7, only their flavour and associated colour differ.

The moldy donuts all have a value of 4 and they come in off green. gulp

The cards themselves are neatly presented in donut form, including the hole. They are just thick enough to pass the component inspection test but they could have been a little thicker if truth be known.

They are not up to the high quality of the cards in Poison however as those cards featured a matte finish.


Image Courtesy of binraix

d10-2 Rules - The game comes with a series of rules in various languages and the English version at least are very easy to read and follow.

d10-3 Packaging - The game comes neatly packaged in a box that is meant to represent the packaging you might take away from a donut or baker's shop. It is certainly eye catching on the shelf when compared to all the other square and rectangular offerings.

That said it really isn't necessary and I think it was only chosen to catch the eye and the female market. The insert inside the box fills 90% of the space with the cards and rules fitting in the final 10%.

Packaged differently this game could well fit inside a box a 10th of the size and result in a much cheaper price to purchase. Of course a cheap game that doesn't get seen or purchased is good to no one.

The Game Play

The aim of Baker's Dozen is to play cards to the table in such a way that you earn as few points as possible.

d10-1 Set-Up - Consists of nothing more than shuffling up the cards and dealing 5 to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down as a draw pile. The player to the left of the dealer gets the play under way.

d10-2 Basic Play - On a player's turn they must simply play a card to the table and draw a new card from the draw deck to return their hand to 5 cards.

Playing a card is as simple as picking any one card from your hand and playing it to one of 3 rows. There are 3 rows because each donut flavour can only be present in any 1 row. For example once a chocolate donut has been played to a row, further chocolate donut cards can only be played there and nowhere else.

Any card can be played to its corresponding row (based on flavour) at any time. Naturally if a donut flavour is being added to a row for the first time, the card is starting that row.

d10-3 Keeping Score - Once a player plays a donut to the appropriate row, they need to state the score out loud. This is where the values of the cards come into play.

Playing the first card to a row is as simple as stating the value of the card just played. Adding a card to a row that already has donuts requires that the new card be added to the existing score and declared. Once the new total has been declared, the active player draws a card to return their hand to 5 cards and this ends their turn.

d10-4 The Magic Number (What the Heck are we Doing Here?!) - What makes Baker's Dozen work is that any given row cannot exceed a running total of 13. Should any player play a card to take the total to 14 or more, they will be forced to take all cards from the row (except the card just played) and put them in their score pile. Any cards in a player's score pile are likely to hurt them in the scoring phase.

The card played to take a row to 14 or more is left on the table and acts as the 1st card of the new row.

So the basic strategy of the game is revealed. Each player is doing their best to inch the total of each row towards 13 and in doing so, hopefully force the other players to take donut cards into their score pile.

d10-5 Ending a Round - After many turns the draw deck will become exhausted but play still continues from one player to the next until all of the 56 cards have been played out, thus ending the round. Now it is time for scoring.

d10-6 Scoring - Scoring is quite simple. Each card within a player's score pile is worth 1 point. So collect the fewest cards and you will be doing well. But as it stands the game is merely ok.

Thankfully there are two twists that make the game go to the next level.

d10-7 Gluttony is Good - Knizia has always been fond of majority scoring rules and he implements this nicely in Baker's Dozen.

The twist here is that the player who manages to acquire the most donuts in each flavour can throw them all away before scoring! wow

In doing so they will score no points for these cards and this lends the game a nice strategic consideration; 'Do I try to avoid acquiring any cards of a particular flavour or do I risk trying to acquire as many as possible in the hope that I can snare the majority?'

d10-8 The Moldy Donuts - I have of course not mentioned these up to now. Moldy donuts can be played on a turn like any other donut and they are playable to any of the 3 rows. They will always add 4 to the running total of a row as this is their value. A clever play can be to play a moldy donut to a row in order to take the running total past 13, as this will see the moldy donut stay on the table.

Collecting moldy donuts is seriously not cool though as each one of these cards is worth 2 points and moldy donuts can never be shed before scoring. Having these wretched cards in your possession simply hurts.

For the record, if a moldy donut is played as the 1st card in a given row, the row's flavour is determined by the first flavoured donut that is added to it. Unless of course the other two rows are already determined, which therefore sets the flavour of the moldy donut row as there can only be 1 row per flavour. Should I say flavour one more time in this sentence, may god smote me down with lightning (said with John Cleese voice and delivery for full flavour effect!)

d10-9 Ending the Game - After each player's score for a round has been calculated and recorded, a new round can begin. The game runs for one round per player in the game. The lowest score at the end of the final round is declared the winner.

d10-1d10-0 Variations - The rules also throw up a variation. At the beginning of each round all of the cards can be dealt out to the players (instead of 5). In this way the players have far more knowledge of what they have at their disposal and what lies in the hands of the other players.

When playing with 3 players a dummy 4th hand is dealt out, therefore creating an element of mystery as to which cards are not in play.

The Final Word

Whilst Baker's Dozen (aka Poison) is a simple game, I think it offers more meat than its trimmings would suggest. Sure there is an element of needing to be in the right place at the right time, but there is much to like as well.

The 'take that' nature of the game is great and given the short play time you don't really feel too upset with getting hammered at any one time as the laws of probability suggest that your opponent's turn will come soon enough.

But beyond the 'Take That' feel, Baker's Dozen does have some amount of depth to it. Good players must assess their own hand closely and the cards that are being played by others. This (in conjunction with the running total of each row) can help to identify the rows that are more or less likely to see cards added to them and this can assist a player in keeping their options open for the next turn and perhaps the turn after that.

Once a player takes a hit and is forced to collect a set of cards they need to weigh up their chances of shooting for the majority in that flavour and potentially change their strategy accordingly. In this way the values of the cards have been carefully considered as has the magic number of 13.

Indeed the game also allows for some meta gaming of sorts as a player can try to hurt a particular player if they are in the lead, although this is not always easy to achieve unless they are the player directly following you.

The mechanic of playing cards to rows combined with the nature of the scoring reminds me somewhat of the play on offer in Coloretto. Whilst Baker's Dozen is not as meaty as Coloretto and the scoring is much simpler, the games seem to scratch a similar itch.

From this perspective you could almost say that Baker's Dozen is a nice introduction to 'Take That' games and one that is very appealing to introduce children to before moving them onto meatier games like Coloretto.

This brings me to my final point, which is that Baker's Dozen does have a nice educational element to it. The need to declare running totals with each card played requires the use of counting and addition skills.

Thankfully any children at this point in their understanding of maths should also be able to grasp the game play, so all in all Baker's Dozen is a great game for families and classrooms that have younger children (6-12).

Although this may be a re-theme and it doesn't particularly appeal to me anymore than Poison did, I am glad that it has been released if it means that it can be discovered by a new audience.

Mmm...donuts!
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Robert Cannon
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This is one of my favorite light card games. I love the decisions in which cards to play. I like the retheming to make it more family friendly.
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Jens Alfke
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Nice review!

I've been playing Poison on my iPhone for a while and enjoy it, but when I decided to get a physical copy I chose Baker's Dozen instead because it's more compact (and cheaper), the round cards with holes in them are fun, and my kids love the donut theme. Oh, and also because if I buy a game with occult symbols in it I will burn in Hell for eternity (oh wait, that's not true.)
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How many donuts of each type do you get? Nice review by the way. Also, I'm wondering if you add up all the donuts of let's say chocolate, would all those numbers be over the number 13 by a lot, or not.
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PBandJ wrote:
How many donuts of each type do you get? Nice review by the way. Also, I'm wondering if you add up all the donuts of let's say chocolate, would all those numbers be over the number 13 by a lot, or not.


Don't have the game in front of me but I'd be guessing (from memory) that it is something like 10-15 donuts of each type. Each type has something like two 5,6,7s and more of the 2-4 values. So yeah the values are enough to go beyond 13 2-3 times.
 
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^Thanks for telling me.
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Craig Duncan
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I like the donut cards. But can anyone supply a "theme" to explain the rules?

E.g. in Poison, you could offer the following explanation: You are wizards in potions class. The cauldrons can only contain 12 vials of potion. If you go over twelve there will be a puff of poison cloud that escapes. Fortunately, the potions teacher has one vial of poison antidote/immunity for each type of poison except the "Nasty Fours" poison (the analogue of the moldy donuts); the teacher will give this immunity to the student exposed to the biggest poison cloud of each type (so the holder of the majority of each color throws those cards away).

My family likes to have stories to tell like that, which explain the rules and make them seem less random.

What might a possible thematic explanation be for Baker's Dozen's rules? Any suggestions?
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cdunc123 wrote:
I like the donut cards. But can anyone supply a "theme" to explain the rules?

E.g. in Poison, you could offer the following explanation: You are wizards in potions class. The cauldrons can only contain 12 vials of potion. If you go over twelve there will be a puff of poison cloud that escapes. Fortunately, the potions teacher has one vial of poison antidote/immunity for each type of poison except the "Nasty Fours" poison (the analogue of the moldy donuts); the teacher will give this immunity to the student exposed to the biggest poison cloud of each type (so the holder of the majority of each color throws those cards away).

My family likes to have stories to tell like that, which explain the rules and make them seem less random.

What might a possible thematic explanation be for Baker's Dozen's rules? Any suggestions?


Yeah that's a tough one. We can't be Baker's as it makes no sense to want to get rid of your Donuts...unless of course this represents your ability to sell them perhaps.

I suppose the players could be instructors at a 'fat camp' and we must try to keep this contraband (donuts) away from the kiddies...shake
 
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The best thing I can think of is that you own a donut shop, and you want to get rid of your donuts to someone, but the problem is that it's the end of the night, and you are running low on donuts. Pretend that someone has made an order of 12 donuts, but people are coming to the store wanting donuts, and there are non. Should the baker sell the order of donuts, or should they turn away the people that come to the shop not on order. If they sell the order, the order people might complain because they come to the store, and there are no donuts for them.

Of course, in the game you have 3 sets of donuts, so maybe it would be people calling for 3 orders. You can also have that just because you own the donut shop doesn't mean you are the maker of the donuts.
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Craig Duncan
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Good suggestions Neil and R S.

Building off the fat camp suggestion: maybe you and your teammates are campers at fat camp. The evil counselors pull a surprise "donut check" on you and your cabinmates one night. You have to hand over your contraband donuts to them one by one. The counselors force each person who adds the 14th donut or higher of a given kind to take the previous 13 donuts (baker's dozen) of that kind and eat them on the spot. Not even fat camp campers want to eat them all at once! Plus as a result of eating so many donuts you will earn the wrath of the evil counselors for gaining weight instead of losing it at the next weigh in.

As for the moldy donuts: well, since you can't tell what kind they are you can put them anywhere. And obviously no one wants to each moldy donuts, so they count even more against you.

Just a thought...
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