Going nuts about Go Nuts for Donuts

I felt like I’d been waiting on my copy of Go Nuts for Donuts for an eternity. When the package finally hit my doorstep, I went back and checked Kickstarter to see how many months behind schedule it was. To my surprise, it was actually right on time. It only felt like it had been forever.

Part of the reason was, in a freakish coincidence, Go Nuts for Donuts had Kickstarted at the exact same time as another card game about doughnuts: Doughnut Drive-Thru. Unable to decide, I’d backed them both. And Doughnut Drive-Thru had arrived months ago.

Another part of the reason was that the Go Nuts for Donuts Kickstarter project had been dogged by drama. First, the game hit the jackpot. Gamewright —BMOC publisher behind Sushi Go, Forbidden Island, and more—had swooped in and added Go Nuts for Donuts to their stable of titles, taking over many aspects of printing and fulfillment from Daily Magic Games. However, the acquisition ended up causing some friction in the campaign.

Gamewright kept most of the art for the game and made minor refinements to the rules, but gave the graphic design and logo an extensive makeover. The most controversial changes were to the doughnut cards—a total redesign of the backs and very significant alterations to the fronts—setting off several rounds of Kickstarter updates and backer outcry, ultimately culminating with one backer being credited as a graphic designer on the game after submitting mockups with suggested improvements in the Kickstarter comments.

Gamewright also removed 25 doughnut cards from the game, bringing the total down to 70 cards. Backers of the Kickstarter received all of the cards originally promised in the campaign, but retail copies are smaller and Gamewright may use the other cards as promos or future expansions (you know… I always suspected this is what you’ve been doing, publishers… taking things out of games and making them into promos no one can get…).

So, after all of that, it was a bit surreal finally holding a copy of Go Nuts for Donuts in my hand.

And my first reaction was mild panic.

I told my wife I’d only been backing small card games on Kickstarter and they wouldn’t take up much space. As soon as I saw this I was like, “Oh no, I’m in trouble.”

Gamewright, you done me dirty on the box size here.

Go Nuts for Donuts

Go Nuts for Donuts is a game for two to six players about collecting sets of doughnuts. Each turn, a row of doughnut cards is placed face up in the center of the table and everyone uses their own set of numbered cards to secretly select which doughnut they want. The catch is, you only get a doughnut if no one else wants it. If two or more people select the same doughnut, that doughnut is discarded.

Some doughnut cards are worth a fixed amount of points at the end of the game. Others are worth a variable amount of points (for example, Doughnut Holes are worth more points the more Doughnut Holes you have). Other cards allow you to take actions, such as taking cards from the discard pile. Once all of the doughnuts in the deck are gone, the winner is the person with the most points.

As I feared when I first laid eyes on it, Go Nuts for Donuts is suffering from an acute case of box-is-way-bigger-than-it-needs-to-be-itis. The game consists of one deck of regular-sized cards, one deck of small cards, and eight tokens. The box is approximately the same size as the box for The Resistance, except even larger.

The box does have a nice insert.
If you take the insert out, there is enough space for all of Go Nuts for Donuts, plus an entire copy of Doughnut Drive-Thru.

Fortunately, in spite of it taking up so much extra room, my wife hasn’t divorced me yet, possibly just because Go Nuts for Donuts turned out to be really fun. The doughnuts look adorable and it’s exciting to try to build up a collection while out-thinking what other people think you’re going to pick.

So, perhaps a more interesting question would be… is Go Nuts for Donuts as fun as it could have been? And is it more fun than its erstwhile Kickstarter rival, Doughnut Drive-Thru?

Did Gamewright screw this up?

I have to be honest. I was in the camp of backers thinking Gamewright’s changes to the graphic design weren’t for the best. Originally, the doughnut cards were cleverly designed to simulate what you’d see in a bakery display case, with the doughnut depicted on a tray and the card text appearing on a placard—elements that Gamewright subsequently removed.

However, now that I’ve played the final version of the game and looked back at the original graphic design, I think it’s clear that Gamewright improved the clarity and crispness of both the cards and the logo. I’m still a little bummed about the loss of the placard stand, but I honestly think the updated design is better, cleaner, and more readable.

I also really like the “Dunkin Donuts”-esque font and graphic design that Gamewright decided to use. I don’t know that I would have recommended it if I was on Gamewright’s legal team. But it’s a step above the original ‘generic retro’ logo.

America runs on Go Nuts.

Which doughnut game is better for two players?

Go Nuts for Donuts is designed for two to six players. With each number of players, you vary the number of cards in the deck, aided by the background color of the cards (for two players, you include all of the green cards; for three players, you include all of the green cards and all of the pink cards; etc.).

The downside to this is, with two players, you leave out so many cards that you’re using less than 50% of the cards—and missing out on many fun and interesting types of doughnuts. It’s not so much a two-to-six-player-game as a six-player-game that you can play half of with two. I’m not faulting it for that, per se. It’s probably an unavoidable side effect of the design.

That said, Doughnut Drive-Thru compresses down for two players in an essentially lossless manner. Also, Doughnut Drive-Thru is just a slightly more complex, brain-taxing game that forces you to employ a much more roundabout thought process to play. As a result, I have to say Doughnut Drive-Thru is a better two-player game than Go Nuts for Donuts.

Which doughnut game is better for groups?

On the other hand, I gotta go with Go Nuts for Donuts for bigger groups. Doughnut Drive-Thru‘s tiny pieces and die make it feel like a much more intimate gaming experience—or almost like you’re playing travel size game. Go Nuts for Donuts has a much more easygoing feel, and the structure is perfect for larger groups because everyone plays every turn. No matter how many people are playing, everyone is always going to be engaged.

However, there is a problem with Go Nuts for Donuts and more players in that one person can get more donuts than other people (if you only play Go Nuts for Donuts with two, both players will get the same number of cards each turn). However, this discrepancy tends to average out over the course of the game. Also, there are lots of doughnuts that give you more points for having less cards.

Which game has tastier looking doughnuts?

One thing that’s sure to come up when playing either game is that the cards make you hungry for doughnuts.

Go Nuts for Doughnuts cards (top) compared to Doughnut Drive-Thru cards (bottom).

As far as which ones look tastier, it’s an extremely close call. Both games feature similarly anthropomorphic donuts (and both also include a few non-doughnut treats like cookies, milk, or cupcakes). However, I have to give the scrumptiousness crown to Doughnut Drive-Thru because it has many, many more exotic flavor combinations (e.g., honey matcha) and its doughnuts generally just look a bit happier. Some of the doughnuts in Go Nuts for Donuts look like they will cut you.

I’d hate to meet one of these guys in a dark alley.

Did Gamewright pick the wrong doughnut game?

I sincerely love both Go Nuts for Doughnuts and Doughnut Drive-Thru. I love the quickness and engagement of Go Nuts. I love how almost confusing it can get in Drive-Thru. There are areas where I think Doughnut Drive-Thru is clearly superior (two player experience and general bodaciousness of the doughnuts depicted).

However, I think Gamewright made the right pick. Their oeuvre is family-friendly games, and while Doughnut Drive-Thru is by no means inaccessibly complex, Go Nuts for Doughnuts is definitely the more straightforward, universally enjoyable game. I would feel comfortable bringing out Go Nuts with literally anyone: kids, adults, people who play a lot of games, people who don’t. I just can’t say that about Drive-Thru.

Final thoughts

I’ve played Go Nuts for Donuts a bunch of times with different numbers of players and I’ve enjoyed it every single time. I find it to be an almost stress-free game. I don’t have to stress when bringing it out because I know it’s not going to be off-puttingly complex for anyone. And I don’t have to stress when playing because each turn offers a clear set of options, everyone picks, and whatever happens happens.

At the same time, it’s been hard to get a read on how other people feel about it. Looking around the table at the end of games, I haven’t necessarily seen a look of unbridled joy on everyone’s face.

Sometimes, when you’re playing, you will end up getting less cards than other people. I think some people have found this disheartening. On the other hand, I’ve played this game, sat there, not gotten any donuts for several turns, and thought to myself, “I’m not getting any donuts, but I’m still having fun.”

I mean, I get it. It’s frustrating to not get a card. But also… it’s kind of your fault if you don’t get a doughnut. Any time you don’t get a card, there’s always going to be one still out there that you could have picked.

So, I don’t know. I love Go Nuts for Donuts. Some people haven’t liked it as much, but there’s no game that everyone is going to like. Go Nuts for Donuts has become a new go-to option for me and, because it’s so easy to teach and learn, I’m probably going to play it more than Doughnut Drive-Thru. I’m not pleased with the box size, but when you consider the simplicity of its rules combined with the approachability of grinning doughnuts, there aren’t many games with the versatility of Go Nuts for Donuts.

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