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.

Games you can play for dessert: Doughnut Drive-Thru

Something interesting happened on Kickstarter in September 2016. In a brief flash of odd synchronicity, two projects for card games featuring anthropomorphic, kawaii-cute doughnuts launched within a day of each other.

I couldn’t decide which one of them looked better so, of course, I backed them both. (I have a problem.) Both of them ended up funding.

The first, Go Nuts for Donuts by Daily Magic Games, is still in pre-production. However, after the campaign, it was signed by the publisher Gamewright—pretty much guaranteeing it will appear on store shelves everywhere, eventually.

On the other hand, the second project, Doughnut Drive-Thru by Grail Games, has already been printed, delivered to backers, and will soon enter distribution channels.

Doughnut Drive-Thru

Doughnut Drive-Thru is a game for two to four players where you bake and serve doughnuts. On your turn, you can draw a doughnut card, prepare a doughnut card you have drawn, or serve a doughnut card you have prepared. Each doughnut card has a preparation cost (the amount you must roll on a die to prepare it), a serving cost (the amount you must roll on a die to serve it), and a point value. The game ends once one player has served five donuts and the winner is the player with the most points.

A lot less intimidating than an actual pastry kitchen.

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that, though. You start the game with two doughnut tokens (or three tokens in a two player game). To take the action of drawing, preparing, or serving a card, you must put a token on that action. If the action you want is full, you cannot take it. If you run out of tokens, you must pick up tokens from one of the actions. So, you need to be able to get the actions you want before you can even try to get the particular die rolls you need to prepare and serve your doughnuts.

Also, doughnuts that you have served can be used to give you a “plus-one” for any die roll. At the start of the game, you only have a realistic shot at preparing and serving low-cost doughnuts, but the more you serve, the better you get at it. Eventually, as you build up your supply of plus-ones, you can even try to prepare and serve doughnuts that require a seven or eight—higher than it is even possible to roll on the game’s six-sided die. However, even with plus-ones, nothing is guaranteed because rolling a one is always an automatic failure.

I don’t know exactly what it is, but this game sucked me in. The rules are simple, the cards are cheerful, and rolling the die is fun, but there’s also a lot to think about. You can’t just play on autopilot. What doughnuts do you want to go for? How many of your plus-ones do you want to spend to try to guarantee success? What action are you going to take next if you get the roll you need? What action are you going to take next if you fail? Also—and this is really important—what are your opponents trying to do?

Since you can see what doughnuts other people have in front of them and what they need to do, you can get into a bit of a mind game where you can try to block other people from getting the actions that they need. You’ll constantly be asking yourself, “If I go here, they’re going to go there… so should I go there instead of here?”


Some of the foods aren’t doughnuts, but are still adorable.

Evaluating artwork is entirely subjective, but I still think I’ve come up with a foolproof proposition for determining whether the artwork in a food game is good:

The artwork in a food game is good if and only if it makes you hungry.

If the game reminds you of the food so much that you start craving it, the artwork is probably pretty good, yeah? For Doughnut Drive-Thru, the smiling dessert cards are very stylized, but they make me really, really want to eat a doughnut. I’ve been dreaming about biting into a Boston cream or raspberry filled pastry ever since I opened the box for this game.


I came across a few little things in Doughnut Drive-Thru that stuck out and distracted me.

One of the types of actions you can take on your turn is called “work.” I wish they had called this literally anything else. Bake? Cook? Confectionify? Kitchen-up-a-storm? An action called “work” makes me think about, well, work—which is the last thing I want to think about during a game.

Similarly, most of the doughnuts have fun names (“Tastalicious Almond Bomb”) and/or names that are understandable puns (“General Custard”, “Cinnamoan”). However, one of the doughnuts is called “Annoying Wasabi and Guava.” As far as I can tell, this might be some kind of reference that I’m too web-is-a-series-of-tubes-ignorant to get. Who knows, maybe the other cards have in-jokes that I’m not getting either? Whatever the case, every time I see this card, it jars me right out of the game because “annoying” is not an adjective that describes food. All of the donuts sound delicious, except this one.

The only food I would describe as “annoying” is red lettuce. Every time I see a salad with a red lettuce, I’m like, why is there a tree leaf in my salad… did they just pick these up out of someone’s yard… this is annoying.

Also, the back of the box says the game includes “eight very small wooden doughnuts.” This just sounds weird. “Very small” is so relative—what does that even mean? Sure, they are “very small” compared to real doughnuts. But, at approximately the size of a defectively large Cheerio, I would say they are averagely-proportioned wooden board game pieces. I guess describing them as “very small” is expectation management that means people will be pleasantly surprised when they see the actual size.

Honey Nut Meeple-os compared to a typical meeple.

The thing that is actually “very small” is the die that comes with the game. It’s a custom six-sided die with a doughnut instead of a one, but it’s tiny. Rolling the die is such a critical part of the game that I wish it came with a big, beefy die instead of this decidedly diminutive one. I’m sure price point and production costs were a factor here, though.

14mm doughnut die (center) compared to basic 16mm die (right). 2mm doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it is.

In spite of the size, having a custom die with something different on the one face is still a huge positive feature for the game since it treats rolling a one differently than rolling any other number.


The game includes four optional special “baker” characters. I love how compactly these are implemented: the reverse side of each player aid card has a unique power. The rules suggest that you should either deal them out randomly or let players choose them in reverse turn order.

“Gerdt” is an anagram for “gredt,” the sound you sarcastically mumble under your breath if you get stuck with that card.

I’m concerned the powers might not be completely balanced. Ordinarily, when you’ve used one of your served doughnut cards for a plus-one, you can’t use it for a plus-one again until you reset it by taking the “Coffee Break” action. However, the Peter baker allows you to Coffee Break one card each turn. Arguably, I can see how this might be balanced because you need a served doughnut to use it, and some of the times you are getting a plus-one from it, you would have gotten one from taking a Coffee Break anyways. However, when playing the game, this seems to generate a lot more plus-ones than the other powers.

This is not a huge deal, though. The powers are an optional part of the game, and you could just play without this one if you wanted to. Or, if you were playing with a younger player, you could give them this card. Or, maybe I’m wrong and it is balanced.

Final thoughts

You know how, if you just eat sugary doughnuts for breakfast, you end up hungry and wishing you’d had something more? This game is not like that.

I didn’t expect this game to stick with me, but it did. I keep finding myself wanting to go back and play it again.

And also wanting to eat a doughnut.