Witchy Cakes is a colorful (but colorblind-friendly) card game where players compete to deliver the tallest possible wedding cake to the reception. Or maybe that should be compete to prevent the other witches from delivering anything taller, because this game is loaded up with both colorful and cuthroat.
The basics of Witchy Cakes involved, as one might suspect, playing layers of cake. Each cake card has a color (green, pink, purple, yellow) and a pattern (wavy, stripes, crosshatch). On each turn you can play one new layer on one cake (usually, but necessarily, your own), with the new layer having to match the color or pattern of the one below. If a three-card color pattern in your cake matches one of the recipe cards in the middle, you take that card and add it to your stack. Run out of cards in hand and you draw five new ones. Hit the third bell card in the deck of cake cards and the game ends.
But … you can do more than just play that single cake card. Most notably, you can throw a layer of cake at someone else’s cake. Every cake card has a “throw bar” across the top with a three-color pattern. If that pattern happens to exist in someone else’s cake, well then, they were really asking to have you throw cake at them and knock out those three layers, weren’t they? There are a couple types of of wild cake card that can’t be thrown – rainbow layers that match every color and black layers that match no color. Rainbow layers make it easier to score recipes and black ones make it harder. On the other hand, rainbow layers can be easily knocked down by thrown cake while black layers can’t be. So it’s not so simple as always wanting to put rainbows on your cake and black layers on other players’ cakes (although you usually need some coordination to effectively use the rainbow layers offensively).
There are two other components to Witchy Cakes. The ones that mean something mechanically are secret ingredients (you start with one and get a replacement when you draw a new hand). These can be played at any time for a variety of effects – play or throw more layers, rearrange cake layers, swap card locations around, that sort of thing.
The ones that aren’t mechanically relevant but are really eye-catching are the coven cards. They’re just a marker for the cake base. But they’re fantastic little bits of art, each a set of three witches in various themes – The Craft, ice cream, Girl Scouts, insects, outer space, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Hocus Pocus (there’s 16 in all in the base game). They’re one of those components that just adds a little extra zing to a game.
Indeed, those coven cards were really the thing that most caught my eye when I was looking at Witchy Cakes at the Mage Hand Press booth at GenCon (This review is based on a pre-production copy of the base game, so images do not represent final components; Witchy Cakes already came and went on Kickstarter, but you can still preorder it on the Mage Hand Press website.) We sat down to play one evening at the Con (three grown-up gamers plus a couple of kids), I read the rulebook, and I started worrying that the game might be a bit too straightforward. But it ended up being fun for the kids and the grownups. That one card play a turn is more options that it seems. And even when your hand is almost empty, you mostly want to get to that reload, and you can’t play on your own cake there are still choices, because that layer you’re forced to play on someone else’s cake can disrupt recipes, maybe set up a later throw, and serves as a bit of a catch-up mechanic. And there’s a reasonable ability to think on other players’ turns, so each individual turn goes by quickly and keeps the game moving. Even when the third bell was buried deep in the deck we didn’t feel like the game dragged. If you’re attracted to brightly colored objects, clever art, and lighter card games with some bite, Witchy Cakes is worth checking out.