A Review of Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery!

Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery is listed as a “cooperative baking card game” from Skybound. This wasn’t a Kickstarter (to my knowledge). It’s listed as 2-5 Players, 15-30 Minutes, 8+ Ages: for the most part, that’s pretty accurate.

This is a simple card game about building some neat bakery creations for a group of customers. I picked it up a few months ago, and it’s been sitting around getting played much more than I expected by all my friends! Let’s take a look at this game!



I ordered this game directly from the Skybound website, but it appears to be everywhere right now (it is even on sale at Kohl’s for half price at the time of this writing: just Google it). It comes in a smallish game box (about the size of Now Boarding! from last week): see the Coke can below for perspective.

The game is mostly all cards: the components are even listed on the back of the box:


The rulebook is very pink and very cute, but still very readable.


But almost everything else is cards!



As you can see above, all the cards are VERY readable, very cute, and the art is very distinguishable! This game is just adorable.

The games components are easily legible across the table: all the components have cute, distinguishing art, and all the components are labelled! It seems simple, but the fact that each type of card is well-labelled, color-coded, legible, and distinguishable by art goes a long way towards creating a good vibe on the table! There was never any grumpiness on what-was-what.

And this game is cute as the dickens.




This is a good rulebook. The font is perhaps a touch smaller than I liked, but it is still very very readable. Look, right away they show the components AND label them with a picture! (See above) Thank you! (Pay attention: Now Boarding! you should have done that).

One thing that might be daunting when you look at the rulebook is the number of pages: 24! (Not 24 factorial, just 24 with an exclamation mark for emphasis). Don’t worry weary baker, the game is explained and set-up very well in the first seven pages! The rest of the book describes the scenarios (this game has a campaign mode??!?!?), so don’t worry about the length.


The game jumps right in with the set-up (see above): you can immediately set this up and get going. It’s got pictures, annotated notations, and a well-described set-up.



The next four pages describe the gameplay very well: see the two pictures above. There are examples and well-written text.

Most of the rest of the rulebook describes scenarios!!


The rulebook ends with a bang, having a quick reference on the back.


This is a good rulebook. Well-written, easy-to-read, and lots of examples. The size can be daunting (24 page rulebook!), but most of it just gives details on different scenarios: the basic game is described well in the first 7 pages. At it’s core, this is a simple cooperative game.


This is a simple cooperative game that can easily be described by the front and back of the Summary cards (above). The object of the game is to bake enough “baking masterpieces” for the customers coming through your shop. Players work together as bakers to build these culinary masterpieces.


For example, the Turtle above wants a Chocolate Bombe, and the Dragon wants Crumpets. Note that each customer tells you what ingredients are needed to build these culinary masterpieces! Some of the ingredients are simple and be used directly (the butter, eggs, flour for instance): these are obtained from the ingredients row:


5 random ingredients will be placed out, and replaced and cycled as the players try to bake items. If players can’t find an ingredient, they can use one action on their turn to “reset” all 5 ingredients and hopefully get what they need.


Some things needed for the culinary creations have to be made: for instance, the biscuit from the Chocolate Bombe requires Biscuits: Biscuits must be made … you can see (above left) that the Biscuits require eggs, flour, and sugar.


There’s really not much more to the game: players need to bake culinary creations for customers before they leave the store. A customer will hang out until pushed out the of store or gets his “creation” baked!


Interestingly, this game has 3 levels of winning: For the scenario above (pet the Kitty), getting 3 customers satisfied gives you 1 star (copper), 4 customers gives you 2 stars (silver) and 5 customers gives you a 3 stars! I’ve always liked when cooperative games have a “minor wins” and “major wins” (like Ares Expedition should): that way, you can still feel like you accomplished something, even if you don’t get the best win.

Gameplay is real simple: a customer is introduced, and players each get a number of actions to try to bake creations. Players work together, gathering ingredients from the ingredient line, baking layers (if needed) and sharing ingredients in order to satisfy the customers! You can’t always finish the creations for the customer right away, so another customer may enter the shop. You may decide to concentrate on both, neither or one, depending on the available ingredients!

The game is really simple. Grab the proper ingredients and layers to satisfy customers. That’s it.

Campaign Mode?  Scenarios!

So, this light and fluffy game has a Campaign mode!! “What?” I hear you say!  “Are we playing Tainted Grail with its giant storyline??”  (See our review of Tainted Grail Part I and Part II).  Calm down!  Although you are supposed to do the scenarios in order, the Scenarios are really just there to make game more interesting.  


At its core, this is a VERY simple game and the scenarios just give each game a little nudge to make it more interesting.

Too Cute?


Is this game too cute? The art is definitely cute, and my friends Sara and Teresa adored it and wanted to play it right away when I got it. In fact, we’ve played it a number of times! I’ve also played with Sam and Andrew who weren’t quite as taken with the cuteness factor.


A hardcore gamer might roll his eyes at the art and simple gameplay. And this is a simple game: No doubt about it. It would be very easy to bring this out with any 8-year old and teach him/her the game.

Here’s the thing: ya, it’s simple. But it keeps coming out to our game table. Why? It’s an “end of the night” game when we want a simple game when we are fried. It’s a “we’re waiting got Andrew” game, when we know Andrew will be 30 minutes late. It’s easy to set-up, plays quick, and easy to tear-down. We can play this with anyone. Ya, it’s dirt simple. I didn’t think I’d like it to be honest “this is TOO simple” … but it’s charming and it has relaxing gameplay. You can play this with anyone. I’ll admit it’s no Tainted Grail, but sometimes you want a light game.

Solo vs Cooperative


This game breaks Saunders’ Law: it has no solo mode. It’s easy enough to play as if it were a 2-Player game, with the solo player playing two hands. Strictly speaking, Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery is a hidden information game! Each player starts with some ingredients and builds as they go (see hand on lower right below)… but other players aren’t allowed to see the cards! So, a solo mode might use the Changing Perspectives idea like we did in Wonder Woman: you’d have to turn your cards over and kind of “forget” what the other hand did. Nah, that’s a lot of work for such a simple game!! That’s really not a good use of that idea.


A better solo game might be to just have one starting hand and give the solo player 5 actions per turn … (instead of 2 hands with 3 actions per hand). The solo player has 5 actions per turn, losing an action since he has perfect information of all cards in hand. I.e., play just one player with just 5 actions (before the next customer comes).

The loss of an action is the price of perfect information for the solo player.


The solo game idea is okay for learning the game, but It’s not great for long-term playability. The game is much better as a cooperative game. It’s a relaxing and charming baking session with your friends when you play cooperatively.



I am surprised how much gameplay Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery! has gotten at my tables. My initial reaction was that “meh, this is okay: it’s a little simple” … and yet, it keeps coming out! Why? The art is charming and unassuming, the game is quick and easy to set-up, play, and tear-down, and it creates a fun little cooperative experience with your friends. I can play this with anyone: kids, adults, gamers (assuming they don’t roll their eyes), non-gamers and have a fun little time.

Not every game has to be Tainted Grail. Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery has surprised me and my friends as a enjoyable light cooperative game.

A Retro Review of Now Boarding!

Now Boarding is a cooperative pick-up and deliver game for 2-5 players by Fowers Games. This game originally came out in 2018, and it has been sitting on my shelf unopened for 3 years now. I had originally bought the game to play with my friend Robert: he’s a big airline nerd who loves any game that has a map, especially with an airline theme! See below.

I love any cooperative game, so I thought this would be a hit with both of us! Unfortunately, it sat on my shelves for years, waiting for the appropriate time to be played! Luckily, this weekend (Nov. 21, 2021) turned out to be that time!


I honestly didn’t expect to be writing this review this weekend, especially for an older game like this. Giving a review of an older game, especially with the retro art of Boarding Now (and most Tim Fowers games like Burgle Bros 2, see our review here) has inspired us to call reviews like this “Retro Reviews!”


This is a smallish game (see Coke can and pencil above for scale).  It fits into a smaller box, but there’s quite a bit packed in there!  Honestly, upon packing up the game, it almost didn’t fit in the box!  


You can see above, the art is very retro and cute, again, very reminiscent of many of the Tim Fowers games. All the cards and punchouts are easy to read, and the board is easy to see. All in all, the components look nice and consistent. You’ll also notice there are little sandtimers: one for 2-3 player game (15 seconds) and 4-5 Players game (30 seconds). This is a real-time game after all.


The theme is pretty well-expressed in the components: each player takes control of a pilot and has a little plane with spaces for passengers (the blue windows), engines (the grey tiles), and special routes (the red tile). This is a game about picking up passengers and delivering them around the USA, with each player building up their plane as they go.


Overall, the game looks consistent and easy to read.   I wish the board and airplanes were a little bit bigger (see below): during the real-time step of the game, the little airplanes can be hard to move around, but in general, all the components were nice and very usable.



The rulebook reminds me of all Fowers game rule books (again see our review of Burgle Bros 2): that’s good and bad. It teaches the game, but I always feel I want just a few more pictures and few more “elaborations” of rules would have helped teached the game. For example, on the first page was a list of components: the components were’t labelled, so it was hard to correlate what was what.


We had to use the “number” of components (most of the components have a different number of pieces) to figure out which were which: this is obviously not ideal. I mean we figured it all out, but again, a little more elaboration on the pieces OR another picture would have helped.


But, we got through the rulebook pretty quickly and into the game. There were enough pictures depicting the resources (see above) and the font was readable.


The rulebook even had a little bit of a sense of humor: it used the little graphics like you would find in the safety pamplet (see above). This made us all laugh.

The rule book was good enough, if not great. It was fine. There is supposedly a video showing play (the first thing you see when you open the box, see below), but we didn’t use that.


Solo Play

So, this game breaks Saunders’ Law: it has no solo mode. The game changes a bunch of numbers (number of customers, number of weather cards, etc) depending on whether there are 2, 3, 4, or 5 players. The numbers feel like they scale fairly linearly, but at 2 players, most of the numbers scaled down to 1, which, when extrapolating, would go to 0, which doesn’t make sense. Would a solo player taking the role of two pilots make sense? Maybe? The problem is that this is a real-time game, so time is critical: we found it hard enough to get one pilot’s turn done in real-time, let alone handling two! If it were to work, the game would have to allow “extra” time for context-switching between characters.

A solo mode for Now Boarding might work. I didn’t feel particularly motivated to try this solo mode: this game feels best as a cooperative game where all pilots talk and move simultaneously on their turn.

Game Play


This is a game about picking up passengers and delivering them their final destination: you can see the customer’s final destination in big red letters! However, you can’t move fast enough to get everyone delivered, so passengers get “angry” as they wait longer and longer: note the red cubes on some of the passengers! Every turn a passenger has to “wait” at a city without service, he gets an “anger” cube! At four “anger” cubes, he leaves the game and files a complaint. If you ever get three complaints, you lose the game! If you can survive to the end of the game (delivering in the morning, afternoon, and evening) without receiving three complaints, you win! (Whenever you pick up a passenger, all their anger cubes go away because they perceive that as progress … sometimes you pick up a passenger just for anger management purposes!)

As you deliver passengers to their city, you get to keep them! (Well, you get to keep the money from their plane ticket). The guy from LAX (above) is worth $4! The great thing is that as the game goes on, you can turn in your money for upgrades! More seats! Faster plane! More routes! As you play and deliver more and more, you can make your plane better and better … which you need to, because the evening shift gets rough!


The game is essentially broken into two alternating phases: planning and execution. During the planning phase, players take their time to discuss what to do. The execution phase is real-time—you turn the timer over and all pilots simultaneously (that’s right, simultaneously) execute their individual plans! The execution phase is frantic as you fly, pick-up and deliver passengers!! There are a few unexpected things that can happen during the execution phase (new passenger information emerges: the MIA passenger (see above) reveals where she goes), so you have to keep a level head and execute your possibly updated plan!


The game alternates between the planning and execution modes as the game progresses from the morning to the afternoon to the evening. If the pilots can deliver enough of the passengers without too many complaints, the players win!



So, this game is real-time mostly to avoid analysis paralysis! As we played, we talked a lot about how to execute our plans: we spent way too much time do analysis, but it was still fun. If we had been allowed to “adjust” our plans when the new passengers revealed their new destinations, then I am certain the game would have completely bogged down. The real-time aspect forces the gameplay to move along.

I normally don’t like real-time games that much. In competitive games, any rules that you miss or misread in realtime can cause resentment, or fights, or accusations of cheating. At least in cooperative games, everyone is in the game together! If there’s a problem in the real-time phase, it’s easy to say “Hey can we stop the clock real quick and figure out this rule?” That’s easy to do in a cooperative game, but a lot harder in a competitive game, especially in a competitive crowd.

Having said that, this game is a “soft” real-time game: there’s only one small part of the game that’s real-time (the execution). Other games, like Space Alert (which we talk about here in our Top 10 Cooperative Space-Themed Games) spend much more time in the actual real-time part of the game: we’ll call those “hard” real-time games. In Boarding Now, the real-time piece is only there to keep the game moving.

The real-time “mostly” works: it does it’s job. But, we found that 15 seconds was a little too short in a 3-player game: many times, the smallness of the board or airplanes or cards actually got in the way of playing a few times. Luckily, the fix is pretty simple: just give yourself a little more time. We tended to give ourselves just a few more seconds after the timer ran out.

Are we cheating by adding just a little more time? Strictly speaking, yes! My friends and I chatted for some time about this: we’d rather stay in the spirit of the game and enjoy ourselves rather than be slaves to a harsh rule that makes us not want to play the game! The object of the game is to have fun with my friends! If a minor rules modification (add a little more time) makes us keep the game rather than toss it, I’d say that’s ok. If you recognize the purpose of the real-time is to keep the game moving, then we are staying in the spirit of the game. Besides, we’d argue that the extra time was needed to overcome the slightly too small board and pieces.



At the end of the day, it was worth the wait of 3 years to play with Robert! Robert (left) and Jeff (right) are both big airline nerds and had fun playing this. They both want to play again! The game also has a nice upgrade path during play: it’s fun to upgrade the plane (making it faster or bigger) as you play! And you pretty much have to upgrade, or you won’t be able to handle the rush of passengers in the evening!

The airline nerds (Robert and Jeff) liked this game. As a cooperative games person, I enjoyed this game. Overall, this was a fun experience.

Even if you don’t like real-time games too much, if the theme or cooperative play entices you, give Now Boarding a try! The real-time is just a small part of the game designed to keep it moving: it’s not a central game mechanism.

This is a fun cooperative game which really encourages collaboration and discussion.

A Review of Set A Watch: Swords Of The Coin

Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin is a cooperative stand-alone expansion for the original cooperative game Set A Watch. We liked the original game quite a bit: it made our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games! It’s a dice game where, even if you roll poorly, the special powers on the character cards allow mitigation.


The expansion, at least for me, just delivered from Kickstarter a few days ago (today is Nov 6th, 2021).


The Kickstarter delivered with an expansion (just more cards, we won’t really discuss here) and a nice little playmat for the monsters.

At the end of the day, we really liked the original Set A Watch: see our previous review here. These days, I am more reluctant to get expansions for games because I have to remember how the original plays before adding the expansion! Luckily, this expansion is (a) standalone (so you don’t need the original) as well (b) simple new rules. The new rules this expansion adds are pretty simple, so it was easy to get back into.

Unboxing and Components


The box is smaller with a nice a nice magnetic clasp.


The main board is on the inside  of the lid!  It’s magnetic clasp doesn’t quite stay flat (see above), but it’s pretty neat looking and still works (despite not being completely flat).

The dice are one of the centerpieces of this game: this is, at its core, a cooperative dice-rolling game!  The dice are nice and easy to read!  (The original Set A Watch had dice that could be harder to read with black ink: it’s good to see they fixed this in the new game).


Probably the second most important thing in the game are the player boards: the game comes with 6 different characters (see above), each with very different powers AND dice!  Each character will take 3 dice as their main dice: See below!


The final main components are the cards: Notice how nice and linen-finished they are!


First are the character power cards: each character gets 5 character power cards (only 3 of which are active at any time): See above.

To win the game, the players need to make it through the woods and travel through 9 locations: each location (see above) has different effects.

Continue reading “A Review of Set A Watch: Swords Of The Coin”