Originally published on Board Game Geek.

My family watches baking competition shows together. We like the ones that focus more on the baking and less on the competition, such as The Great British Bake Off. We also enjoy Nailed It!, which comes close to being a spoof of the entire genre. Hasty Baker imagines a competition that's nowhere near as lighthearted.

Each player is assigned a recipe that requires 4 ingredients to complete. Once you've gathered and deployed your ingredients, that recipe goes into your scoring pile. A turn consists of two actions which may be any combination of:

  1. Play an ingredient on your recipe.
  2. Discard an ingredient and draw a new card from the deck.
  3. Play a strategy card.

There are 8 ingredients (flour, chocolate, butter and so on) plus a wild ingredient that can be substituted for anything else. (It doesn't pay to think about how that works in reality.) If you happen to have what you need in your 7-card hand, you can finish a recipe in two turns. But usually you'll need to fish for the right ingredients for a turn or two.

Strategy cards allow players to break those simple rules. For instance the "Hasty Baker" card gives players two extra actions. (It should be noted that playing the card costs an action so it really only increases the number of productive actions by one.) Other strategies include stealing an ingredient someone else has already played, taking two cards randomly from another player's hand and replacing your entire hand. There are also cards that can be added to a recipe to increase it's value by one. One is simply a blue ribbon prize you give yourself and the other is "Double Batch" which requires twice as many ingredients to complete. Finally there is a "Broken Timer" which causes a player to discard their current recipe and all the ingredients already played and a "Spoiled Ingredient" that causes everyone to discard one ingredient specified by the person playing the card.

I played twice with 6 players. Once we had even numbers of children and adults. The second time we had just one adult (me!) with 5 children ranging from 8 to 15. Both times the game started out fun and relaxed but ended up dragging as players neared the required 5 recipe points. There are just too many strategies players can use to mess up the leader. The "Double Batch" turns out to be a effective weapon toward the end of the game since it slows down a recipe without providing any advantage to someone with 4 recipe points. Meanwhile, "Blue Ribbon" gave players a huge boost if they were careful to play it just before playing their final ingredient. (Playing it too early invites sabotage.) We also discovered saving wild ingredients was a good strategy since they were usually stolen if played before the recipe was finished. With 5 other players, it's pretty likely someone has the "Steal Ingredient" card.

The theme and the artwork promised a different game than what we played. It reminds me a lot of UNO where luck overwhelms any strategy you might employ and the end game consists of players trying to prevent the leader from ending the game. Take-that style games stop being fun when they limp to the finish line. Maybe it would be less annoying with fewer players, but I'm not sure it would exactly rise to the level of "enjoyable".

The box advertises two "create your own" recipe cards. Perhaps it's a fitting summary of the game that the recipes lack a title and a picture, but do include 4 ingredients. It's a functional game, but not a polished one. Everything works after a fashion, but to what end? It's a cake that looks good when presented, but falls short when it comes to the tasting.