Designer: Erwan Morin
Artist: Stephane Escapa
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
2-4 players 10 minutes ages 8+ MSRP $22
Time to teach & learn: 3 minutes
Seven minutes separate you and your team of pastry chefs from enrolling at the world famous Cupcake Academy. How many assignments can you complete, exchanging and stacking colored cups on plates, readying them for the kitchen? Be quick, but be careful. The judges are very picky, so each order has to be just right for everyone to move on. Complete all the assignments before time is up and you’ll enjoy the sweet taste of victory!
The components in Cupcake Academy are colorful and charming and help set the mood.
There are 20 hard plastic cupcake cups in five different sizes and bright colors. The cups nest nicely into each other whether right side up or upside down.
Each player has a set of three personal plate tiles. This is where you’ll stack your cups. The team also shares one large plate tile. This is where you’ll swap cups.
A deck of 60 assignment cards will define your challenges each game. The assignment cards are color coded for two, three, or four players.
A seven minute sand timer drives Cupcake Academy and keeps players on their toes.
To play, shuffle and create a stack of assignment cards based on the number of players. Each player arranges their cups in a single stack on their center personal plate. Place the shared plate within each reach of everyone. When the team is ready, flip the timer, the first assignment card, and the game begins!
Cupcake Academy is a cooperative stacking and pattern matching game driven by logic. The goal is to complete all the assignment cards within the allotted time.
An assignment card shows a specific arrangement of cups for each player. The color and size of the cups shown is important.
The position of the cups on the plates, though, doesn’t matter. So, if I need to have my big green cup on a plate, it doesn’t matter which one of my plates it is on.
In order to complete an assignment, every player must create a layout with the right number and color of cups to match the goal. The shared plate must also be empty.
When complete, flip the next assignment and continue until you complete the stack of assignment cards or run out of time. If you finish all the cards, huzzah! Your group becomes the next class of students at the Cupcake Academy. If you run out of time, not to worry, there’s always next semester (or the next game).
A collective logic puzzle is the sweet gooey center of Cupcake Academy.
On the surface, the goal to be accomplished seems so simple. What could be hard about placing the right color and size cup on a plate?
First, remember each player has five cups to begin the round, nested like Russian dolls, with the large pink cup covering the rest. Using only one hand for the whole game, you’ll be unstacking and restacking your cups to try and match the pattern.
If the assignment shown asks for you to have a blue cup and an orange cup showing on your plates, the remainder of your cups are going to have to go somewhere else. This means you are going to have to hide the others by nesting them OR send your cups along to another player. But here’s the thing…
The chefs running the Academy are a tricksy bunch. You cannot simply give or take cups from another player’s plate. You must use the shared plate to transfer cups AND, to make matters worse, there can only be one cup on the shared plate at a time.
The challenge and fun of Cupcake Academy comes from learning when and how to unstack and restack your cups so that you can keep the ones you need, hide others underneath, and send the rest on to your teammates.
You need to understand your own needs, but the game forces you to look at the whole assignment, to factor in the needs of your teammates, too. Together, you have to puzzle out how to pass cups in the right order via the shared plate so that everyone can create the right combination.
Communication is key to success and will almost certainly create hilarious moments of failure, too. It’s almost inevitable that at some point your team will have to scramble to undo an entire chain of swapped cups in order to fix a problem in the pattern.
Cupcake Academy is a series of interconnected puzzles that blossom into a fun and challenging game. Time pressure and teamwork create a sometimes thoughtful and sometimes frantic experience that requires focus and contributions from everyone. The better you communicate, the more you’ll accomplish.
Cupcake Academy is a surprising and wonderful blend. It manages to evoke the old world charm of a slide puzzle (shift pieces, make a pattern) while drawing inspiration from video game culture. What was once a solitaire experience is now gamified – a layered puzzle with multi-player co-op mode unlocked. It even comes with a checklist of achievements you can unlock as you ramp up the difficulty of the game.
Cupcake Academy can speak to a lot of people, spanning generations. It’s a mash-up of thinky and dexterity elements that feels fresh and different. It is clever enough to engage the brain but hectic enough to unlock the simple magic of Major Fun.
Written by: Stephen Conway