Back during the summer of 2020, the BGQ crew played a lot of games on Tabletop Simulator, Board Game Area, and Tabletopia. We were all staying home as much as possible, but still needed to get our gaming fix in. So playing online was the best way. One of the games we tried out during that span was Dollars to Donuts. I remember coming away really impressed with that game. So, of course, I eagerly snatched up the review copy once it was offered from Crafty Games. Having been able to get in a number of games of the physical copy, I’m ready to go chow down on some real donuts. I mean talk about the game!
In Dollars to Donuts, each player will be building out their own little donut puzzle trying to match up donut halves. On a player’s turn, they first buy a 1×4 donut tile from the market. The cost in dollars ranges from 0 to 5 depending on how far down the line it is.
Once purchased, you immediately add to your player mat. It can go anywhere on your mat, even hanging off the edge. The goal is to match up donuts halves. For every perfect match, you get the same type of victory token. For every mismatched donut, you get to draw dollars from the bag. The dollar tokens are two-sided, with money on one side and donuts halves or holes on the other. These single-spaced tokens are great for filling spaces on your board, which are negative points at the end of the game.
Finally, you can serve a customer. To do so, you must cash in the donuts they are looking for. The top line is required, but you can also serve them up to two extra donuts for bonus points.
The game ends once the market runs out of tiles or if a player fills up their board. Points are awarded for customer cards, pairs of donut holes, and leftover victory tokens. The player with the most points is the best donut baker in town!
I always know I’ve got a great game on my hands when fellow BGQ review Brian tries to weasel my review copy away from me after he plays it. “You know, I’m willing to do this review if you are too busy.” Uh huh, sure Brian, go buy your own copy. Spoiler alert: I kept this copy and Brian ordered his own copy after the second time we played it. While Dollars to Donuts doesn’t really break a ton of new ground, it’s still a great game that can really be enjoyed with just about anybody. The streamlined gameplay makes it really easy to get to the table, even for new players.
Part of that is because it uses a lot of tried and true mechanics. The donut market is something we’ve all seen 100 times, as well as the concept of using what you earn to buy VP cards. Although the push your luck element on the customers was a nice touch. Players must decide if they want to grab a customer card when they can, or hold out to fill more of their order to earn bonus points. However, if you do, you run the risk of another player snatching that customer out from under you. That does also create an interesting decision for scoring strategies, do you go for all the customer needs for more points, or try and get as many customers as you can to secure neighborhood bonuses?
But one of the most unique aspects of the game is the tile placement. These long and skinny tiles can be really tricky to position on your board. Each turn you have to figure out which tile is the best one to buy and where you should place it to maximize your income. But you have to be careful, there are no polynomial shapes to help fill in holes. If you leave a bunch of weird openings in the middle of your board, you might be socked with a lot of negative points at the end of the game.
Thankfully you can get around some of those with the single dollar tokens. I thought it was a clever mechanic to have these double as both tokens to use and your currency. It was also pretty ingenious that the only way to get these is to mismatch donuts on your board. There were times that I purposely passed on getting victory tokens because I really needed some of these small tokens. Sometimes you just want to fill a hole in your board or have some buying power.
I honestly don’t have a lot to complain about with Dollars to Donuts. Really the only thing I have going against it is that it can be a tad swingy at times. If a customer card comes up that a player already has excess donuts for, they are going to luck into some easy points. The same thing with drawing money tokens from the bag. If you draw all plain donut holes and I draw half donuts, I’m going to be at a nice advantage. But those are minor quibbles on an otherwise great game.
Dollars to Donuts is a fantastic game that can easy fit in any player’s collection. The tile placement system felt really unique, from the size of the tokens, to the matching system, to even how they can hang off the edge of the mat. The rules are also easy enough to grasp that you can pull this one off the shelf and be playing it within minutes, even with the family or your non-gamer friends. Dollars to Donuts is easily one of my top 10 games for the year and a definite win for Crafty Games.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A really well-made set collection and pattern matching game that can easily fit in any gamer’s collection.
• Can be a tad swingy at times