Dale Yu – Review of Sweet Holic

Sweet Holic

  • Designer: Olin Jeong
  • Publisher: Korea Board Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Korea Board Games

sweet holic

Macarons are one of the more trendy desserts as of late.  They are small in size, packed with flavor, and with the many varying color combinations of cookies and fillings – they are perfect for sharing on Instagram or other social media.   In this game, players vie to be the best patissier by creating the most colors of macarons.

The game is mostly composed of 54 ingredient tiles – there are five types of fillings (strawberry, blueberry, green tea, lemon and mint) and six types of cookies (the five flavors and a black burnt cookie).  To start the game, these tiles are mixed up and each player draws 5 tiles into their hand.  Players then secretly and simultaneously discard one tile from their hand, and these are revealed at the same time, forming the start of the personal discard pile for each person.  Each player gets a mission marker (denoting one of the six flavors of cookies) which they keep secret for the round.

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On a turn, the player has 2 options: exchange ingredients or bake.

To exchange ingredients, you first discard an ingredient from your hand and put it on top of your discard pile.  You then take new ingredient(s) from the top of other player’s discard piles or from the top of the draw pile.  You get 2 ingredients if you discard a cookie, but only 1 ingredient if you discard a filling.  Your hand is limited to 6 tiles, and you may not take any extra if you are already at the limit of 6 cards.

To bake, you must follow a somewhat complicated set of rules:

  • You can bake up to 5 ingredients in a turn ALL OF THE SAME COLOR
  • You can bake cookies without fillings, but you cannot bake fillings without a corresponding base already baked
  • You can bake up to 3 macarons at a time, but they must all be of different flavors
  • You do not have to finish a macaron in a single baking turn
  • Each macaron can have up to 3 fillings; and you cannot add fillings to a finished macaron
  • A macaron is finished when it has a base cookie, 1 to 3 fillings and then a top cookie.
  • Burnt cookies are only placed on top, they can go on top of any macaron flavor.  Note that they are different color, and can only be baked on a turn where you are baking only burnt cookies
  • After baking, refill your hand to 3 tiles if you have fewer than 3

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Play continues clockwise around the table until either the ingredient draw pile is empty OR a player has finished their 3rd macaron (then finish the round so that all players have had the same number of turns). Then the round is scored – each player calculated their score as follows”

1 point for each non-burnt macaron tile in FINISHED macarons

1 point for each burnt cookie ONLY if you have the Burnt cookie mission tile

1 point for each filling that matches the flavor of your mission tile

Sum up the points and figure out what your relative rank is.  There are 3 score tokens for each round, worth 3VP for the highest round total, 2VP for second, 1VP for third.  If there are ties for round score, it is broken in favor of later turn order for that round.

The starting player moves one position clockwise and another round is played.  Repeat all the steps, and then do it again for a third round.  At the end of the 3rd round, the player with the most VPs on their tokens wins. There is no tie breaker.

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My thoughts on the game

Sweet Holic is a cute little set collection game.  The general idea and rules are simple enough, but the art is kawaii, and the theme is popular enough that it has grabbed the attention of even non-gamers that have walked by.

From our first few games, it seems like the best way to score well is to finish macarons and finish them fast.  As every non-burnt cookie is worth a point, simply finishing three cookies is a decent way to rack up a nice total for the round; and then if you are able to get a bonus from your mission marker, bully for you.

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Oftentimes, the plan comes down to the opening draw.  If you are lucky enough to draw three or more of a single color, then it’s often worth it to bake on the first turn.  You’ll get a nice jump on the scoring, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to draw a few more tiles back to bring your hand count back up to three.  Sure, there’s some downside – if you don’t finish your macaron, people will now know what NOT to discard – but at some point, you’ll either draw it yourself, maybe end up putting a burnt cookie on top, and someone will just have to get rid of the cookie you need because it’s simply too valuable to be able to draw two tiles in return for discarding a cookie.

Like any tile game with random draws, sometimes you’ll just do better if you are luckier at drawing – but the game should even things out with the three rounds.  Additionally, the scoring system tends to even out extremely lucky/unlucky swings with the fixed VP values for each round.

Thus far, I haven’t found any seriously deep strategies here.  It’s mostly about hand management and efficiency.  It’s probably best to wait until you have collected a number of tiles of the same color so that you get more bang for your baking turn.  However, with your hand size being limited, you can’t wait too long or else you’ll simply be discarding tiles.  Trying to manage when to discard cookies (to draw two tiles instead of one) is another way that you can be more efficient.  Finally, trying to bake so that you have as few tiles left as possible is great because then you essentially get a free draw action; and something this can lead to a nice positive feedback loop where you bake to an empty hand, get lucky on the draw of three tiles and can then bake again on the next turn – super efficient!

As I mentioned earlier, the art is very cute, though the color scheme takes a bit of getting used to.  My (American) mind usually thinks of light green as mint, not light blue – but it totally makes sense when you account for the matcha flavor which HAS to be green. In the end, you just think of them as the colors, and it really doesn’t matter what flavor they’re supposed to be representing.

Sweet Holic is a nice filler, and it will probably stick around as an opener or as an ingredient in a cooking/baking theme night.  There are enough games in my collection with similar themes, and we do like to have a game night that revolves around a particular theme every now and then.  The game is definitely easy to learn, and it could be a sweet way to end your game night when you don’t have a lot of time but you still want to get one more game in.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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