For the children's game, the winner is simply the one who bakes the cake first. For the advanced game, baking a cake is not enough. When two cakes have been baked, each player scores for the ingredients and parts on the cakes. Only the cake where most player have scored will be counted in the final score.
A cake is made of 3 parts (a layer, a filling and a topping). A part is made of 3 ingredients (9 different to choose from). The players take turns to do one of the following:
Buy an ingredient
Use an ingredient and a tool for a part
Use a part for a cake
Players may freely use ingredients, tools and parts (if available) to build their cakes but by doing so, they also give the other players points as all players contributing to a cake may score. Players may also block each other by using the ingredients or tools that other players need or even by eating each others' ingredients or parts.
The challenge of Bake the Cake! is to bake a balanced cake which includes ingredients and parts from all players, while still having most points on the cake.
The essence of Bake the Cake! is to move ingredients from one place to another. However,
without any blocking elements, players would not do much more than baking their own cakes
without any interaction. That called for blocking elements:
The number of ingredients: By allowing no more than 1 ingredient of each kind on the table,
a player would not be able to pick her own color but forced to accept another player's color.
The kitchen tools: By forcing players to use 1 of the (limited) kitchen tools each time they
use an ingredient, a player would be able not only to block another players' progress but even
attract players to her (unblocked) cake instead. By setting the number of kitchen tools to 1 more
than the number of players, the scarceness of the tools would be ensured.
The number of cakes: By limiting the number of possible cakes to 2, players must decide
when to proceed with their own cakes and when to give them up and score on other players' cakes
The possibility to eat ingredients was first tested as a "take that" mechanism but turned out
to be a good way to disturb other players' strategies. However, it also had to be balanced to
prevent players from using it too much and stop all the game's progress.
To prevent ingredients from running out, a maximum of 1 ingredient of each kind may be eaten.
To balance advantages and disadvantages, eaten ingredients do not add to the score (except to
break a tie) but may even affect score negatively (if so much is eaten that the entire game is blocked).
Throw away ingredients
The possibility to throw away ingredients was introduced to decrease (but not remove completely)
the risk of the entire game to be blocked. Without this rule, dependency chains may very well arise
where player 1 waits for player 2's tool, player 2 waits for player 3's tool and player 3 waits for
player 1's tool.
... and Rejected Rules
There are of course also ideas that did not make it and here I explain why.
1 cake per player
Wouldn't it be great if each player was to bake her own cake and try to make it as
optimal as possible (i.e. have as many other players engaged in it as possible)?
Indeed, but given that a cake requires the move of 9 ingredients first to the table and
then to the recipe and finally 3 parts to be moved to the cake (excluding ingredients
eaten on the way!), such a rule would require over 100 moves for all the cakes to
completed and simply be too repetitive. After all, there will only be 1 cake left after
the contest anyway and 2 cakes are enough for a contest. If more time does not add more
variation, there is simply no need to add it.