Board games

Bunny Kingdom – Board Game Review

Designed By:  Richard Garfield

Player Count:  2 – 4 Players

Playtime:  40 – 60 Minutes

I often think that the designers over at Iello have a bug implanted into my brain, specifically designed to know what art will make me want, need and crave a game of theirs.  It truly seems that every time they put something out, I want it despite knowing absolutely nothing about the game itself or how it plays.  Enter Bunny Kingdom.  From adorable animals waging war on one another to a competitive city-building card-drafter, everything about this game spoke to me from the first moment I saw it.  But does Bunny Kingdom rule as a great empire, or is it more like the slums which should be left on the game store shelf?  Let’s pull out our bunny-sized banners and find out!

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How Does it Play?

In Bunny Kingdom, you’ll be taking on the part of a clan of rabbits, working to spread your influence over diverse lands in order to create the most powerful and often largest fiefs, interconnected webs of resources and cities.  To do this, you’ll have a hand of 10 cards which you will essentially be drafting.  In a 3-4 player game, you’ll select 2 of these cards then pass the rest around the table.  In a 2 player game, you’ll be selecting 1 to play, while drawing 1 and discarding another.  The main point to be made here is that you will select a certain number of cards to play, while giving your competition all the options you didn’t select, so choose wisely.

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From here, you’ll go into the play phase where everyone will simultaneously be able to build and claim territories based on the cards they chose in the draw phase.  Perhaps you’ll be adding a city to the board, or maybe you’re just claiming land.  Maybe you’re getting fancy, connecting far away fiefs with sky towers, or creating farms of rare resources other than the main ones found on the board – carrots, fish and wood.  Once this is all done, you’ll go back into the draw and pass phase.  Once everyone is out of cards, which will happen at the same time, you’ll count up the points of each of your fiefs.  This means taking the amount of DIFFERENT resources in a fief and multiplying it by the strength of the fief.  This is the number of towers in your cities.  And don’t worry if math is not your strong suit.  There’s a handy dandy cheat sheet for each player to figure out their points.  After Four rounds, the game ends and the player with the most points is proclaimed the Big Ears of the game.  Not the winner, the Big Ears.

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There are plenty of other things to consider as well.  Mission cards will give you a certain number of points for completing objectives before the end of the game.  Build a set amount of cities or claim a certain number of a certain resource.  You can also grab treasure cards which simply give you extra points at the end of the game, but again, choose wisely, these cards may look nice and juicy in your hand, but they also come at the cost of giving your opponents more time to build their fiefs across the board.

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What Makes  Bunny Kingdom So Great?

The mechanics here are simple yet elegant.  As you stare at your ten cards, it can seem impossible to choose, but as the game progresses, you’ll start to build up your fiefs and decisions will actually get easier.  Of course I’m going to take the card for sector B3, because my fief is there and I want to expand.  Or maybe my mission card gives me a huge amount of points for getting a whole bunch of carrot farms.  Okay, so now I am trying to go for that.  It’s a rare case of a game where turns actually take less time towards the end of the game then they do at the beginning, which is a very good thing because it makes the game ramp up, rather than slow down.  This is in large part due to the card drafting system.  Logically speaking, as the round progresses and more cards are played, less are passed, meaning your options become fewer and fewer.  Once again, this helps to speed things up.  It also helps that a lot of the game is played simultaneously, which means that you’re rarely ever waiting on another player.

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Bunny Kingdom looks great!  The artwork is spectacular and, as I’ve said in past reviews, I love a game that grows as it is played.  Watching your kingdom spread across the board, while keeping an eye on other players as they do the same is a very rewarding experience.  There’s something to be said for marveling at this awesome thing you’ve created at the end of the game and Bunny Kingdom definitely comes with that proud sense of accomplishment.  I also love that, because of things like hidden missions and treasures, Bunny Kingdom is not a game that shows a clear winner until the very end.  It leaves everyone feeling as though they have a chance, right up to the final scoring moment.  Despite being four rounds long, and literally throwing points at you by the end, my husband and I still managed to be only separated by 5 points.  He also said that I should tell you all that he won the game.  So there’s that.

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What Could Make Bunny Kingdom Even Better?

In general, I was quite surprised by how much we enjoyed Bunny Kingdom.  Stressing the fact that I often buy games on a whim based solely on artwork, I’m not always sure they’ll be worth the investment.  I’m looking at you Tokaido.  But Bunny Kingdom is a very fun, strategic little gem.  That being said, my complaints are few and far between.  In the two player version, I often wished I had something like a player board.  Consider that you have your hand of ten cards.  Then you have another mini-deck of ten cards.  You draw one from this every turn and then must discards 1 every turn.  This helps keep a good mix of cards in the two player game.  Okay so now I have my hand, my mini-deck and my discard pile.  I also have all the cards I’ve played or am playing.  And then, I have my opponents hand which just got passed to me.  And all these cards have the same back so things can get very confusing very quickly when its all placed in front of you.

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My other ask for this game is extremely minor.   I wish the game was bigger.  The board and pieces are just so very tiny.  It’s great to watch this game grow and evolve, but I can’t help but wonder if slightly larger components and a bigger board would have made that experience even better.  On the other hand, it is nice to have a game that doesn’t completely devour every inch of table space.  The great thing about this is that Bunny Kingdom is a great family game, and many families don’t have big gaming tables, so this one will fit nicely.  Like I said, it’s a complaint that I could go either way on.

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Final Thoughts

As I said before, Bunny Kingdom was a very pleasant surprise.  In fact, my husband didn’t want me to buy it and he certainly didn’t want to play it, but once we did, he loved it!  It’s a game that pulls you in with its adorable nature, but keeps you interested with finely tuned mechanics and a movement of turns that feels very smooth.  There’s not much in the way of analysis paralysis here, and while you’ll feel that you have built a great strategy, there’s still a great amount of luck that plays into everything.  The card drafting makes for a great way to help make choices, not only in how you want to play but also in how you want to try to trip up your opponents.  The nice thing about this method of player interaction is that you’ll rarely know how or when another player is messing you up, and that’s great because it means you can be competitive without being a jerk or hating someone else for ruining your perfect plan.  It’s a subtle form of backstabbing.  Bunny Kingdom is great for long time gamers and families alike and I give it two big ears way up.  Check it out.  Build some fiefs.  Take a bunch of photos of adorable bunny minis.  Go home happy.

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