Full disclosure: A review copy of Bunny Kingdom was provided by IELLO.
I’ve actually been meaning to get to this one for a while. Humorously, I wasn’t the first person to play my copy of Bunny Kingdom; a coworker asked to try it at a work game event and I was like “sure whatever lemme know how it plays”. He loved it, and so I’ve been trying to get a few more plays in so that I can loan it to him (at least until the expansion comes out; hopefully gonna try that one too). Either way, he’ll be pleased to see this, as it means I’m finally able to loan it out (since I don’t need it for photos, which has been my primary delay). Anyways, let’s actually talk about the game, Bunny Kingdom, itself.
In Bunny Kingdom, you’ve found a new world waiting to be settled and the Bunny King would like you Bunny Nobles to build fiefs in his honor. The more valuable your territories, the more impressed he is. Impress him enough, and he’ll bestow upon you the title “Big Ears”, which I guess is a thing that bunnies care about? I literally have no idea. Anyways, will you be able to build a settlement worthy of the mighty Bunny King’s favor?
Surprisingly, not much to do, here. Just set out the board, first:
You’ll want to add some of the 1-tower City Buildings to spots on the board with cities on them:
The 2s and 3s can be saved for later. Also, set out the other building tokens; they’re the angular-lookin’ ones.
All the cards can be shuffled:
Give each player a set of bunnies in their color:
There are also black ones; not shown in this photo set. Put a bunny from each player on the 0 spot on the score tracker. With that, you’re … pretty much ready to go!
So, Bunny Kingdom is a game of drafting and resource / area control. Each square is a Territory, and each contiguous group of Territories with your bunnies in them is a Fief. Fiefs are one way to score points; the other is Parchments, which are cards with certain conditions or point values that you can draft.
Each round, you’ll complete draft the cards dealt to each player and then score Fiefs as follows:
Fief Value = Strength x Wealth
Strength is the number of Towers in that Fief; certain cards will let you place 1, 2, or 3 Towers on a space (and certain spaces already have Towers on them). Wealth, on the other hand, is the number of unique resources that Fief produces. A Fief can produce Carrots, Wood, or Fish, generally, but there are Luxury Resources that can be added to generate new types of resources. Wealth, in that case, is only per type; no matter how many Carrots your Fief produces, only one counts towards its wealth. To that end, a Fief that produces 2 Carrots, 3 Wood, Mushrooms, and Gold has 4 Wealth.
To start a round, draw cards and deal them to each player. Each player should get the following number of cards:
- 2 players: 10 cards. Two players is a bit weird, though; deal each player an additional 10 cards that they must keep face-down. These are their Reserves.
- 3 players: 12 cards.
- 4 players: 10 cards.
The game is played over four rounds, each consisting of three phases: Exploration, Construction, and Harvest. Let’s go over each in turn.
During this Phase, you’ll draft and place bunnies on the board. Choose two cards from your hand, each round, and play them. Some cards you play are parchments, as mentioned; they go face-down and cannot be looked at by your opponents. Others have coordinates on them; place a bunny on that spot. Others still provide buildings; set the building on that card and potentially use it during the Construction Phase.
For a two-player game, each turn, draw a card from your Reserves into your hand. Now, from your hand, choose one card to play and discard one card from your hand face-down before passing it to your opponent.
Either way, for ease of bookkeeping, keep a personal discard pile of all the cards you’ve played.
In rounds 1 and 3, pass cards to the left. In rounds 2 and 4, pass cards to the right.
Once all cards have been drafted and played, move on to the Construction Phase.
During the Construction Phase, you can optionally build any buildings you earned during the previous round. You don’t have to, though! You can just wait for a future round, especially since some buildings have restrictions.
Certain buildings do a variety of things, from providing basic resources to luxury resources to connecting two Fiefs. Get creative!
During the Harvest Phase you earn points for each of your Fiefs following the formula I detailed above:
Fief Value = Strength x Wealth
Once you’ve completed this, if you haven’t finished the fourth round, deal out cards and go again!
End of Game
At the end of the fourth round, the game ends. Reveal all players’ parchments and score them as extra points according to the conditions on the cards. The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I mean, naturally, the game takes longer at four (though a bit less time since you have fewer cards). I think that making it so that you play two cards per turn at higher player counts is a solid maneuver; it reduces analysis paralysis somewhat since you can choose a couple cards and it allows for nice synergies and combos if you can get the right cards at the right time. I still think four plays a bit long for me (though, to be fair, the first game I played was subbing in for the tail end of a two-hour four-player game, so that might have soured me on it a bit), but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it for people who frequently have four players.
No really strong preference for any particular player count.
- Remember a fief can really only have 3 different resources. That changes if you can get luxury resources, but if you can’t then it’s probably better to split your focus across multiple fiefs, especially if you have the Little Prince parchment (lets you score all your fiefs again except your best one).
- That said, get luxury resources. They are huge boons, especially if you’re going for the One Big Fief strategy. They allow you to get as high as six or seven Wealth, which can push your total value upwards of 70 if you can get the right tower placements working for you. Naturally, this means you also want to block your opponents acquiring luxury resources if you see them going after a big fief, especially one with a 3-tower mountain in it.
- You can hate-draft if you want; certain strategies even make it valuable. Just make sure you’re not spiting one opponent to the benefit of others. Some parchments reward you for having random bunnies all over the map, sure, but if you don’t have those you’re just costing yourself points. Either try to outperform or let someone else go after the person in the lead, if it’s not you. If you do this in a three-player game you’re just giving the player who’s not involved in your conflict an edge. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to occasionally build mini-fiefs in between two areas you know your opponent wants to connect, though. Just make their life a bit more challenging.
- Early parchments aren’t a bad way to pick a strategic direction. Just make sure you’re getting something on the map so you can score; you don’t want to be high and dry in the first round.
- The Opportunist parchment is a solid move in two-player games. It gives you 10 points if you’re in second place, so, either you’re winning or you get a bonus 10 points; either one might be good if you’re trying to win.
- Watch what resources your opponents are after; this may clue you into what parchments they’re hiding. They might be going after fish, carrots, or wood, and each of those corresponds to a different high-value parchment, so, maybe try to block them a bit, if you can? Up to you.
- Sky Towers are a great way to connect two large fiefs; just make sure you want to do that. If you can get a bunch of extra points of them (for instance, a bunch of towers without many resources), go for it. If you’re shooting for Little Prince, maybe don’t connect your two most valuable fiefs together?
- Don’t rely on camps. They’re great ways to make short-term points, but if you make them the crux of your fiefs your opponents are going to split your territories in two (or force you to spend valuable turns getting those cards). They’re useful boons, but be mindful.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I’ve never seen so many rabbit puns in my life. Seriously, this is one of the most pun-dense games I’ve played, short of Punderdome, and that’s specifically about making puns. There are probably a few gamers who would hate it (cough, Suz, cough), but it is definitely amusing and makes me excited for the upcoming expansion. There are also a bunch of really solid puns / references to other media, which I always like in games.
- Really nice pieces. The miniatures are really well-detailed and they look great. I wish the city pieces were stored in something a bit more robust than a bubble-wrap sack, but what can you do.
- Great art. It’s a really beautiful game and the board and cards all look great. It’s got a great table presence as well, likely due to the ridiculous number of bunny tokens you’ll be placing over the course of the game.
- Pretty easy to learn, relatively speaking. It’s just a drafting game with some area control components. Even scoring isn’t that hard to understand; it’s just impractical to do.
- I think Hokkaido’s two-player drafting rules are a bit better, in terms of preventing lucky draws. This has you draw a card from your reserves, play one, and then discard one; Hokkaido has you play one first, then draw one and discard one. I think that reduces a bit of luck’s influence on the two-player game, as it’s less likely you’ll get a chance to use a card you happened to draw by chance. I prefer it and will probably play that way for future games.
- If you don’t enjoy hate-drafting, you might want to stay away from this one. Personally, I think it’s not too bad at the three- and four-player levels, but at two players you’re basically exclusively hate-drafting, which might be a lot for some people.
- It definitely appears to be a lot heavier than it is, in practice. I think there are a lot of people who are going to be turned off of this game by its multitude of cards and components, thinking this is a 90+ minute heavy strategy game, when it’s probably closer to Everdell, weight-wise? It’s a lot lighter than it appears. I only list this as a con because I definitely was a bit hesitant to try it at first because of that. Turns out, it’s not that heavy.
- There … isn’t really a good way to score each round. I tend to go by columns, but it’s honestly just kinda sprawling on the board. I’m not sure how you’d make it better, but it definitely takes a long time to score and you have to do it four times. I think it’s still less annoying than, say, Blue Lagoon, but it’s rough. Best to have each player do it on their own.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Bunny Kingdom is solid! The drafting / control tension is really fun, and I think there are usually really interesting decisions to make (naturally, in a drafting game, there are always some uninteresting decisions or non-decisions, but them’s the breaks). It’s a cute, whimsical game, as well, and the family-friendly theme makes for a great game that everyone can play (once every player’s ready for a slightly-heavy strategy game). It, like Everdell, is probably a smidge heavier than I’d play at three+ players with any real frequency, but I’m itching to try it out at two players with Hokkaido‘s ruleset for two-player drafting. I think that it’s a slight modification, but one that I’ll enjoy a bit more (we had some problems with very lucky draws in my previous two-player games). That said, I have really enjoyed every play I’ve gotten of Bunny Kingdom, and I’m looking forward to the expansion. If you’re looking for a game that’s light enough for anybunny or you don’t mind the occasional hare-raising pun, Bunny Kingdom is a lot of fun (and a solid game to boot)!