GTM #215 - Bunny Kingdom
Reviewed by John Kaufeld

The Bunny Kingdom. It’s a bold land, filled with opportunity. You can almost smell the carrots… and the spices, wood, gold, and pearls, too. With the Bunny King’s call to action still ringing in your long, fluffy ears, you vie against other nobles to lay claim to the New World, develop it for commerce, and expand your strength and wealth.

iello’s Bunny Kingdom, by designer Richard Garfield, presents players with a world filled with cities, resources, pastures, oceans, and rugged mountains. The game mixes several classic mechanics with strategy and a bit of luck as players establish fiefs, expand resources, and connect them, city-after-city, in their quest to earn the coveted title “Big Ears” (because such things are important to rabbits, you know).

Let’s look at the Top Five things you need to know about hopping into the fun!

Making the Most of Time

Bunny Kingdom plays in exactly four rounds, which promises that you can get in a full game and still have time left to either play again or get something else onto the table before cries of “it’s a school night” or “drat, I have to work in the morning” begin filling the room.

Each round begins by dealing a hand of 10-12 cards to each player (depending on the total number of players). The round ends when the last cards get played.

Drafting Toward Victory

Cards in the deck represent spaces on the board, improvements such as expanded cities or luxury goods, actions like building a camp or getting extra plays, or end-game victory point bonuses. Each round, players select two cards to play and then pass the rest to the next player.

The drafting mechanic builds tension nicely, forcing players to prioritize options while simultaneously hoping nobody else takes the card they wanted to play but had to pass on this time.

Maximizing Multipliers

Unlike many exploration-style games, Bunny Kingdom doesn’t necessarily reward you for claiming huge swaths of land. You need to balance expansion with improvements and score-boosting parchment cards (more about those in a moment).

Yes, you gain points by connecting resource spaces to cities. Three resources connected to cities with a total strength of four gives you 12 points at the end of the round.

But, there’s another twist to the scoring: you only earn points for each unique resource (carrots, wood, spices, and so on) connected to a city. Connecting multiple carrot spaces to the same city or group of cities, for example, doesn’t boost your points at all.

The trick to scoring involves collecting a balanced array of land types and then making sure those spaces get connected to one or more cities to make the most of your multipliers.

Getting Ahead with Parchments

Parchment cards create alternate ways to score points from your holdings at the end of the game. They only score once, but they can make a huge difference in your total points.

Some parchment cards represent unique treasures, such as the Royal Carrot, the Royal Crown, or the Left and Right Gloves (try to get them both — they’re worth more as a pair!). Treasures give you a specific number of victory points. Most parchments set up a special scoring condition that only applies to your holdings. King of Thieves, for example, gives you a bonus if you claimed nine cities or more during the game. A couple of them let you copy the effect of another player’s parchment, giving you access to the same scoring opportunity.

Changing Things for Two

Although Bunny Kingdom plays great with three or four people, it works surprisingly well for two thanks to a neat adjustment to the drafting rules. In each round of a two-player game, players get two hands of cards: the hand they’ll draft from and a separate reserve deck.

Before each play, the players add one card each from their reserve decks to their respective hands, then they select one card to play this round and another to discard. Discards leave the game completely, so this gives you a way to eliminate a card that might give your opponent a huge advantage. I also recommend removing the Provision cards from the deck when setting up a two-player game. In a three or four player game, these cards give someone a helpful boost, but in a two-player game they become too powerful.

The Verdict

Bunny Kingdom puts an engaging spin on the classic exploration and development game concept. It presents players with plenty of strategic decisions, even when played just by two people.

We loved the in-game tensions created by the drafting mechanic and variation in play because of the large pool of cards in the deck. Regardless of the number of players, you never go through the entire draw deck, so the game creates a sense of mystery about which cards could show up during play.

And. yes, we’ll say it — the bunny bits and cities look absolutely adorable on the board! The visual effect makes an irresistible draw.

There’s a lot to like in Bunny Kingdom — and we loved it all. Garfield and iello have another solid hit on their hands!

Fast Facts:

  • Age range: 14 and up
  • Set-up/Duration: 5-minutes to set up, 30-60 minutes to play
  • # of Players: 2-4
  • Price point: $49.95
John Kaufeld often frets over whether the word "meeple" has a proper plural form. You can find him writing about board games, parenting, and other stuff on Twitter at @johnkaufeld and in his newspaper column, The Dad Game (http://dadga.me/column).