Play time: 40 – 60 minutes
Designer: Richard Garfield
Theme and Objective
Bunny Kingdom is a game which invites the players to take on the role of Rabbit Lords conquering new lands in the name of their king. This is achieved by gathering resources, constructing cities and completing missions in this new empty world. Personally it feels more akin to prolific bunnies in desperate need to feed their ever growing population (as proven by the game board itself which will we see shortly.) However the theme as a whole seems a pleasant and wholesome idea. This game distinguishes itself from the get go with its creator being the well known Richard Garfield (of Roborally and Magic the Gathering fame.) I had high hopes for solid but not overtly complex game mechanics. Combining this with makers Iello and you’d be nothing short of appalled if you didn’t receive a beautiful and well thought out game.
The box cover is bright and energetic with whimsical art that draws you in. Who could look at that and not stop for a second glance? The box fits into that wonderfully convient square size that games like small world and suburbia inhabit but for reference:
If Shut up and Sit down (my favourite reviewers, you should check them out) can have a reference pear I’m going to have a reference elkhound! So it’s a neat size and should fit into all those board game storage cube shelving folks seems rather obsessed with.
Table Real Estate
The box itself has nice slots to keep all the parts in without it being a squeeze. Considering the number of components the game board itself is of a conservative size. With a large portion of the active pieces being cards it allows for the game to be very compact. The board by round four of play becomes inundated with bunnies and some have criticised the fact the board is so compact. It might make it more difficult to count your plastic folks but the vibrant colour helps with that. Plus it feels hectic and thematic! However, in the past week Iello have announced that owners can acquire a free larger board (you do have to pay for shipping.) This speaks to an obvious issue that consumers raised and I’m rather impressed by how the publishers responded, good job!
Number of Players
Bunny Kingdoms is for 2-4 players. I’ve played it with both 2,3 and 4 players and to be fair there was little difference in game play. Each time the game felt the same and even with more players it didn’t slow the game down or overload the board. This might be due to the lack of interaction between players however.
The game itself is of an extremely high quality. Both the box and the board feel luxurious and thick. While the bunnies may be plastic and tiny I feel like it fits the aesthetics of the game. There are so many rabbits they are indistinguishable from one another. When you look down at a full game board you can imagine yourself as lording over your bunny kingdom with all the plebs beneath you. The city models are very cool while also acting as counting aides for scoring. I wish they weren’t plastic coloured, I think it lets them down by comparison to all the colour the game has as a whole. Paul Mafayon has done a wonderful job with the art. It is enchanting and humurous, which becomes apparent on the cards themselves, not taking itself too seriously. You do feel like you’re having a light hearted adventure to the tune of hobbits leaving the shire… but before being chased by nazgul.
Inside the box are enough models for four players, city models, a ridiculous pile of cards and some tokens related to said pile of cards. Cards consist of locations on the board, parchment cards which earn you points at the end of the game, building cards that make and upgrade cities and some utility cards that provide resources or tokens.
In general I like a smaller rulebook, I don’t think it’s overly fun to have to read a tome before being able to dive into a shiny new board game. Bunny Kingdom gives you a light and well laid out rule book. It explains things clearly, including a glossary of terms, plenty of examples and diagrams and be still my beating heart a rules summary on the back. However I have come across one issue in the rule book where we are given contradictory or misinformation. Clearly there was an attempt to fix this problem with the clarification section at the back of the rule book but I wish it had told us the full rule in the earlier pages.
Game Type/ Similar Games
Drafting and area control are the genres into which Bunny Kingdom slots itself. In general I find area control games to be ruthless, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or they can devolve into one person having the ability to decide who wins. This game feels like neither. Rather the drafting component allows you to choose your locations on the map. Hence the only jostling for board positions happens at the drafting phase giving you more control over where you and your opponents bunnies go. Ironically enough Inis performs a similar feat, a game that provides area control without making everyone angry with each other. The card drafting portion, albeit it used very differently in Inis, mitiagtes the feeling of being picked on. Now the drafting portion of Bunny Kingdom is pretty standard for those familiar with the concept. What is nice here is the large amount of cards that you go through (182 in total) so
a) you rarely get a hand where there is nothing good in it for you but also
b) it means you can be less discriminating about the cards you choose speeding up the process.
Inevitably the first round takes the longest, as you attempt to see how many areas you can connect up or what resources are available. The game focus is mostly on you and less on your oponents. There isn’t a large amount of interaction between the players, other than drafting location or resource cards. Rather it feels like a rush to get yourself onto the board in the fastest and largest way possible – perfectly fitting the theme.
How to Win
Ok so we’re hooked, lets go colonise with our army of bunnies! What do we do? The winner is the person who at the end of four scoring rounds has the most golden carrots or points. So how we do we get these points? You can earn some by completing missions on parchment cards which aren’t revealed until the end of the game. The main way you’ll be scoring is from building fiefs. A fief consists of a connected group of territories (or squares on the map) that are next to each other in every way except diagonally. When it comes to scoring at the end of each round your fief will be worth golden carrots equal to the number of cities your fief had (the little towers on the cities help with this) multiplied by the number of unique resources. Here’s an example:
Here I have 4 bunnies and 2 fiefs. The first fief is made of the bunnies in H3, H4, and I4 because they are all connected. This fief would score 2 points because I have a rabbit on both a carrot and a fish resource and it is multiplied by the number of towers on my city which is one. Note that the bunny on J5, while in a fief, doesn’t score points because he has no city. Also duplicates of the same resource don’t get counted twice, it only counts each unique resource. It is this arrangement of where to place your bunnies for maximum efficiency that offers the true puzzle of this game and elevates it from simply playing and connecting cards.
Turn order is very straightforward each player is dealt either 10 or 12 cards depending on the number of players. There is a special drafting set up for two players. Then you proceed to draft two from the pile and pass the other cards to your opponent. Now you play both these cards: with parchments remaining face down in front of you until the end of round four and building cards remaining to be built at the end of the round. Location cards are used immediately. Once the draft is complete you can build and everyone scores points. You repeat these processes till four rounds have passed and someone is declared the winner.
Bunny Kingdom is roughly a 40 minute game and doesn’t leave you with a headache. What I enjoyed most about this game is that it is secretly complex wrapped in a deceptively light system. There are subtle tricks here that replaying it highlights.
Fun factor of the mechanics/ theme
As a whole the game is fun and light. It is satisfying to watch your minions connect up and spread out. The puzzle of maximising value from your locations is the real core aspect of the game. To be honest it often felt to me that if you had the biggest bunny empire it was difficult to lose. Four rounds of gameplay is both a help and a hinderence since it can be difficult to stop someone who had a great start from running away with it. Yet those set turns give you opportunites to build up to impressive turns yourself. Perhaps more hate drafting of cards would diminish these large fiefs. Or of course you could just try to build an equally awesome fief yourself…
My main criticism of Bunny Kingdom is that the scoring portion often reminded me of Carcassone. Now Carcassone is a game loved by many world wide but the farmers always gave me a problem. Does anyone but me remember at the start of the game someone could put a man laying down in the field and by the end of the game that man was connected to all the tiles on the map and worth ten squillion points? And while that’s very satisfying when it’s you after a few runs it hurts the game somewhat, since you’re off playing your own game focusing on men in fields and tiles to benefit them. Maybe that’s a good game, who knows? But what’s that got to do with Bunny Kingdom? Well that type of entrenching yourself and connected growing is the key to what’s happening here. And just like the farmer once he’s laid down it’s hard to stop it. I have very few means to break up my opponents conquest of the map and his win conditions. For some people this will be perfect. But for me it often results in a case of if you can’t beat them join them, limiting the ways the game can be played and it’s replay value.
Overall Bunny Kingdom is a beautiful, thematic non confrontational game. It’s the kind of game you pull down before delving into something more complex or as a comedown from said complex games. I think lots of people can enjoy this and it’s laid out so nicely it would make a great game for introducing new gamers to the hobby. Replay value however is probelmatic as the gameplay varies so little but that’s a very personal conclusion to arrive at.
Here at Board Game Inquisition our ranking system for games in our collection goes as follows:
Keep in collection
Trade for something new for the collection
Burn an unworthy candidate
Bunny Kingdom, while awesome just isn’t replayable enough for me. So it’s been relegated unscathed to the trade pile.