With Magic: The Gathering and King of Tokyo alone, Richard Garfield is behind two of my all time favourite games. What I find appealing about Garfield’s games is that they’re generally simple to grasp – albeit quite often with a bit of a learning curve – but with a wealth of choices available to players on each turn. This gives players a real sense of control over proceedings, even though there’s also quite often a luck element involved (the draw of the cards in Magic or the rolling of dice in King of Tokyo, for example).
Bunny Kingdom is a pretty straightforward game, but with concepts and keywords that take a few turns to sink in, along with the variety of different cards and ways to score points, it does have that aforementioned learning curve for players to deal with.
Players are bunnies, claiming and developing territories on an appealingly colourful, clearly defined board of squares. Each round has three phases and, with just four rounds in a game, it moves fairly swiftly to the end. Players first play two cards and then pass their hand along during the first phase, in which territories can be claimed by placing the cute little bunny tokens on the square matching a territory card’s co-ordinates. During this phase, building cards can also be played, though buildings won’t be placed on the board until the second phase: construction. Thirdly, the players harvest victory points (golden carrots!) from the ‘fiefs’ they own (orthogonally connected territory squares) with the point value being calculated by adding the number of city towers they have in that fief, then multiplying that number by the number of different resource types being produced in that fief.
Still with me? I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not; even with the nicely illustrated rules that contain lots of useful examples of how to work out a fief’s point total, it still took me a little while to truly grasp it. Likewise, having so many different types of card that can be played during phase one was also pretty overwhelming to start with too.
Yet after playing a complete round, everything suddenly clicks into place. It’s an incredibly satisfying and rewarding game, which – with simultaneous play being possible in most situations – moves swiftly to it’s conclusion. It’s a game where it always feels like there’s not quite enough time to carry out your plans, which can be thwarted anyway, due to the fact that you’re passing hands of cards between players after playing them during the first phase. It’s a very clever – but agonising – way of ensuring that players know what cards are in play, but without them being able to know if the next card they want will still be available when the hand comes around again.
The visual design of Bunny Kingdom is absolutely beautiful, with a painted look to the illustrations and anthropomorphised look to the bunnies on the cards. The plastic cities and bunny pieces add a further layer of colour and a tactile quality to the board as it fills up.
The player aids to assist with calculating the value of fiefs is a nice touch too, with a multiplication table on the rear of the card to assist younger – or, like me, more mathematically challenged – players with working out their victory points each turn.
With just four rounds and lots going on, Bunny Kingdom becomes very competitive and – with Parchment cards – which give bonus points for tasks achieved in game – that players can reveal once the fourth round is over, the outcome is never assured until the very end. It’s a nicely layered game which keeps everyone involved throughout. If you can cope with overcoming a bit of a hurdle in learning to play, you’ll get an awful lot of fun and replayability from the territory grabbing, area control and development of your very own Bunny Kingdom.
Note: iello were kind enough to provide me with a copy of Bunny Kingdom for review purposes.
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