Bunny Kingdom is a card-drafting game where players score points by placing troops (bunnies!) onto a central board.
Designers: Richard Garfield
Artist: Paul Mafayon
Category: Drafting Game, Strategy Game
Player Count: 2-4
Richard Garfield first made a splash with the incredibly popular Magic: The Gathering, a game hugely popular over twenty years later (and a personal favorite of mine). But he’s also done many other games, and had another hit with 2011’s King of Tokyo from IELLO. Designer and publisher have teamed up again for Bunny Kingdom, a card-drafting game with a board where players claim territories. Let’s check it out!
Characters—bunnies—carry weapons, wear armor, and look pretty intimidating, but there’s no actual violence shown anywhere in the game. Players don’t attack each other, apart from an occasional corner case. The art is presented in a light, cartoony style.
Bunny Kingdom had me interested right away for several reasons—brilliant designer, reputable publisher, and wonderful artwork. Let’s start with the production values, both good and bad. Paul Mafayon’s artwork is absolutely fantastic, as you can see right on the cover. The cards generally have very little text, making room for gorgeous illustrations that take up almost the entire space of the card. Players also have bunny meeples for their troops, which are disgustingly cute, and they fit neatly into the plastic city tokens that show each fief’s growing strength. However, the board is an issue. It’s just too dang small. Once bunnies, tokens, and cities take over the relatively small board, it becomes very difficult to count up your victory points for each round.
Victory points each round are actually scored in a somewhat strange way. Each connected region of your bunnies (fief) scores by its strength (towers on cities) multiplied by the number of different resources produced there, not the total amount. There are often times where expanding a fief won’t score you any extra points, and even times it’s better to keep fiefs separate, which can feel odd. But mostly, it’s just hard to see and count up each round, and even to multiply. As a math teacher, I was kind of appalled to see a multiplication table on the player aid, but then we got a little lost ourselves trying to do 53 + 14×4 + 3×7+ … without writing anything down—scores go very high in this game. Additionally, endgame scoring from parchments is often just as much, if not more, than the in-game score, which again feels odd. It keeps players invested to the end since no one’s clearly ahead, but it also means that there is a ridiculous amount of accounting to do once the fun part of the game is over.
What’s the fun part of the game? Ah, I forgot how to explain how to actually put things on that tiny board! The meat of the game is players drafting cards (10-12) each over four rounds. Cards can claim territories, or give special buildings for extra resources or extra strength, or give end-game victory points. And since resources are for victory points, not for building requirements (and buildings actually can always be drafted, then built later as needed), every card is a reasonable option. This isn’t like 7 Wonders, where in Age II or III you already know you can’t build half the hand and are really only picking from a few cards. In Bunny Kingdom, all cards are good all the time, which is what makes it unique. These are incredibly tough decisions! And that is a super fun thing to experience, but it also means you’re bound to have players with some analysis paralysis, worse than usual. I’m also a little worried that because most cards are very basic and similar (e.g. 100 of the 182 cards are just coordinates for the board), that the game will begin to feel too much of the same after a while, and I’m feeling a little bit of that already.
This sounds like I’m coming down really hard on Bunny Kingdom, but I actually really enjoyed myself playing. The general consensus after each play was, “I had fun, I’d play again, but I wouldn’t suggest it.” The functionality issues—the tiny board, the tedious scoring, the analysis paralysis—keep the game from top marks. However, it’s quick, it’s gorgeous, and the “everything is amazing” style drafting is an awful lot of fun.
Thank you to IELLO for providing a review copy of Bunny Kingdom.
+ Artwork is gorgeous, especially on the cards
+ Unique, simple twists on card-drafting
+ Game is quickly accessible to most gamers
+ You want ALL the cards—decisions are deliciously difficult
+ Game is intense until the end, due to heavy end-game scoring
- A hair more complex than necessary
- Central board is WAY too small
- Calculating scores can be overwhelming—endgame is tedium
- You want ALL the cards—analysis paralysis is common
- There's a lot of cards, but not much variation in them