Bunny Kingdom Review by IELLO

Theme and What is it?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Oops! Wrong one.

In a vast and prosperous land covered with lush forests, large productive fields, high mountains and warm waters teeming with fish, a group of Rabbit Lords sets off to conquer a new world on behalf of the Bunny King. Only the bravest and cleverest will earn the prestigious title of “Big Ears” in the end!

The players will explore the territory, build fortified cities and farm different kinds of resources in order to expand their fiefs, making them stronger and wealthier. The ultimate goal is to harvest the most Golden Carrots, and players can do so also by collecting Parchments, which provide wonderful treasures and secret missions to accomplish.

Bunny Kingdom is a funny strategy game where players will be at the head of an army of adorable tiny bunnies to expand their influence in a new and still unexplored land. But don’t be fooled by these cutie pies: they would be ready to steal the best territories and treasures right from under your nose if only they had the opportunity!

Gameplay Mechanics

Three different mechanics come into play in this game. Card Drafting is the heart of the game. Players will need to choose carefully which card to select and which ones to pass to their opponents, bearing in mind that those cards might not come back to them for a second chance or, even worse, they could help other players considerably. Simultaneous Action Selection is the mechanic underlying all the choices of the players: there’s no way to know which card our opponents selected or where they’re going to build that huge city waiting in front of them until all decisions are made. Don’t push your luck too far: sometimes choosing a less interesting card only to prevent your rivals to get their hands on it might pay back more in the end. Area Control is how score is calculated after each round. We need to make sure our fiefs are both strong (meaning they enclose a lot of cities) and wealthy (that is, they produce a variety of resources) to obtain as many points as possible in the form of Golden Carrots.

Bunny Kingdom plays over 4 rounds, and each round consists of 3 phases.

1) Exploration Phase: At the beginning of the round, each player receives 12 cards in a 3-player game or 10 cards in a 4-player game (when playing in 2 players, special drafting rules apply). The player chooses 2 cards from the hand and puts them face-down; then, he passes the remaining cards to the next player. When everybody is ready, all players reveal their 2 cards. If there are any Parchment cards, they are placed face-down in the player’s area and will be revealed only at the end of the game. If there are any Territory cards, players take immediately control of a specific territory placing one of their rabbits on the board. If there are any Building cards (cities, farms, camps, sky towers), players receive the city figurines or tokens and place them on the corresponding cards. Players continue drafting and passing cards until they are all gone.

2) Construction Phase: Players can build all the buildings they collected in the first phase, bearing in mind that (a) they can only place their buildings in territories they already control (that is, where they have a rabbit), (b) each territory can contain only one city or token, and (c) some cities and farms have specific building requirements.

3) Harvest Phase: During this phase, players collect Golden Carrots from all their fiefs and keep track of their points on the Score Track on the right of the board. A fief scores only if it contains at least a 1-tower city and produces at least one type of resource. Score is calculated for each different fief multiplying the total number of towers it contains by the number of different resources produced (Strength x Wealth).

If farming mushrooms and building cities on the top of a mountain doesn’t sound too exciting to you, wait until you expand your fiefs to the point where your opponents won’t have any choice but to surrender to your extraordinary bunny power!

Initial Impressions

Bunny Kingdom appears as a girly (and I say that being a girl!) and easy game because of the tiny cute rabbit figurines. Moreover, the extremely colorful board and the fantasy style pictures on the cards might suggest it is a game for children. Actually, the opposite is quite true. Forget for a second we are managing an army of bunnies here. The same mechanics could apply to a horde of cruel marauders trying to invade a faraway exotic land or to a crew of cursed pirates expanding on an empty island in the New World. It’s just that nobody had thought about Lord Bunnies before!

The choice of having an army of adorable rabbits is what makes this game original, so don’t prevent yourself from having a great game experience because of the seemingly childish look. The mechanics of this game are anything but silly, and will require some thinking on the players’ part.

Game Build Quality

The vividly colored board with all the rabbit figurines, the city minis and the different resource tokens on it is simply beautiful to look at.

A fundamental piece of the game, the board is thick and functional. Many people complained it is too small for its purpose and that it becomes messy once full. I think it does its job perfectly and you get adjusted to the strong visual impact after a few games. However, the publisher acknowledged the critics of the gamers and released a bigger board that is already available in stores and will fit also in the old box for those who already own the first version of the game.

The plastic bunnies, although undeniably cute, are really tiny (only 0,7 inches big) and are not easy to handle. Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact they are not in the four usual colors, since green and blue rabbits would not be easy to spot on a predominantly green and blue board.

Plastic city minis are nothing special, but I believe the neutral color will allow them to be painted and customized by gamers according to their preferences. I saw some great examples of painted cities, and the colors really contribute to the overall feeling of the game.

Cards are well finished, but they definitely need to be sleeved, because they get shuffled over and over again.

The box contains a pre-shaped paper insert to store all game materials in 6 compartments.

Artistic Direction

The artwork on the cards is great. The pictures on Territory cards are extremely detailed and recall typical fantasy locations, while those on the Parchments are funny, original and consistent with the overall magical feeling of the game. Humanized rabbits are just too cool.

The rulebook is very clear and full of examples, images and simple explanations. At the end of the rulebook there are even extra notes and a glossary to resolve any doubts that might have arisen while playing, and a useful Rules Summary. And everything is enriched by the same beautiful pictures illustrated on the cards.

Fun Factor

Bunny Kingdom is a real strategy game requiring a lot of thinking and planning ahead, but also some luck in drafting the cards. However, the strategic aspects of the game are quite mitigated by the overall fantasy mood of the pictures, figurines and board.

I personally believe that the 2-player mode is more fun, because the players’ competitive side naturally kicks in. Although the 10×10 square board seems big for only two players and might lead you to think that there’s plenty of room for everybody, you will find yourself considering your hand of cards more attentively, and in the end you will probably prefer to choose a card your opponent so desperately needs instead of playing one that is more useful to you.

The 4-player mode is undoubtedly more frustrating, because the chances of getting the cards you’re waiting for are way lower and the board becomes a real mess packed of colored rabbits, tokens and city figurines. I still think it’s beautiful to look at, though.

Age Range & Weight

The age range for Bunny Kingdom is 14+, but I think it could actually be lowered. Probably younger kids won’t be able to delineate an effective long-term strategy to follow, but since the card drafting is mostly a matter of luck, I wouldn’t deny the youngsters the chance to have such a fun game experience and to play with those cute figurines. Middle school kids will do just fine with it and younger children will love the bunnies.

Bunny Kingdom is definitely an easygoing game that both occasional and habitual gamers will enjoy. Beginners will like the fantasy touch and the immediate mechanics of drafting and building; hard gamers, on the other hand, will find it more challenging than they could ever expect from managing an army of pink bunnies.

Average game time is 40 minutes. The estimate is accurate in 2 players, but I believe it takes a bit more with 4 players, without considering the time needed to put all the figurines and tokens back into the box. Anyway, it’s time well spent.

Conclusions

Bunny Kingdom is really a great game. Despite the wrong initial impressions of being too light and childish, it challenges the ability of the players to make the best of their hand of cards and to plan ahead. Gameplay is indeed very smooth: choosing the cards, passing them to the other payers, placing bunnies on the board and building cities and farms becomes a natural process in a couple of turns.

It provides a satisfying game experience even though it’s not very long. I keep bringing it to the table as a perfect 2-player game, because every time it’s different: you will never control the same territories and you can’t predict which cards your opponent will discard. Having to adjust your strategy continuously is what keeps this game intriguing and interesting in the long run. Replay values is very high.

I personally love board games by IELLO and this is no exception. They have a very diverse catalogue, ranging from family to strategy to war games. The artistic aspect is usually what I appreciate the most in IELLO games and Bunny Kingdom has really an excellent artwork.

The theme is not very strong, but we must admit those bunnies are just too cute to be left on the shelf for too long.

 

P.S. I love this fierce rabbit on the cover; it reminds me so much of William Wallace and the wonderful Braveheart movie.

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