Hasenpfeffer Incorporated

Schlemiel… Schlimazel… it’s an underappreciated Richard Garfield drafting game all about rabbits; and I’m “lapin” it up. Ok, fine, enough with the terrible references/puns.

A small sampling of potential cards from Bunny Kingdom

Admittedly, this one completely passed over my radar as I was looking through BGG’s GenCon preview. I, predictably, stuck to the more hyped games: Whistle Stop, Ex Libris, and the like. And it wasn’t until esteemed reviewers Man Vs. Meeple featured the game on their channel that I sat up and took notice of this title.

So, How do You Play?
Bunny Kingdom, at its root (vegetables), is a fairly standard drafting game. Depending on player count, competitors will take 10 or 12 cards, draft one, and subsequently pass the remaining cards to the Left or Right until none remain.

Cards, in this case, will come in one of two(ish) varieties: There will be location cards which correspond to one of one-hundred possible spots on the board (1 to 10, and A to J; a location card; therefore, would be something like A7 or F6). Similarly, there are Parchment cards, which give end game bonuses if certain conditions are met [e.g. territories on the edge of the board, or a threshhold of a certain resource]. Additionally, there are cards that play off territories you control, or that you want to control.

a.) Provision cards let you draw two cards and use their effects, garnering you two abilities for the price of one card; though, the effects you gain are random

b.) Camp Cards let you squat on a territory, allowing you to extend your fief* …unless the rightful owner plays that location card and kick you out.

c.) Sky Towers let you connect separated fiefs into one unified nation.

d.) Luxury Resources let you specialize in certain production beyond Fish, Carrots, or Wood.

e.) City Building lets you build a castle of Strength 1, 2, or 3

The latter of these cards are important because, once a round ends (4 rounds in total will be played during the game), players will resolve all their non-parchment cards and score each of their fiefs. {A fief being a grouping of connected territories}. The catch being: Scoring is done by multiplying the number of SPIRES in your fief (spires being provided by castles/cities) by the number of different RESOURCES in the aforementioned fief (basic resources, again, being Wood, Fish, and Carrots.)

An example of fiefs & territories. Also pictured are cities of various sizes, providing 1–3 spires each

Likes and Dislikes?
1.) A big knock on the game, if BGG forums are to be believed, is that the board is too small. I, personally, don’t have a problem with the board size, but the graphic design does leave something to be desired, especially in the later rounds when fiefs grow unruly and players are trying to score their fiefs quickly and efficiently.

Likewise, the lava flows in the mountain regions aren’t easily recognized and players, many times, have to consciously remember their presence or be reminded by an opponent — at an inopportune time — that they do.

2.) While the game says it plays with 2 to 4, it doesn’t necessarily play well with 2. With said player count, each individual gets 10 cards in their initial hand and 10 additional cards in a reserve pile. Before each pick is made, players add a card from the reserve pile to their hand and subsequently discard a chaffe card they either don’t want or don’t want their opponent to have.

My wife and I have also noticed that the lack of jockeying for spaces in a 2 player game means there is a distinct advantage to drafting the cities/castle cards in the early rounds and then trying to build your fief around the cities you’ve built early. In each of the handful of games we’ve played at 2, the person who was fortunate to get/draft the city cards ran away with the game quite handily.

Edit: For the record, Garfield contends that the 2P game necessitates much more hate-drafting and counter-picking than the 3 and 4P iterations. This hasn’t really been my experience though. Yes, you can counterpick to a degree; and you can toss one unwanted card away via the reserve phase, you aren’t going to be able to counterpick EVERYTHING, especially if there are multiple castle/city cards in the opening hands.

3.) With 3 or 4 players; however, this is a fantastic game that’s quickly becoming my go-to drafting game. Much like the stereotypical “rabbit reproduction” scenarios, players’ scores will seem tractable — almost flatline— in the first round or so, only to exponentially boom in the 3rd, 4th, and Parchment scoring rounds. As an example: during my last play with 3, I failed to score a single point in the first round, yet ended up winning with a score of 230+ points.

4.) Finally, this game has all the hallmarks of a great drafting game. Specifically, Garfield has built into Bunny Kingdom a fantastic balance that requires players to jab at the opponents — an innocuous bunny in this field, maybe a disparate hare over in the corner doing some fishing — before stepping on the gas with multiple castles, a sky tower, and some luxury resources. The Parchment cards are also well done to the point that you want to keep coming back to the game because you just can’t figure out how to draft around them to the point that they’re advantageous (e.g. I’m bound and determined to make the Hun card work in my favor), but you want to keep coming back to see how you oil the machine differently next time.

Without hesitation, I can say that Bunny Kingdom is in my Top10 of 2017. While it may be overshadowed by other games, this is certainly one to consider for your collection. So eat your carrots and keep a keen eye peeled for this one if you spot it at your FLGS.

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