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Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Killer Bunnies - the next best thing to being waterboarded

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Part of the reason this game is so awful is because it seems like it has so much going for it.  It practically screams, "Hey, I'll make sure you have a good time."  Like Munchkin, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot touts itself as a fun, fast paced game where you get to stab your buddies in the back.  Or, in this case, kill their bunnies. 

Plus, when I first found it, it was sitting on the shelf at my local game shop.  It had three great things going for it: (1) Cardboard box.  Card games that come in a sturdy cardboard box (San Juan, Citadels, Bang!) tend to be better than ones that don't (Uno).  This doesn't hold true in all cases, but I think its a good rule of thumb.  Number (2) it was sitting between Munchkin and Gloom.  Both those games are pretty fun and I was hoping some of that would rub off by proximity.  And, finally, (3) it had a wacky name, art, and premise.  How could it go wrong?  I'll tell you exactly how after the jump. 


First, the game is the product of money grubbing money grubbers.  The game has ten (10!) expansions.  True, the first expansion (Yellow) is contained within the blue box.  Then comes Red, Violet, Orange, Green, Twilight, Steel, Pink, Khaki, and Onyx.  Normally, I like expansions.  But, Killer Bunnies does something sinister.  See, the Red box includes cards that need a new Red die to work.  Sounds reasonable.  But, the yellow booster (the one prior to red in the series) also has a few cards that require that red die.  Want to play with your entire yellow set?  Buy the red set.  But then the red set has a few cards that need the clear die from Violet.  And violet has a few cards that need the pawns in Orange.  And so on.  So that reasonably priced blue box just became an investment in nine additional purchases. 

Second, and more importantly, the game is fundamentally broken.  Doesn't work.  Is bad.  Dumb. 

Players draw their starting cards and put two in front of them, face down, one on top of the other.  Each turn, the top one is played, the bottom is moved to the top, and a new card from the hand goes to the bottom.  Thus, the card you lay down this turn won't actually be played for two more turns.  This mechanic works thematically well in a game like Nuclear War where peace might break out but someone has already pushed the launch button.  In Killer Bunnies, it makes no sense. 

Then, you play your cards.  If you have Bunnies, those go in front of you.  Many cards (especially the good ones) require you to have a bunny in front of you to play.  So its important to keep bunnies up and to kill the other players'.  Finally, there's a pile of 12 (later expanded to 20) magic carrots.  There's a set of small ones and a set of larger ones.  One set is placed aside with the winning carrot randomly decided face down so that no one knows.  Then, the rest of the game is getting as many of the carrots in the other set as possible so that you have the best chance of having the Magic (winning) Carrot at the end.  I find this mechanic one of the few good points of this game.  A player down on his luck with but a few carrots at the end might still be able to pull off victory.  But a lucky player can still maximize his or her chances. 

Here's where it breaks.  There aren't so many bunnies that every player will get one in his opening hand.  And, because of the mechanics, even if you draw a bunny that turn, it'll be two turns before it comes out.  Thus, you've basically been set back three turns.  And heaven help you if it takes longer than that.  Thus, the first round is usually a few players who get their bunnies out, and a few players who throw cards away or take minor actions.  Next, since you place down two cards, the first player who got a bunny out plays a "kill a bunny" card.  So he kills the next player's bunny.  That player also probably had a "kill a bunny" card - but those cards often require a bunny in order to be played!  So now his card is worthless.  And he may have to wait up to two more turns to get another bunny.  So, the game is often decided in the very first round by the luck of the draw.  Once someone gets that first initial lead, it is easy for him or her to continue playing the best cards, getting out more bunnies (so that there's a buffer), and getting the majority of carrots. 

In fact, there's very little point playing after the first round.  You might as well shuffle it up and start again. 

Components: 4 of 5.  For its other flaws, the game has nice components.  A solid box along with good dice and nice glossy cards.  The artwork is comical.  If you purchase all the expansions, though, you've got well over 600 cards to shuffle and manage. 

Strategy/Luck Balance: 1 of 5.  This game is supremely unbalanced.  The early lead, based entirely on luck of the draw, is difficult to overcome.  Bad draws in later turns aren't as devastating because you may already have bunnies.  Without a bunny, you can't play the game's best cards - or even most of the moderately worthwhile ones.  The single point in this category is for the random winning condition which gives devastated players some slim (and often false) hope of success. 

Mechanics: 0 of 5.  Totally broken.  There is no reason for the turn delay thematically and it completely hampers game play.  It allows the strong to remain strong and forces the weak into a very difficult game of catch-up.  If anything, a good game should give the advantage, however slight, to the person struggling the most.  Many games do have such devices which rearrange turn order or other benefits based on the game's progression.

Replayability: 4 of 5.  With the random win condition and the numerous cards, this game sees different abilities most of the time - especially with multiple expansions. But who would want to play it?

Spite: 5 of 5.  The game actively encourages you to stab your buddies.  While not a bad thing in and of itself, it is terrible as applied in this game.  The spite encourages you to kick the other players while they are down (lest they get a surviving bunny that retaliates) leading to an unenjoyable experience for some at the playing table. 

Overall: 0.5 of 5.  Avoid this game at all costs.  Some people may like this game.  But as Bill Murray said in Groundhog Day, "Some people like blood sausage."  This game is great if you draw well that first turn, but will lead to a completely frustrating time if you don't. 

With all that said, if you'd like to own this spectacle of broken gaming, be sure to at least get the best price for it at Boards&Bits.

If its unavailable, you can also procure it from FunAgain Games.

27 comments:

  1. Good to know! Thanks, I'll be sure to avoid this one, cool bunny art or not!

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  2. I usually like kooky named games but I stayed away from it because it was associated with Munchkin, a game that I will play but would never own nor would I ask to play it! Thanks for the review! Now I will definitely not get this game even if I became a pod person ;)

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  3. So I owned the first "opening" killer bunnies 4 years ago and I loved it. Nothing that this person said was true! I now own all of the expansions and they are not needed to play the original game. Yes some cards lead or hint at other expansions but that's what was intended. it isn't needed however. Also the line where they stated that there isn't a way to come from behind but there is and lots of ways! Why don't you try it out for yourselves instead of taking the opinion of one persons one time playing this game. I play once a week if not more of this game and all my friends and family love playing it too.

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  4. This review is not true at all. Killer Bunnies is one of the most fun card games I have ever played, even if you don't have any expansions. You DO NOT need the expansions to play any cards. The expansions sometimes add to the effects of certain cards but are never required. Also, the tables turn many times in a game. Very rarely does one player dominate the entire game. This is a great game and it would be a pity if you believed what this guy said. Go kill some bunnies!

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  5. Hey anonymouses. I'm happy that you enjoy this game and I wish you many more fun plays. However, all of the above is true.

    The delayed card play makes no sense and detracts from enjoyment. The "must own a bunny" requirement on good cards hampers those who lag behind. And the game chugs on well after the fun and novelty wear off. And, each pack does have one or more cards usable only with the expansion.

    Like I said, have fun with the game. To each their own. But just because a select few enjoy it, does not mean that it doesn't have glaring problems that will ruin the game for most.

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    1. Played it for the first time last week, it was a BLAST!!! the delayed playing of cards is perfect...you have to be careful playing your big cards, because if you lose your bunny before it comes out, you lost the card. We played 3 games and NEVER was there a game where one person dominated all the way through. Since then I have talked to some other friends that have played. Everyone that I know who has played it LOVED it. It would appear that the writer of this review just has a very boring set of friends to play with ;)

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    2. I'm glad you had fun with it.

      I've played the game a dozen times or more. I played it at every expansion and kept wanting to like it. But it just isn't that good.

      In fact, you highlighted some of the more aggravating parts. Losing your bunny and then two turns in a row (since you no longer have a bunny to power your cards) is not fun.

      As I said, I'm glad you enjoy it and wish you many more plays. But after a dozen or so plays, I would rather try chewing razorblades than sit for another game of Killer Bunnies.

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    3. Strategically you are flawed; it's not the game. Just because you can't figure out how to win, it is a bad game... comical! If you don't start off with bunnies, don't throw a pity party... Figure out what to do. In that case, put your special cards face down, then when you flip them over, you can throw them to the side to start stockpiling assets to use later. Secondly, you shouldn't start throwing bunnies up right away anyways until you have a couple in a row. That is a noob move but you wouldn't know that because you just spite the game. If you don't put up a bunny early, people will most likely use their best weapon card and there won't be an opposing bunny to play it on and now they just wasted cards.. Yes, the person who is supposed to win the whole game is now wasting their best cards while you are stockpiling special cards to use once he has used up all of his good ones.

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  6. Sorry but this game is Fun granted the winner is Based on luck. (The Only Flaw) I was introduced to Killer Bunnies Last week & its a Good time Killer. Its Not going to be amazing or Knock your socks off but In my opinion its worth throwing on your game shelve.

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  7. I agree with all three anonymous posts here. This is an super fun game, and it is very possible to come back from not having a bunny in the first round (even if every other player does). And you dont NEED the expansions to play the original. The expansions will add some effects to certain cards, but every card in the original can be played in some capacity without any further decks. Great game.

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  8. The game is built for a larger multiplayer experience. 5 or more. If you can manage to play the game with this number of people then the disadvantages do not always occur and the game can be a blast. However with 4 or fewer the game is a lot tougher to come from behind to get a good shot at winning. I can definitely see the reasoning behind the initial comments because I have experienced both. However I would give the game a 3.5 to 4 if you can get a lot involved in the action!

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  9. 3.5 to 4 out of 5, sorry

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  10. As an avid Killer Bunnies fan, I must agree with some of the problems pointed out in the review. However, this game begs of homemade rules additions/changes, and with just a few the flaws of this game can be overcome and you can fully enjoy the awesomeness and hilarity of this game. I'll list the major ones that I play with:
    1. Everyone starts the game with a basic bunny already in play.
    2. Remove the requirement of having a bunny from many of the cards, especially weapons and feed the bunnies.
    3. Keep the top/bottom run system, but play with 7 cards in hand instead of 5.
    4. Don't put every card from every expansion in. Leave out the ones that aren't useful or are too powerful so that there will be fewer draws that either totally change the game or feel totally pointless.
    5. In the expansions, there are bunnies that allow you to play two run cards a turn. That is, something you set this turn can be played next turn. Add all of these in, and make some yourself and add those.

    Hopefully someone will see this and be able to have as much fun with this as game as I have.

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    1. These are some great suggestions. I'm glad you were able to fix a lot of the problems that come in the game.

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  11. We own the game. We have 5 kids of various ages. This game is awesome for a Sunday night with 2-3 free hours . We sit around the table and hear the kids yell and laugh. We bought it from the makers at DragonCon one year and have played it many nights with adult friends. Play with a group and it is really fun.

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  12. As a father of 3 young kids we all play along as a family and enjoy the comic book violence, and spite. This is not a game of huge skill but when we play as a family - no one really cares; this is a game about having fun where all have a equalish chance of winning.

    The original review has some merit but this is not a game for avoiding; it is a game for inviting friends and family over and having fun.

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  13. I was quite disappointed to read this review of Killer Bunnies. It is a favorite in my home, my school and my church. I am a teacher and senior high youth group leader. Every individual to whom I have introduced the game has become addicted. My past students come back each year and ask when I am starting the club up again. I waited to announce a few weeks this year and was approached by their parents at Open House. I find the game quite enjoyable and recommend it to everyone!

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  14. I found this post when searching for alternate "winning" rules.

    My experiences with the game have been entirely different from the reviewer. I have seen, many times, the early dominant be obliterated. The lead changes often when my family plays Killer Bunnies.

    I find it interesting that no mention was made of what to me is the biggest problem with the game; the randomness of winning. This is the issue for which I was seeking alternate rules.

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  15. We love this game, and so has everyone that has tried it on our recommendation. I agree with the suggestion on removing some of the more destructive cards at the beginning of the game. Some are just too much. If we don't have time for a full game, we sometimes dole some carrots out in advance to shorten the game. If we don't have bunnies, we use that as an opportunity to run special or very special cards through our stack so we can save them for using later. This also gets them out of our hand so we have more opportunity for other cards. I do think they should have more Karbala dollas.

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  16. This game is truly terrible. I would say the worst game I have ever played. 99% of the cards serve absolutely no purpose. In one game I played, 1 player (fortunately not me) did not draw a single bunny card in a game lasting an hour, meaning he could not play any card for the entire game. This aside, almost every single mechanic is stupid. Using house rules as suggested above do go some way to fixing this, but out of the box this game is fundamentally flawed in every single aspect.

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  17. Thoroughly enjoyed your review - I'm in the category of those who enjoy the game, but your review is still totally valid. One correction though - the game let's you take a "mulligan" so if you don't get any bunnies in your opening hand you can discard the hand and redraw until you do. Apart from that, everything else is correct. It's a totally stupid game - that's why I love it and that's also why many others hate it :)

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  18. I'm not anonymous - and I love the game. I first played it 10 years ago with some friends and their kids. I introduced it to my sister and her family. They loved it, and got all the sets. Now my 9 year old is constantly asking to play. There is strategy, there is chance, and the hilarious card descriptions are worth just sitting and reading.... The only folks I've found that didn't love it were my parents, and they don't play games much anyway.

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  19. Killer bunnies is by far the worst game I have every played. I have played it multiple times, with various expansions. People on here who tell those who hate this game that you don't understand the strategy walk around with their thumbs up their rectums snacking on paint chips. The only strategy this game has is hope to God you draw a bunny sometime in the game, and that no one can kill it before you get it out. It is more fun to stick a random deck of cards on a table and draw cards randomly from it while literally stabbing your friends in the back.

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  20. I find you need at least three players to play the game properly. I'm not saying that you cant't play with with two but it can become pretty one sided if the player with a better hand can just bombard the other. But with three players the players with crap cards can gang up on the other one. The game also requires a few play through to have real strategy come into effect because you have to gain an idea of what the other players could attack you with. I think the expansion system works fine because the game is completly functional without any of the boosters they just add things.

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  21. I find you need at least three players to play the game properly. I'm not saying that you cant't play with with two but it can become pretty one sided if the player with a better hand can just bombard the other. But with three players the players with crap cards can gang up on the other one. The game also requires a few play through to have real strategy come into effect because you have to gain an idea of what the other players could attack you with. I think the expansion system works fine because the game is completly functional without any of the boosters they just add things.

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  22. Everything written in this article is wrong. Killer Bunnies is a majestic work of art and a quality purchase.

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    1. yes! This is true! you go, anonymous!

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