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[Review] Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot

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Joined: 03/23/2011

There are some games that have invited debate on the internet, but none so much as Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (Playroom Entertainment, 2002 - Jeffrey Neil Bellinger). There is quite a vocal denouncement against the game by several on the internet, with several others speaking of their enjoyment of the game. So I was very interested in playing the game to find out what I thought of it - but also because the name of the game intrigued me.

After playing the game several times, I can see why some don't like it. There's a healthy dose of luck, and the game is essentially one big lottery, with players trying to improve their chances in it. But both of these things didn't bother me, the theme and gameplay were so enjoyable that I found the game to be quite fun. Now mind you, I know that the game has to be played with a certain group of people - a bunch of teenagers, or a group of adults bent on having a good time, but not a group of people looking to play a serious strategy game. Killer Bunnies is a silly, fun game - that when played quickly and in the spirit of the game, will produce an enjoyable experience. It's not for everybody, but it is for me.

Two small decks of cards, one cabbage and one water, are shuffled and placed face down on the table, next to a pile of large carrot cards, numbered #1 through #12. A smaller, matching set of carrot cards is placed aside and won't be used until the end of the game. A card representing Kaballa's Market is placed face up on the table, and then a large deck of cards is shuffled, with each player receiving seven cards, and the remainder placed in a draw pile on the table. Players immediately place any Kaballa Dolla cards they receive face up on the table in front of them, drawing duplicates, and discarding any cards that say "Play Immediately", drawing replacements for them also. Each player then should place two of their cards face down - one in a "Top Run" spot, and one in a "Bottom Run" spot. Six twelve sided dice, in six colors, are placed within reach of all players. One player is chosen to go first, and then the game begins.

On a turn, a player has a choice of playing a card from their hand, or their "Top Run" card. Cards are split into three main categories: Run cards, which can only be played from the "Top Run" position; Special cards, which can be played from the hand or the "Top Run" position; and Very Special cards, which can be played from the hand and on an opponent's turn. The Run cards, which are the heart of the game, have various functions.
- Bunny cards: Bunny cards are one of five types (gleeful, lumbering, congenial, sinister, or timid) and colors (orange, purple, yellow, green, or blue). Many cards require a player to have a Bunny in play, or they cannot be used. When players play bunnies, they place them in front of themselves, as part of a large "bunny circle", since adjacency often matters in the game. If a player gets three bunnies of the same type or color, they can play two cards a turn, rather than one. There is also a "Free Agent" Bunny, which is a wild card of sorts.
- Choose a carrot: The player may take one of the remaining large carrot cards (or two, depending on the card.) This card is critical to winning, and a player may only play it if they have a bunny in play.
- Weapons: There are various weapon cards, ranging from the Guillotine (level 7), to the Roaches (level 5). A player must have a bunny to use these cards and attacks another bunny on the table by forcing the owning player to roll a black twelve-sided die. If the player does not roll higher than the numerical level of the weapon, their bunny dies. Either way, the weapon is discarded. Some weapons, such as the Nuclear Warhead (level 12), affect the bunny and adjacent bunnies in the bunny circle.
- Feed the Bunny: These cards, which need a bunny to play, are played on any opposing bunny. The owner of that bunny must discard cabbage and water cards that equal or exceed the amount on the "Feed the Bunny" card by the end of their next turn, or they must kill the bunny indicated.
- Area 51: This card abducts a bunny, which is removed from play and set aside until another bunny is abducted by an Area 51 card.
- Kaballa's Market: Some cards close, open, or change the prices of Kaballa's Market.
- Misc.: Other run cards allow bunnies to be auctioned off, have players gamble for carrots, have the bunnies play Russian roulette, etc.

Whenever a player plays a run card, they move the "Bottom Run" card to the "Top Run" position, and place a new card in the "Bottom Run" position. Players, whether they play a special card or a run card, draw a new card. Kaballa dollars that are drawn are placed in front of the player, with another card drawn as replacement. Play Immediately! cards must be played immediately, which cause a bunny to die (of that player, unless they have none - then they can play the card on another player).

During a player's turn, they may buy items from Kaballa's market, if they have any Kaballa dollas. For three dollas, a player may buy the top cabbage card (which equals one to ten cabbage) or the top water card (which equals one to ten water). For ten dollas, a player may buy a carrot card. Players may only buy cards if the market is open, and prices may change throughout the game. No change is given by the market.

Some special cards require dice to be rolled, and the player rolls the amount of dice pictured on the card. Other special cards allow players to feed their bunnies, redirect weapons, and do other special effects.

Gameplay occurs until the last of the twelve carrots is taken or bought from the market. At this point, the small deck of carrot cards is shuffled and one of them is randomly drawn. The player who has the matching large carrot card is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game comes with the Blue Starter Deck, and includes the Yellow Expansion Deck "for free". This means that the cards have different colored backings but doesn't effect gameplay at all - except that the yellow cards are a minuscule larger than the blue cards. The cards themselves - even the small ones, are of very high quality, they can take a lot of wear, and are laminated and easy to handle. A couple of reference cards are included to help players remember what the symbols on the cards mean (for example, a pink button on the cards means that a bunny is needed to play that card). The dice are very high quality and easy to read, and the whole game fits easily into a plastic insert in a medium sized sturdy box.

2.) Artwork: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tremendous artwork in the game. Jonathan Young has done a great job conveying the humor of the game into pictures. Although the game conceivably has a lot of gore and dying bunnies, this is translated into a wacky type humor, and I can't imagine many people being offended by the cards. Each type of bunny is drawn differently, the carrots are hilarious caricatures, and the bright colored nature of the game really puts across the lightheartedness of the gameplay. It's a garish display of color and crisply drawn humorous pictures. This really helps the theme.

3.) Rules: The rulebook, which can be downloaded online, is very easy to understand and comes with many pictures and examples. The game has almost a CCG (collectible card game) feel to it, as there are a lot of cards. But most cards are very self-explanatory, and the ones who aren't are mentioned in the rules. I found that some players have a bit of a problem adjusting to the "Top Run", "Bottom Run" mechanic, but after a couple of rounds they understand it fairly well. I found the game easy to teach, as long as I differentiated between the special, very special, and run cards.

4.) Run Mechanic: I like how players must play run cards in front of themselves before the cards can actually be played. This makes players think a little about their actions before taking them. Obviously players want to get bunnies out on the table as fast as they can, but what next? Should they play the much needed "Choose a Carrot" card, or should they attempt to wipe out opposing bunnies? Should they waste a card by putting it one of the "Run" positions, or try to hold onto it as long as they can. It's fun to watch a player turn up a "Choose a carrot" card, which they can't use because everyone else has killed their bunnies.

5.) Carrots: Okay, let's get to the heart of the matter - the reason most people complain about the game. You can get eleven of the twelve carrots, and at the end of the game still lose, because the carrot drawn was the only one you didn't collect. But you know what, I don't really care about this. The game is lighthearted enough that I find enough enjoyment in optimizing my chances at the end of the game. A player's goal is to get as many carrots as possible so as to maximize their chance of having the winning carrot. Does that mean a player who is losing the entire game still has a chance to win - yes! And with teenagers and people who don't mind playing light games, this is a good thing. It annoys some people, because they can't lay down carefully thought out plans and have a grandiose strategy. The game is all about beating up other people's bunnies and having a good time.

6.) Fun Factor: Killer Bunnies is one game that totally succeeds simply on basis of its fun factor. It's a "take that" type of game with some strategic play, but the entire game is based on the wacky, far-out humor of the theme. Taking the game seriously is the wrong idea, it's meant to be fun, and attacking another player's bunny with boiling tar, or eating a large prune Danish to stay alive, or having your bunny get caught in the hedge when it's being trimmed is funny! Humor rules in the game, and that's why I enjoy it so much.

7.) Expansions: There are several expansions for the game already in print, and more are on their way. Each expansion adds more features and another colored deck to the game. I haven't played any of them yet, but I'm eager to see what features they add. Players who can't get enough of Killer Bunnies will certainly be pleased to know that the fun will last a while.

Look, I know that the game must be taken with a grain of salt when playing. For goodness sakes, you're playing a game about Killer Bunnies! Say the name a couple times, and it's just plain funny! And that's why the game has succeeded in my game groups, because people have a fun time playing it. The situations that occur in the game are utterly ridiculous, and afterwards, more talk about the black hole that killed a bunny is mentioned than talk about the player who won. If you're looking for a game that is simply a lot of fun, with a sprinkling of strategy in it, then Killer Bunnies is the game for you. Don't come into the game too seriously, and you'll leave with good memories.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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