Bunny on Bunny Violence

My family plays a card game called Knucklehead at every gathering. Using a regular deck of cards the game is a bit like Spades except there are no teams (many people can play) and the trump changes. In the years we’ve played I’ve only won once. It kills me. My father laughs at me every time I sit down at the table determined to win. Knucklehead drives me crazy as there’s just enough strategy to keep drawing me in but its randomness is what eventually sinks me. No matter what I bid and how many sets I think I’m going to take the unexpected always happens; I’ll take a set on a non-trump deuce or get cut as someone magically plays an ace on my king of trump.

That is why people who know what type of games I’m into find my fondness for Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot confusing. This card game is the definition of randomness.  You can pretend to have a strategy but in the end it’s a free-for-all. As I always tell people who are learning the game for the first time, don’t worry about being overwhelmed by the rules, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to win.

The goal of the game is to collect carrots. You do so by buying them using money–“dollas”– you accumulate or by playing special cards that give them as rewards.  But while the purpose is to collect carrots, the major action of the game surrounds your bunny army.  You need bunnies on the table to be able to use most cards and launch attacks against the rabbits belonging to other players.

Killer Bunnies card game
I wouldn’t be surprised if I someday found out that Killer Bunnies was designed by people who were on a strong mix of acid, shrooms, and maybe a bit of PCP.  The types of weapons and cards available to you are just plain weird.  You can lay waste to your enemies using powerful weapons such as the Ebola virus, miniature black holes, and “bittersweet, chocolate covered anti-matter raisins”.  Bunny defense is just as odd, consisting of protective cards like magic spatulas, large prune danishes, and by sending your rabbits “back to the future”.

Killer Bunnies card game
Choose your death.

I love playing with people who are new to the game.  It’s hilarious watching their faces as they draw cards and are immediately confused/amused/bewildered by the cards they’ve received.  You can also always spot a veteran Killer Bunnies player; when the rabbit bloodbath inevitably begins, they mostly remain impassive, cold even, as their bunnies are torn apart, blasted, starved, melted, run over, kidnapped by aliens, or stolen by enemy players.  It takes new players some time to learn not to become attached to their bunnies – their lives are short.  That first rabbit death is always amusing as the new player is incredulous that the other player would be so mean.  You can’t take things personally in Killer Bunnies or be nice.   Kill or be killed.

KiIler Bunnies card game
Kill it! Kill it quick!

You must have at least one bunny alive at the end of the game to qualify for winning.  The end of Killer Bunnies is what makes its lack of strategy especially obvious.  For every carrot card there’s a smaller version kept in a separate, secret pile.  Whoever is holding the carrot that corresponds to the bottom-most card of the secret pile wins the game.  Statistically, the more carrots you hold, the better your chances of winning, but I’ve quite often seen one player holding the majority of the carrots lose to someone who had only one, the winning carrot. 

Killer Bunnies card game
Who will win?

It’s this lottery win that strategy-centric players decry the most.  They declare that it’s a punishment against good play; that you may still lose despite dominating the game.  I disagree and assert that the lottery system is a boon to players who had bad luck throughout the game or kept getting screwed over by the other players.  Killer Bunnies is very much about luck.  Sometimes you simply don’t draw bunnies when you need them.  Sometimes even when you do, other players lay down nasty weapons and devastate your bunnies before a single round goes by.  As long as you’re able to gain one carrot and have one bunny on the table when the last carrot is taken, you’re still in the game.

My explanation to people who wonder how I can stand Killer Bunnies when games like Knucklehead drive me crazy is that Killer Bunnies embraces randomness.  It is a game where it is much easier to accept that things definitely won’t be going your way.  I put away my strategic mindset and have fun.  There are a ton of expansion decks that can be added, with ever more strange and fun cards.  Just adding a couple expansions will allow many people to play at once which is where the game really shines.  If you’re looking for an easy-going game for large groups, Killer Bunnies the game you want.

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