Thursday, 16 July 2009

Rabbit Hunt

Rabbit Hunt was an unexpected discovery. I have read about this game at Bruno Faidutti's website, but it didn't trigger enough interest for me to want to try it. Then on 5 Jul after playing Minion Hunter at Carcasean, I asked Chong Sean to suggest a quick game, and he brought out Rabbit Hunt.

This game is designed by Taiwanese designer Pan Shen-Yang, who also designed Fuzzy Tiger. Players are farmers, each having 3 rabbits. You try to hide your 3 rabbits from the other farmers, while trying to hunt down theirs. If all three of your rabbits are caught, you are out of the game. When time runs out (i.e. the card draw deck runs out), if you have any rabbits remaining in your hand, you lose. If a winner hasn't been determined yet by this point, then you check who has caught the most rabbits. Tied? Then check who has the fewer of his/her own rabbits caught. Tied again? Then check who has a remaining rabbit closest to the barn.

This all sounds rather complicated, but the game is actually quite simple. Just remember your goal is to hunt down the others' rabbits, and to keep yours from being found.

The game starts with the barn set up at the centre of the table, and 6 cards placed surrounding it, representing the field around the barn. You have 3 rabbit cards in your hand, and 5 more cards. On your turn, you place one card face-down, growing the field area, and then you do two actions. You can do any combination of the following:

  1. Collect 1 carrot.
  2. Draw 1 card.
  3. Move your farmer by paying carrot(s). If your farmer lands on a face-down card, turn it face-up and do what it shows (sometimes good, sometimes bad).
  4. Pay 3 carrots to look at an opponent's hand.

You need to think of when to place your rabbit card. Place it too early, and it may be caught by your opponents easily. Play it too late, you may lose the game, or you may be penalised. There are some event cards that cause you to lose all your carrots if you have not yet placed all your rabbits. There are some event cards that force all players to show their hands. If you happen to have placed one or more rabbits between two such events, your opponents will know that the cards you have placed during that time contain rabbits. So there is a bit of psychology in the game. You need to guess where your opponents have placed their rabbits, and when you place yours, you have to pretend to be not nervous at all. It's fun and exciting. There is also a memory element to it, not just in remembering the positions of the cards placed by your opponents, but also the cards you placed yourself. It's rather difficult to try to remember every move, so you'll probably have to settle for just a rough idea.

My green rabbit is trying to disguise itself as a tree.

In our 3-player game, Han, Chong Sean and I were rather conservative and held the rabbit cards in our hands for quite long. Only when the draw deck started to dwindle (and the field started to grow rather big) we reluctantly started placing our rabbits. Chong Sean and I found each other's rabbits first. Later Han also caught another one of mine. I was only one rabbit away from losing instantly. Then I made a lucky guess and caught Chong Sean's 2nd rabbit. I'm not sure why. I just had a gut feel it was that card, and I was right. I was leading 2 vs 1 vs 1, so the best strategy would be to quickly end the game by exhausting the draw deck. There weren't many cards left.

Han and Chong Sean saw it coming, but thankfully they couldn't stop me or find my third and last rabbit. Then in a surprise last move, instead of exhausting the draw deck, I took an irrational move, and moved by farmer to a new space instead. And I caught one of Han's rabbits! I must be possessed by some hunter spirit that day. I looked at my hand in awe and muttered, "Hand of God" ("神手!"). I just had this gut feel, and it turned out to be right. So I won decisively at 3 vs 1 vs 1. Still, it wasn't a rational thing to do. If my 3rd rabbit were caught, I would have lost.

Towards game end.

Rabbit Hunt is a light fun game. If played with 4 players, it must be played as a team game. With the psychology / bluffing and memory element, if a player decides to think too much / remember too hard, the game can certainly drag. But hey, this is a game about catching Bugs Bunny, not defending Earth from space invaders, why ssso ssseriousss? The winning conditions and the various card events can take a little while to remember, but once you get past that, you'll realise the key to the game is just as the title suggests - go catch bunnies.

I bought this game. It's something different. Now I really doubt I will meet my quota of 20 (maximum, of course) game purchases in 2009. I'm already at 17, and Essen is not even here yet.

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