How to Play
The objective of the game is to protect your own king piece while trying to reveal your opponents’ king piece.
To begin the game each player decides in which of their six spaces on the game board they would like to hide their king piece. Each player then places one large disc on top on each of the six spaces in order to hide their king piece. This is done without the other players seeing where you placed the king piece. After everyone has placed their king piece and their discs, each player turns all of their colored dice to the six side and places one dice on each of their spaces on the board.
All of the players roll the larger rolling dice to see who gets to go first.
A Player’s Turn
To begin a turn the current player rolls the two black dice. The combination of the two dice will determine what the player can do on their turn. On a players turn they can choose to use the dice they rolled in one of the following ways:
- Take points from one of your opponents’ dice. This is the action you will end up taking on most of your turns. With this action you can use the dice you rolled in order to reduce the number shown on one of your opponent’s dice. If for example you roll a three and a four you have the option of reducing the value of a dice on a three space by four points or you can reduce the dice on the four space by three points. The points are subtracted from the die chosen and this is shown by changing the side of the dice that is shown. If the die’s value is reduced to zero or a negative number, the die is removed from the game and the die can not be brought back by the player.
- Take one point off of any opponents’ dice. Instead of rolling the dice a player can choose to skip their roll in order to take one point away from one of their opponent’s dice. This choice must be made before rolling the dice.
- Remove a player’s unprotected disc. If a player ends up rolling a number that corresponds to an opponents’ space that has an unprotected disc (no die on top of it), the player can choose to use their turn to remove that disc. If the player’s king piece is hidden under the disc that was removed, that player is eliminated. Otherwise the disc is just removed from the game.
- Adding points to your own die. A player may choose to use the dice rolled in order to improve the value of their dice. The player uses the number on one of the die rolled to pick the die that is increased and the other die determines how much the die is increased. If a three and a six are rolled the player can choose to add six to their three die or they can add three to their six die. A die may never be increased above a six so any additional points are ignored and the die is changed to a six.
After a player rolls the dice and before they make their decision, all of the players can choose to switch positions of the two dice corresponding to the numbers rolled by the other player. For example if a one and a four are rolled, the other players (not the player that rolled) are allowed to switch their dice on the one and four spaces.
End of Game
The game ends when all but one of the players’ king pieces are revealed. The player whose king piece was not revealed ends up winning the game.
We at Geeky Hobbies have looked at quite a few dice games. In general I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big fan of the genre. My problem with most dice games is that they generally rely too heavily on luck. They usually have no strategy outside of a press your luck mechanic. I typically like games that have at least a little strategy so I can at least feel like my actions actually have an impact on the outcome of the game.
Today we are going to look at Bunker Poker. Bunker Poker kind of intrigued me since it appeared to have more strategy than the typical dice rolling game. It looked like players were going to able to make some decisions that would actually impact the game. While Bunker Poker does have more strategy to it than the typical dice rolling game, the game is still nothing more than an average game.
Quick and Easy to Play
Bunker Poker benefits quite a bit from its’ easy to understand rulebook and its’ quick pick up and play style. The English rules are only two pages long with one of the pages being filled with diagrams so it is really only one page. It should only take a couple of minutes at max to read. The rules are also really easy to explain to new players. It might take a couple rounds for each player to get a grasp on what they can do each turn but it becomes simple once everyone understands the different options on each turn.
While each player has some options on every turn, the number of options never become overwhelming. Typically players will have three to five choices on their turn with a max of five to ten choices. This can usually be trimmed pretty quickly to the two or three best choices for any given situation.
A typical game of Bunker Poker lasts around 20 minutes. I like that the game is pretty quick since it gets to the point and doesn’t waste too much time. I think the game would have been better at around 15 minutes but I don’t really have a problem with the length of Bunker Poker.
Interesting Mechanics But Luck Has the Final Say
The things that interested me most about Bunker Poker were the mechanics that were added to a traditional dice rolling game. I liked that the game gives players multiple options/choices on their turn. In most dice games the only decision you might be able to make would be to decide whether you wanted to press your luck. There really is no room for forming a strategy with so little impact on the game. In Bunker Poker you can actually somewhat form a strategy. I wouldn’t confuse Bunker Poker with a strategic game but at least you can have some impact on what happens in the game.
The one thing I liked most about the mechanics is that you need to roll well but you also need to use your dice well. There are optimal ways to use your dice and this gives an advantage to players that are willing to put some work into thinking through all of their options. Usually your decision is pretty obvious but sometimes there are a couple equally valid options to choose from.
I think Bunker Poker puts too much focus on attacking other players. On most turns you will either be forced to or will choose to attack one of the other players. While you will occasionally help yourself, I believe the better strategy is to mostly go after the other players. The way the game is set up, it is just more beneficial to attack other players than trying to help yourself. This is disappointing since I think the game would have been better if there was a stronger balance between helping yourself and attacking the other players.
While these new mechanics had potential, they unfortunately don’t work as well as they could have. Like most dice rolling games, Bunker Poker relies too much on luck. While you do have some say in how the game plays out, luck will be the determining factor in whoever ends up winning the game. No matter how good your strategy is, you can’t implement it if you don’t roll the right numbers. If you roll poorly you will lose.
Unlike some games where any dice combination helps you, you generally want to roll high numbers in Bunker Poker. How the game is set up you always want at least one of your dice to be a high number. Having a high number is beneficial since it either adds more points to your dice or takes more points away from your opponent.
Maximize Dice Equity
Although Bunker Poker has very little strategy, the one area where strategy does come into play is when trying to maximize your dice equity. Unless someone tips their hand, all decisions in the game of Bunker Poker are random guesses since you should have no idea where the other players played their king pieces. Since you are just guessing you might as well try to maximize each of your dice rolls the best you can.
When talking about dice equity, you need to try and avoid wasting points on the dice you rolled. For example if you roll a six and a one, you are better off taking six from a player’s one die than taking one from a player’s six die. Taking only one point off an opponent’s dice is not really doing any damage and by taking off six points you can eliminate a die from one of your opponents.
If you have a choice between removing a die from an opponent that uses the full value of both dice or choosing another opponent which won’t use the full value of both dice, you are better off usually going after the player where you can use the full value of both dice. When increasing the value of your own dice you don’t want to spend too many extra points in order to get your die back up to six.
Rolling a six in Bunker Poker is huge. Each six allows a player to eliminate an opponents’ die from the game (as long as the other number matches a location of a die). Unless you have a good idea that an opponent is hiding their king piece in the six spot, I would recommend using any six rolled in order to eliminate another player’s die. Since players can not bring dice back into the game, each die that is removed from the game gives the player less flexibility which will make it easier to eliminate their chips on future turns.
One problem I had with Bunker Poker is that the game allows/encourages the players to all gang up on another player. This is not particularly surprising since games that focus mostly on attacking other players usually have this problem. While you can use your roll in order to increase one of your own dice, for the most part you will spend your time attacking other players. There is no protection for a player that is ganged up on. If multiple players decide to gang up on one player, that player will be in deep trouble and won’t win no matter how lucky they are in the game.
The thing about ganging up in Bunker Poker is that in most cases it won’t even be deliberate. Since your dice rolls will determine what actions you can take on a turn, a scenario will occur where players can only take actions against one player. If this keeps happening to one player they will lose pretty quickly. This actually happened to me in a game. No one purposely tried ganging up on me but the numbers rolled pretty much necessitated it.
If Bunker Poker was a short game this wouldn’t be a huge issue since players wouldn’t have to wait very long in order to start a new game. Bunker Poker is not a long game but it is long enough that this becomes an issue if one player is eliminated quickly. A player that is eliminated quickly could be forced to wait up to 15 minutes waiting for the rest of the players to finish the game. I think the game should have at least allowed eliminated players to still roll the dice and try to eliminate other players during their turn. This would have kept eliminated players involved in the game and it would give the eliminated player some opportunities to get revenge on the players who eliminated them.
I have to complement Bunker Poker on the quality of the components. While they aren’t the best components that I have ever seen, they could have been a lot worse. All of the components (except the chips) are made of wood which is always a nice addition. The game board is sturdy and has some weight to it. All of the pips on the dice are engraved which is always nice if the paint should chip off over time.
Other Random Thoughts
- Somehow in the one game of Bunker Poker that I played, all four players somehow decided to put their king piece under the exact same space, #4. What are the odds of that happening?
- Can someone explain to me the name of Bunker Poker? The game has nothing to do with Poker since no elements of poker are even included in the game.
Bunker Poker is a pretty average game. It does add some newish ideas, but it is just not that different from most dice rolling games. The game relies too much on luck and with the possibility for players to purposely or accidentally gang up on another player the game does leave you expecting more. If you don’t like dice rolling games I can’t imagine you liking Bunker Poker.
Bunker Poker does add some interesting mechanics to the typical dice rolling game though which may appeal to fans of the genre. If you like dice rolling games and the game description sounds interesting to you, I think you could enjoy Bunker Poker.