What makes Bunco a particularly fun game with friends is that there are many variations in how you play it. So, you and your friends may play it a certain way and others may play it differently. Thus, there’s always something to learn when you play with a new group. It also prevents the game from getting boring, allowing you to keep every session as fun as the first. With that said, here’s a guide on how to play Bunco, explaining the basic rules and questions about the rules variations.
How to Play Bunco – The Basic Rules
If you plan to join an established Bunco group, you will have to learn their specific rules. On the other hand, you can use your variation if you create your own Bunco group. In either case, you should have a good understanding of the basic rules of the game. Nearly all variations of the rules use this set of rules.
Here’s what you must know.
Variation in the Name of the Game
Before we get into the actual rules, you should note that Bunco is also spelled as Bunko. That said, the game is the same and so are the basic rules.
The Game Set-Up
The first step to learn how to play Bunco is to know how the game is set up.
- The total number of players is divided into groups of four players in each group
- Each group of four players has a set of three dice
- Every player must have a scoresheet and a pencil or pen to fill it out
- There are separate tables for each group
- Players should sit across each other in a cross pattern
- Each group of four players is numbered as Number One (Head Table), Number Two, Number Three, and so on
After the game is set up, play begins.
Rules for the First Round of Play
Bunco is played in rounds. So, each group of players will get the roll the dice in every round. The difference in rules among the different rounds is not significant, but we’ll get to that later.
The Head Table Starts the Round with a Bell
The Head Table is the table for the first group. Also, it is labeled as Number One among the other tables. Thus, the Head Table starts the first round with a bell. After the group rings the bell and roll the dice, the other tables follow.
Every Round Has a Target Number
Every group must try to reach a target number for a specific round. Thus, in the first round, the target number is “ones.” So, the player must try to roll “ones” with the dice. You will score points if you do.
Record Your Target Numbers
You must use your score sheet to record your target numbers whenever you roll the dice. So, for instance, you would record every “one” that you roll if you’re playing the first round with “ones” as the target number. Thus, your points are dependent on whether you get the target number in a given round. That is to say that the die or dice match the target number of a specific round.
You Lose Your Turn If You Don’t Roll the Target Number
It will be the next player’s (i.e., the person sitting on your left or right, depending on whether you’re going clockwise or counterclockwise) turn if you don’t roll the target number. So, you must get at least one die to match the target number of the round (“ones” in the first round) to keep your turn.
Combine Your Score with That of the Person Across from You
Bunco is played in teams. Therefore, the person sitting across from you at the table is your partner during the round. So, you must combine your points with theirs to reach your team’s total points for the round.
The Round Ends When a Team on All Groups Reach Specific Total Points
You’ll reach the end of the first round when one of the teams at every table reaches 21 points. Also, you should note that you can play Bunco in person with your friends or even online. In either case, you can use these rules on how to play Bunco as the game is essentially the same thing. The difference is the setup. You also don’t need a specific online Bunco platform. Here’s a video on how you can use video calls to play the game.
The Players Switch Tables at the End of the Round
At the end of the round, players of the winning teams move from one table to the other. Therefore, the winning team moves one table upward. So, the winning team of group Number Four will move up to Number Three. However, the losing team will remain in their original places.
The exception to this rule is for the Head Table. Winners at this table remain seated there. However, the losing team will have to take seats at the lowest numbered table.
Rules for the Second and Subsequent Rules
The only rule of how to play Bunco that you need to know about the second round is that the target number is different than that of the first round. So, you could keep it “twos” or something else. Make sure that there’s a pattern to it so that you can determine the target number for every subsequent round.
More Bunco Rules You Must Know
Take a look at some more Bunco rules.
- If a player rolls 3 of a kind, it equals 5 points
- Track the number of many rounds you win or lose
- You can’t partner with the same person for two successive rounds
- It is “Bunco!” if all 3 dice match the target number, giving you 21 points right away
Variations on How to Play Bunco
As mentioned above, there are some variations on how to play Bunco. Here are some.
When the Round Ends
Other than all teams reaching 21 points, the Head Table may also control when to end the round. This is typically when a team at the Head Table reaches 21 points.
What Happens to Players When the Head Table Stops the Round or Game
This rule must be established before the start of the game. In some cases, the entire game may stop. In others, the player who has already rolled will get their points for that roll. However, they will not get to roll if the dice didn’t leave their hands. A third variation is that the players will get to complete the round.
Playing with a Ghost Player
The game is best played with a total number of players that is a multiple of 4. So, 8, 12, 16, etc. players. If you don’t have a multiple of 4, some players can be ghost players.
The Use of Traveling Bunco Items
Some groups use traveling items to identify players who have rolled three of a kind of the target number most recently.
The Use of Scrambling
Some Bunco groups perform a scramble if a player rolls three dice that match the target number. So, other players will try to grab the dice.
Last Few Words
It should now be clear that there are many variations on how to play Bunco. So, you can tailor the game to suit you and your friends’ preferences as long as you follow the basic rules.