The Queendom is overrun with an invasive species: unicorns. They eat up valuable plants, pee on everything, and their toxic gas is causing pollution (not to mention candy rain, which is not as fun as it sounds). Better gear up so you can Kill the Unicorns.
What Is Kill the Unicorns?
Kill the Unicorns is a game for 3 to 6 players (a 2-player version is in development), ages 10 and up, and takes about 20–45 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $20 for a copy of the game. Higher pledge tiers are also available, including a Legendary Edition of the game with more content or a plush pigicorn. Although the game can be taught to younger kids, obviously there’s a bit of irreverent humor–you’ll know best whether your kids will love or hate the theme.
Kill the Unicorns Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. Also, final components may change due to stretch goals.
- 38 Unicorn cards
- 4 Black Market cards
- 20 Black Market tokens
- 6 Character Power cards
- 48 Hunting cards (8 per character)
- 48 Scheme cards (8 per character)
- 1 scoring card
- Start player marker
The Kickstarter editions will also include additional content: the regular edition includes 1 bonus character, and the Legendary Edition includes 2 bonus characters and more unicorn cards.
The artwork on the cards looks like something straight out of a cartoon–the characters are wacky and the unicorns are ridiculous. They even have little symbols on their rumps, like some other well-known ponies. I do feel like a Shaman character is a little inappropriate even within this intentionally inappropriate game, for a different set of reasons. For the most part, though, I like the artwork style and the humor in the game.
The cards are all large square cards, which serve well to display that artwork. The scheme cards will have artwork on them in the finished version, though my prototype version just has text on them.
The game is primarily cards, with a handful of tokens for the black market.
How to Play Kill the Unicorns
Note: my prototype was for up to only 4 players, so there may be some adjustments necessary for more than 4 players.
The goal of the game is to score the most points in four rounds by capturing sets of unicorns.
Give each player a character power card, along with the hunt cards and scheme cards that match the character. Give each player one starting unicorn at random, setting aside any remaining starting unicorns. Give one player the start player marker.
Set out the four black market cards with their tokens on them.
The game takes place over four rounds. At the beginning of each round, shuffle the unicorn cards and set out four in a row in the center of the table.
Everyone draws two of their scheme cards from their deck. Then, in turn order, each player may place one scheme card on a unicorn, face-down, and then discards the other scheme card face-up. Each unicorn may only have two scheme cards.
Then, the starting player decides how many hunt cards (from 1 to 3) to spend on the first hunt. The unicorns must be hunted from left to right. If the starting player doesn’t wish to hunt the current unicorn, they may pass, and the next player gets to choose. Once the number of cards has been chosen, every player must either play that number of hunt cards or pass. Hunt cards are placed face-down.
Everyone reveals their hunt cards. Typically, the highest total wins, but if there is a tie, the second-highest bid wins. If everyone is tied, the unicorn escapes and is discarded. Then, the winner reveals one scheme card on that unicorn without looking at it first (discarding the other, if any). The scheme cards may change the requirements of the hunt, or cause other effects once the unicorn is claimed, even changing the winner. The winner puts the unicorn face-up in front of them, and takes the first player marker.
After resolving all four unicorns, players may go to the black market. Using any hunt cards left in their hands, each player in turn order may buy one thing from the black market:
- Unicorn Butcher Shop: Discard a unicorn card (and its scheme card, if any) and receive one unicorn pate token, which is worth points.
- Fake Horn: Take a fake horn and immediately place it on one of your unicorn cards, adding 2 points to it.
- Cotton Candy: Take a cotton candy token and place it on one of your unicorn cards, changing its color.
- Fairy Dust: Take a fairy dust token and place it on one of your unicorn cards, changing its color and adding 2 points.
At the end of the round, everyone collects all of their hunt cards again for the next round.
Each character has a special ability, shown on their character power card. The power may be used once per round, as indicated by the card. For instance, the Wizard can cause a random player to take back their hunt cards and play them randomly instead, and the Princess can swap two scheme cards before the hunt.
The game ends after the fourth round. Everyone scores points based on the values of the unicorns they claimed along with any tokens or scheme cards that may modify those values. Also, there are set collection bonuses for having multiple unicorns of the same color, or a rainbow with four different colors. Note that each unicorn can only belong to one set, so you can’t use the same card in a rainbow and in a matching color set. Legendary unicorns are worth 4 points each, but have no color naturally so they must be modified with scheme cards or black market tokens. Pigicorns, like the starting unicorns, are worth no points in themselves, but do have a color and can also be modified with black market tokens.
The highest score wins; in case of a tie, the player with the most unicorns wins.
Why You Should Play Kill the Unicorns
In case you couldn’t tell already, Kill the Unicorns is a very silly game with a funny theme. It’s more goofy than horrible, more Munchkin than Cards Against Humanity, despite what the Kickstarter tagline (“a calculated attempt to bring out the worst in people”) may suggest. Even though my daughters actually like unicorns generally, they still enjoyed playing Kill the Unicorns and didn’t seem to mind that the unicorns in this world are obnoxious.
The game itself is built around bidding and bluffing—the scheme cards can mess with a unicorn and make it more or less valuable (or change the unicorn altogether!), so that when you’re bidding on a unicorn with your hunt cards, its value may be unknown. The bidding itself also includes a bluffing element, since the starting bidder gets to choose whether everyone will play 1 to 3 cards for the hunt, and the “0” value hunt cards mean that you can pretend to put a lot into a hunt that you don’t actually care about, potentially drawing other players to waste their higher-value cards.
Choosing 3 cards for a hunt can also force players to decide whether they want to participate in the hunt or save some hunt cards for a later hunt or buying something on the black market. With only 8 hunt cards total and 4 unicorns, it’s not always worth it to join every hunt.
The scoring is a set-collection game—the best is a double rainbow, which gives you an instant win. But if you’re even short one card in a rainbow then it’s not worth anything, while it takes just a pair of the same color to score at least some points. The black market offers some interesting ways to manipulate your set: you can just add value to them or change their colors, but that can also close off your options. Since you can only buy one thing per round, there’s only so much you can change what you get. And of course, you can always just sell off a unicorn to the butcher—the earlier you do so, the more points it’s worth.
The character powers can be pretty great, but also a bit random. The Wizard gets to pick a random player, who takes back their hunt cards and then plays hunt cards at random. What’s more, the Wizard can continue drawing random players until he draws himself, at which point his power ends. So if you use the Wizard, you’re not guaranteed to get an outcome that you like, but you might just wreak havoc on some player’s strategies. The Princess can swap two scheme cards on unicorns, but without looking at them—again, it may help you get your scheme card on a unicorn of your choice, but you don’t know what the other player played.
Kill the Unicorns is pretty quick to learn and play—it’s a fairly light card game with a lot of weird humor in it. I actually saw an early prototype at Gen Con 2016, and at the time it was a tile-laying game, with unicorns moving around on the board, and you had to chase them into lakes or mountains. It was a much more complex game at the time, and when I talked to Morning at Gen Con this year, they explained that they’d decided to change the direction, making a lighter game to go with the light-hearted theme, rather than the more puzzle-like mechanics.
Overall, I think Kill the Unicorn will be a good casual game for those who are maybe just a little tired of unicorns being sweet and perfect all the time. The bidding and bluffing will keep everyone guessing. For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.