How to Play Bunco | A complete Guide to the rules.

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Anybody can learn to play Bunco, no skill required, but we also answer all the questions and clarify the trickier rules. Bunco is a fast-paced, fantastically social game that is easy to learn and only involves rolling three dice.

How to Play Bunco

Objective of the Game

During a series of rounds, a player rolls three dice and is simply trying to roll as many of a particular number as they can (eg Round 1 trying to roll 1’s ( )

The team with the most points at the end of a round is the winner. A game is six rounds. There are usually prizes awarded for overall Winners for different categories such as most Wins, most BUNCO’s etc.

Running your own BUNCO GAME?

Avoid any issues, make sure you have a set of HOUSE RULES; or use ours to get started.

Overview

Playing Bunco is really easy, just roll three dice! Here are the guidelines for enjoying this fun game that is suitable for playing in larger groups (4 – 40+ players).

  • Bunco is played with four players at each table
  • Each table has three dice
  • The tables are numbered; number 1 is the top table also called the ‘HEAD’ table
  • Each table is divided into two teams with temporary teammates sat opposite each other.
  • Each team is trying to beat the other team on their table
    • A team wins a round by scoring more points than the other team.
  • At the end of a round players move to have new teammates.
  • Each player keeps their own scoresheet for the whole game and prizes are awarded for various categories.

Free Score Sheets.
Click on the image to Open and then print from the browser or copy and save.

Two Scoresheets on one page!

Game Play

The players on the head table signal the start of each round (eg ringing a bell, horn, shouting ‘start’) When that happens, the first player at each table picks up the three dice and begins rolling them.

If a player’s roll contains at least 1 point, that player gets to roll all three dice again.

Once a player rolls no points, the dice move clockwise to the next player. The player’s accumulated points for their turn are recorded for that team.

Once a team at the head table has scored 21 (or more) points, a sound is made to signal the end of the round for all tables.

Scoring within Bunco

You score points by rolling the three dice and the number on the dice matching the round number.
ie You are trying to roll 1’s in Round 1, roll 2’s in Round 2 etc

– Rolling one matching dice you score 1 point

– Rolling two matching dice you score 2 points

– Rolling three matching dice you score 21 pointsBUNCO!
Add block

– Rolling three dice that are the same but not matching 5 points
(Commonly called a mini-Bunco)

Examples:

If in Round 1 you rolled  :

In Round 1 you are trying to roll 1’s ()

You have one matching dice so you would score 1 point, add it to your total for this turn, and then roll again.

If in Round 1 you rolled  :

In Round 1 you are trying to roll 1’s ()

You have two matching dice so you would score 2 points, add them to your total for this turn, and then roll again.

If in Round 5 you rolled :

In Round 5 you are trying to roll 5’s ()

You have no matching dice but you do have three dice that are the same, so you would score 5 points, a mini-BUNCO. Add 5 to your total for this turn, and then roll again.

If in Round 4 you rolled :

In Round 4 you are trying to roll 4’s ()

You have three matching dice, so you would score 21 points, BUNCO. Call out BUNCO and mark it on your personal scoresheet, add 21 to your total for this turn, and then roll again.

NOTE: If you are on the head table you would also signal the end of the round to all the other tables, as your team has scored at least 21 points.

If in Round 2 you rolled :

In Round 2 you are trying to roll 2’s ()

You score no further points. Your total points for that round are added to your team score and play passes to the next player.

NOTE: Once a team at the head table scores 21 or more points, a sound is made to signal the round is over.
However, the current players at all the tables (including the player that rang the bell on the head table!) are allowed to finish their turn. ie to keep rolling until they get a no-score roll.

It is therefore possible to earn several more points or even roll one or more Buncos after the bell has been rung!

Bunco Individual Score Sheet

TIP: As you play, write the name/initials of your teammate in each square, and keep a tally of the combined points of you and your partner. Why?

If you lose track of whether you won or lost a game you can go back and ask your teammate.

Individual Scoresheet after 5 rounds.

Using a Tally Sheet

The Tally Sheet is basically extra paper to help the scorekeeper on each table keep track of the scores during the round.

Cumulative scores for each team are kept and then at the end of a round, the scores are transferred to each player’s individual score sheet.

Bunco Tally Sheet showing four rounds.

Rather than crossing out and then updating the score (in this case the number of wins, losses etc) when you use a ‘tally’ you simply make a line each time you score a point.
The clever part is that when you get to your fifth, tenth, fifteenth etc line you cross out the previous four.
The benefit is speed and simplicity for tallying up at the end.

Moving after each round

Part of the fun of BUNCO is that it is very social. At the end of each round some players will move to a new table but everyone has a new teammate!

This is really easy in reality but seems tricky to explain!

– The winning team moves up a table (e.g. table 3 winners move to table 2 etc)
(except for the ‘HEAD’ table where the losers move to the last table)

AND

– the Winners and Losers change teammates
ie Players will change seats so that each player has a different teammate opposite than the previous round

After each round, players switch tables and partners.
TIP: To help players identify where to move next it is common to have ‘Table Direction’ cards on each table explaining where to move next.

Scores Tied at the End of a Round

Both teams have one full turn. Each player has another turn and they add their scores to the existing team total. If they are still tied they continue to have one full turn (all players rolling) until one team is the winner.

If time is short, it is common to have one player from each team roll a single dice and the highest roll is considered the winning team.

House Rules

Keeping Everyone happy is not an easy task! Most issues arise due to a lack of clarity over the rules of play or over how the prizes will be decided. Frequently groups will adopt their own variations and this can lead to uncertainty and endless discussions on fairness!

In these cases simply having a clear list for your group that everybody can see before starting will help!

House Rules
Avoid unnecessary confusion, have a clear set of House Rules before starting to play.

Download an editable PDF or click on the image to open and print a copy.

BUNCO HOUSE RULES

Frequently Asked Questions

NO, although they have slightly more control over the rest of the tables regarding when each round stops they are not able to score any more points any faster than any other table.

In fact you could argue that not being on the HEAD table allows your team to score more points than 21 without stopping!

A BUNCO is when a player rolls and all three dice match the number of the Round.

i.e.

If in Round 4 you rolled :

You have three matching dice, so you would score 21 points, BUNCO.

Call out BUNCO and mark it on your scoresheet, add 21 to your total for this turn, and then roll again.

Only the individual player that rolls a Bunco adds it to their BUNCO tally on their individual scoresheet.

NOTE: If you are on the head table you would also signal the end of the round to all the other tables, as your team has scored at least 21 points.

Ideally, Bunco is played with any number of tables each with four players.

The reality is that there will be times when somebody is not able to attend. In these cases, you can play with a GHOST!

This simply means that for each round one player partners opposite an empty chair, the Ghost.

Play carries on as normal around the table except that the player partnering the ghost will roll twice. Once for their own go, where they will score and Tally Bunco’s as normal and then again, when play passes to the empty chair, for the Ghost, where only the score towards the team tally will count.

A Ghost can also be due to a player leaving to use the bathroom, take a call or because of a no-show.

A Ghost in bunco is the name given to an empty chair when you are short of a player.

This can be due to a player leaving to use the bathroom, take a call or because of a no-show.

See “Not Enough Players, what do we do?”

  • BUNCO – When all three of the dice you roll match the Round number. It Scores 21 points.
  • BUNKO – Alternative spelling for the same game
  • GHOST – When there are not enough players for all the seats at the table one player partners opposite an empty chair, the Ghost. See ‘Not Enough Players’
  • Mini-BUNCO – When the dice you roll are three of kind but they do not match the Round Number. It scores 5 points
  • TRAVELLING – This is usually played as a separate game within the game. When a player rolls a pre-determined combination eg Three 2’s they shout out ‘Travelling’ and the soft toy/object is thrown to that player. The player holding the ‘Traveller’ at the end of the night wins a prize.
  • ROUND – The game consists of 6 rounds (known as a set), in each round the target number that players are trying to roll, in order to score points, changes to match the round number.
    • i.e In Round 1 you try to roll 1’s, in Round 2 you try to roll 2’s
  • SET – 6 Rounds from Round 1 – Round 6 make a set

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