Bunco is a dice game that has been popular at parties and social gatherings since the 1800s. Although players enjoy modifying the rules, there are some basic guidelines to follow to enjoy the game.
The Object of Bunco
The dice are rolled by the players, who accumulate “wins” or “Buncos.” The player with the most “wins” or “Buncos” at the end of the game is the winner. The game is played in sets of six rounds each. Groups typically play between two and four sets.
Printable Bunco Game Rules and Scoresheet
Looking for a free PDF of the bunco game rules? Simply click the image below to download and print Bunco game rules and score sheets. When playing, it’s useful to have a cheat sheet of the rules on hand, especially for new players. If you need assistance with the download, you can consult an Adobe guide.
Bunco Game Set-up
Bunco is a traditional game played with 12 players. Each table will seat three people, with one table designated as the “head table.” Each table should have the following items:
- 3 dice
- 4 score sheets (1 for each player)
- 2 pencils
- 2 notepads (1 for each team)
- 1 scratchpad for the scorekeeper (head table only)
- 1 bell (head table only)
- 1 fuzzy die (head table only)
Getting Started With Bunco
The first step is to decide who will sit at the head table.
- Draw a star on the back of four out of 12 score sheets. This should be done so that the other players cannot see which sheets the stars were drawn on.
- Each player will pick a score sheet from the stack.
- The four players who took a sheet with the star on the back will sit at the head table.
- The rest of the players will sit at the other tables and create teams. Team members should sit across, rather than next to each other.
- Each table should have a predetermined number aside from the head table (i.e. table two, table three).
- The players at each table will decide on a scorekeeper for their table.
- Have all players select a score sheet. Those who select a score sheet with a star sitting at the head table. All other players select their seats at the other tables. The players sitting across from each other are teammates.
- Pick one player at each table to be a scorekeeper.
Playing Without Twelve Players
If you have fewer than 12 players, divide the total number of players by three. You must have at least three tables to play, but each table does not have to have four people. If you have more than 12 players, you can add additional tables with up to four players each or even host your Bunco tournament.
Playing With an Odd Number of Players
If you use a “ghost,” you can play with an odd number of players. The ghost’s partner rolls the dice and keeps score for the ghost.
Basic Bunco Game Rules
Follow the rules detailed below to play bunco:
- The play starts when the scorekeeper at the head table rings a bell. Throughout the game, the head table will be in charge.
- The players at each table take turns rolling the three dice at their table and marking their scores on the score sheets.
- During the first round, the players are trying to roll a “1.”
- Points are scored for every “1” that is rolled. For example, a roll of 1-1-4 would be scored as two points since the “1” was rolled two times.
- If all three dies are a “1” then the player has rolled a “Bunco” and gets 21 points. The player has to yell “Bunco” to get the points.
- Only the player who rolled the Bunco gets the 21 points on their scoresheet.
- If the player rolls the die and has three of a kind that is not a “1”, they get five points. For example, rolling 4-4-4 in round one would earn 5 points.
- If the player rolls and gets no point, their turn is over and the dice go to the next player sitting clockwise from them.
- Once a team at the head table either rolls a Bunco or scores 21 and yells “game,” the head scorekeeper will ring the bell to end the round.
- Note that until the head table rings the bell, the other tables should keep playing, even if a team at that table has hit 21 or a Bunco. The tables should keep accumulating points until the round is called by the head table.
- If a player at one of the other tables has not finished their turn when the bell is called, they are allowed to do so and add their scores to their scoresheet.
- At the end of the round, the players review their scoresheets:
- If a player’s team won the round, they mark a “W” on their sheet.
- If a player’s team lost the round, they mark an “L” on their sheet.
- If it’s a tie, all four players will have a “roll-off.”
- The players will roll the die based on the number for that round i.e. they will need to roll a two in round two, three in round three, and so on.
- The table scorekeeper goes first and rolls until they do not score and passes the die to the next person.
- After all four have rolled and scored, the total is tallied and the team with the highest score wins. If there is still a tie, another roll-off is done and repeated until one team comes out ahead.
- Now the teams will rotate between the tables in this order:
- The winning team stays at the head table and the losing team moves to table two. The winning team will split up by having one player moves to the next chair.
- The losing team from the head table goes to table two.
- The table two winning team moves to the head table and reforms teams.
- The table three winning team moves to table two and reforms teams.
- The table two losing team moves to table three and reforms teams.
- The table three losing team stays where they are but reforms teams with the new players at the table.
- The teams at each table appoint a new table scorekeeper and round two commences.
- Each subsequent round is played the same way other than the number of the desired die changes. In round two, players will need to roll a two. In round three, players will need to roll a three, and so on.
Ending the Bunco Game
When the players have decided to end the game with their final round, the scorekeepers should go over the scoresheets to determine who won.
- They will tally up the total number of wins and losses.
- The players can determine the categories for winners, which may just be the player with the most wins, or it can also include multiple winners such as the player with the most wins and the player with the most Buncos.
- Some players include prizes for the most losses or the person who had the same amount of wins and losses, as well as prizes for people who played but didn’t score at the top or bottom. Above all, the game should be fun for everyone so the group can be creative with their prizes and awards.
Variations in Bunco Game Rules
There are many variations of Bunco that players enjoy. Some common variations include:
- The number of rounds played per set can range from four to six or more.
- The number of sets per game is usually three but can be more or less.
- Players may decide to change how players move between tables after each round.
- “Traveling” can be added in, which involves an item such as fuzzy dice or a plush toy, or a bean bag. The players decide at the beginning of the game on a set of die rolls, such as three of a kind of any number, or three of one specific number (i.e. three sixes). If a player rolls that number they yell “traveling” and the item is placed by the player. Whoever has the item at the end of the game wins the traveling prize.
- Players may decide to each put an amount of money, such as $5 each, into a pot that is used for prizes at the end of the game.
Video Rules for Bunco
You might find it useful to show a video overview of the bunco rules to your group. This video is especially useful when a new player joins the group or when seasoned players need a refresher. You could even play it during a brief happy hour before the game to help everyone warm-up and prepare for a fun evening.
Learning to Play Bunco
While Bunco may appear complicated at first, once you get started, you’ll realize how enjoyable and simple the game is to play. Bunco is not a game that can be played with just a few people, but it is ideal for large groups. While 12 is the ideal number of players, you could play with as few as eight by using three tables three, each with a “ghost” player.
Bunco is an excellent dice game for a large group, such as a girls’ night out party. You can be creative with the basic rules by including variations and prizes to ensure that everyone has a good time regardless of who wins.