The ultimate guide to Bunco scoring and score keeping
Things to know about Bunco rules and how to score points:
- This guide assumes the number of players playing Bunco is a traditional group of 12, with three tables of four players and a team at the head table. More or fewer players play Bunco just the same but with slight variations in how the winning team moves.
- You can play with 10 or 11 players, or even 13 or 14 by using an empty seat often indicated by a stuffed animal or doll. This is affectionately called the "Bunco Baby", and a human player at each table rolls on its behalf and plays as if it were an individual player. It's a useful way to fill seats if you're slightly off-count in the number of players.
- Many house variations and game rules have evolved over the years. This guide assumes traditional Bunco rules. But some popular house variations are noted.
- Keep close track of your rounds played because the number you intend to roll depends on the round number.
- You need at minimum three dice and a piece of paper to play Bunco, plus seating, snacks, and friends!
- You can play Bunco online any time at PlayBunco.com, for free with no downloads required.
How to start a game of Bunco once the head table rings
With all 12 players seated across 3 tables of 4 seats, Bunco begins when the head table rings the bell or announces that the play is ready. Now, the first player at each table can begin rolling — usually determined by whoever rolls the highest number on a single dice.
In round 1 of 6, each player's goal is to roll as many 1's as possible for the highest score (a Bunco).
At your table, Player 1 rolls:
⚀ ⚃ ⚅
On the second roll, Player 1 rolls:
- This earns player 1 one point because on round number 1 they rolled a ⚀
- Player 1 also gets to go again because she rolled one die that matches the round number.
⚂ ⚃ ⚄
Still in round 1, this hand scored nothing because no ⚀
was rolled. She scores no points, and her turn is over.
Player 2 begins and rolls:
⚃ ⚃ ⚃
A fun way to begin the game, but since we're on round 1, 4 is not the magic number, and this is a "three of a kind". This scores Player 2 five points, and she gets to roll again. Her turn continues as long as she continues to score points (ie, rolls at least a 1 for Round 1, or three of any kind regardless of the round number). After her turn ends,
Player 3 rolls:
⚁ ⚅ ⚅
This roll does not match the round number, and Player 3's turn is over without scoring any points.
Player 4 rolls:
⚀ ⚀ ⚀
Player 4 rolls a Bunco! Because all three dice match the round number, Player 4 yells "Bunco!" Player 4 earns the maximum 21 points.
In many house variations, a pair of fuzzy dice are handed to the player to indicate their recent Bunco. Any interesting object or memento can be used in place of fuzzy dice. Whoever is holding the fuzzy dice at the end of the game often wins a small prize of the group's choosing.
The round ends when the head table rings the bell or announces one of their players has reached 21 points. If you are not at the head table, play continues in round 1. Once the head table scores 21 points, round 1 ends and round 2 is ready to begin. If you or another player are mid-throw and have a 1 in play, play continues until no more are matched.
Shuffling players and teams in Bunco
Bunco is often played with two teams at each table. In reality, this is often just two people sitting across from each other both trying to score the most points individually. Some house rules allow their points to be added together versus the other two players, or each person stands on their own score.
Once each table tally sheet indicates the two highest scorers, they move on to the next table and begin round 2. The losing team stays at the same table. Losing teams are usually just the two lowest scorers.
However, the two lowest scorers at the head table must leave. Unlike the other tables where the winners get up and move, the head table ejects the lowest two players.
Begin Round 2 (with more examples of common dice throws)
Round 2 begins once the head table is ready to start the next round. Now each player rolls to get a ⚁
Player 1 rolls:
⚁ ⚄ ⚄
This earns them 1 point and a second throw. Then, Player 1 rolls:
⚄ ⚀ ⚁
This again earns them another turn and 1 point since they rolled a ⚁
On their third roll of the dice, Player 1's dice roll off the table. In some house rules, this deducts 1 point. In others, the player re-rolls the fallen dice. Still, they roll no dice matching the round number, and play moves left to Player 2.
Player 2 rolls:
⚃ ⚃ ⚃
This is a three-of-a-kind again or sometimes called a "mini Bunco" since it is three matching dice that do not match the round number. It's not a Bunco but is worth 5 points. Player 2 keeps rolling until it's no longer her turn.
Player 3 rolls:
⚀ ⚀ ⚀
This is again a mini Bunco, and would have been handy dice rolling in the first round! But in the second round, the dice rolled do not match and the player earns 5 points.
Play continues until the head table scores 21 points. The winning players at the head table remain at the head table and the losing team at each of the other tables stay at their tables. The winning team moves to the next table to their left.
Notes to remember for your Bunco party:
- Bunco is a social dice game, so don't forget to shuffle players after each round. Half the fun is playing with and against new players.
- There are traditionally 12 rounds (1-6 played twice through), but playing six rounds one time through is a common house variation to speed up gameplay.
- Play starts and the game begins based on the head table moves. You can have some players with more than 21 points if they're extra lucky at rolling a Bunco!
- House variations often reward players with the most wins, the highest number wins, the highest points, the lowest points, and other score variations (like most mini Bunco rolls or least to score 5 points). These can be monetary, food, or other perks. This way you can have multiple winners!
- You always play Bunco and score only points that match the number of the round.
- Score sheets are helpful, but you really only need a piece of paper to note a person's name, the round, and their score.
Play Bunco online anytime you want for free
You can play Bunco online with all the rules and scorekeeping handled for you at PlayBunco.com
. It works in any browser on any device, requires no downloads, and is available for solo players anytime. See who amongst your opponents rolls a Bunco first on your private Bunco night!