Game at a Glance
The publisher gifted me a copy of this game; however, I always strive to provide fair, honest opinions.
In Nice Buns, players roll three unique dice that grant actions used for collecting bao buns. The outcome of the dice roll is shared with a neighbor. The goal is to be the first person to collect three sets of matching buns. Buns can be collected from a steamer bag, a serving tray in the middle of the table, or from your opponents. But beware of the foul fish head bun! It just might ruin your meal…
The game starts with a serving tray full of six random buns drawn from the steamer bag. Each player has two non-matching buns stored next to their plates, and they take turns rolling three dice. After rolling, the player cuts the three dice into two groups. The person to the left of the active player then chooses which group they want to utilize. The dice actions are then resolved in order from smallest die to largest.
The small red die tells the player how many buns they can blindly draw from the bag. The medium white die allows the player to choose buns of specific colors from the serving tray or to put one of their buns back into the bag, and the large blue die is for taking actions that move buns around via theft, trading, or gifting.
When a player collects three buns of the same color, they place them on their personal plate where they remain safe. But if a dreaded gray fish head bun shows up, it attaches to your largest group of off-tray buns. The fish head bun prevents you from adding the attached buns to your plate and puts them in danger of being returned to the steamer bag.
The first player to collect three different sets of matching bao buns on their plate is the winner!
Nice Buns differentiates itself from many of its set-collection game peers with the inclusion of the “I Cut, You Choose” mechanic. The majority of the game is in the cutting – players must try to balance the dice knowing they will take the leftovers. Making one pile too powerful rarely benefits the roller.
No matter how the dice are divided, the best choice is usually obvious. Still, there are important considerations to keep in mind. Choosing the set with the red die is risky – although this die allows the player to draw between one and three buns from the steamer bag, players run the risk of collecting a gray fish head bun which can be a pain to get rid of. On the other hand, a successful draw could help players finish sets of buns very quickly. The medium-sized white die grants you a single bun from the serving tray – usually a safe, if not exciting, choice. The large blue die allows the player to give, steal, or swap buns with other players which can be very powerful when trying to get rid of the dreaded fish head bun.
The dice cutting mechanic is interesting, but this is not an incredibly deep game. It’s purely tactical and very luck-based which makes it appropriate for families with children or as a quick party game for adults. At around 30 minutes per game, the length feels reasonable for a game of this weight. Nice Buns is incredibly easy to learn and there’s barely any setup so a game can get going very quickly.
The replayability is going to be entirely group-dependent as there aren’t deep strategies to discover game-to-game. This is a light party game that provides a fun activity for friends and family to experience together. I can see children wanting to replay this quite a bit. Adults who prefer light games might want to play this often while enjoying conversation and/or happy hour with friends. I have doubts that players who crave heavier strategy in their games will want to revisit this one often, however.
The theme is quite “cheeky” and it’s hard not to smile when you hear the title. There are not many tie-ins between the theme and mechanics here but in a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is okay. Other than the playful name, it is rated G and can be played with small kids without any toilet humor sneaking in.
I appreciate the component quality in this game. The dice are unique and legible, and the steamer bag is made with thick fabric. The stars of the show here are the adorable bao buns. They really are nice! They are colorful and cute, but most importantly – sturdy. The buns in this game will not wear with use, and also make a very satisfying clacking noise as the players reach into the bag to draw them out.
Balance and Interaction
This is a luck-based game, but the players can balance the game when a runaway leader appears. The cut step, blue die, and fish head buns are useful in slowing down a player who’s close to completing their final set. Because of the constant swapping and stealing of buns, there’s a lot of social interaction in the form of “take that.” And because the actions do not require a lot of deep thought, there is plenty of room for socialization amongst players in between turns.
As the title suggests, Nice Buns is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Players that approach it expecting a very light, luck-based game with a lot of silliness are likely to enjoy themselves. For me, the mark of a good party game is in the laughter it elicits. I had high hopes going into this game. The previous Big Potato title that I tried, Snakesss, has caused me to laugh so hard I’ve had tears streaming down my face more than once. I have enjoyed my plays of Nice Buns so far, but it has not facilitated the memorable table moments that I look for in adult party games.
This game plays between two and six players. I have not played it at all counts but I would imagine Nice Buns is strongest with around four players simply to keep downtime between turns low. This is a fast-paced game and though player turns can be quick, there’s not a lot to do while waiting for your turn. On the other hand, this leaves plenty of room for unrelated conversation and catching up which can be nice sometimes.
NOT MY CUP OF TEA
Nice Buns is a party game that I think would work well for families. Unfortunately, this fell a bit flat with mine. I was expecting this to be a hit with my children but one of them was very turned off by the luck factor and refused to revisit it with me after their first play. On the other hand, my other child really enjoyed it and would happily play it if suggested. I have tried this with adults and it was a nice activity, but unfortunately did not provide quite enough depth to keep us interested for multiple rounds in one sitting.
Nice Buns is a party-style game that relies heavily on luck more so than strategy. Players are at the mercy of dice rolls and bag draws, and their friends. People approaching the game expecting a light, social experience should not be disappointed. I would recommend Nice Buns to casual gamers who want something interactive to pass the time at the table, and for families with kids who don’t mind luck-based games.