Takenoko is a gorgeous game with a cute panda and interesting interdependence.
How to Play
The goal of the game is to score the most points by expanding the communal garden, growing bamboo, and/or feeding the panda. Each player is free to take objectives of any of these three types throughout the game. All of the objectives are linked; so, as players pursue one objective, they might also advance another, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Each player starts with a player sheet, 2 action chips, and one of each of the objectives: Plots, Gardener, and Panda.
Place the Pond plot tile in the center of the table. Place the panda and gardener on that tile. Finally, place piles of the other components in easy reach.
On a player’s turn, they select and perform 2 of 5 actions. (After the first round, each player also rolls the weather die at the start of their turn.)
Objective cards are how players score points. There are 3 types of objectives: Plots, Gardener, and Panda. Each objective depicts a condition that must be met on your turn to complete it. If you meet that condition on your turn, you can play that objective card face-up in front of you to complete it. A player may not draw a new objective if they already have 5 uncompleted ones in hand.
Objective-Action: Draw 1 objective card of any type.
Plots are the hexagonal tiles that are used to expand the garden and grow bamboo. There are green plots, yellow plots, and pink plots. Each plot grows bamboo of its corresponding type. Some plots have improvements, explained below.
Plot-Action: Draw 3 plots from the plot pile. Choose 1 plot and place it adjacent to the starting pond plot and/or adjacent to two other plots. Place the plots not chosen on the bottom of the plot pile.
In order for bamboo to grow on a plot, the plot must be irrigated.
A plot is irrigated if:
- it is adjacent to the starting pond tile
- it has an irrigation channel on at least one of its edges (connected to the starting pond plot)
- it has a watershed improvement on it
Irrigation-Action: Gain an irrigation channel piece.
Irrigation channel pieces can be placed immediately or saved for later. If saved, they may be played any time on your turn for free. Irrigation channels must stem from the starting pond plot or another irrigation channel.
As soon as a plot becomes irrigated for the first time, it gains a bamboo section of its corresponding color.
The gardener is used to grow bamboo. The gardener starts on the starting pond tile.
Gardener-Action: Move the gardener at least one space in a straight line and grow bamboo, if possible.
When the gardener grows bamboo, he grows a bamboo section on the plot he is on and any immediately adjacent plot of the same color. Any of these plots that aren’t irrigated or already have 4 sections of bamboo do not gain a bamboo section.
The panda eats bamboo, Om Nom Nom! When the panda eats bamboo on your turn, you gain it and put it on your sheet. When you complete a panda objective card, return the depicted bamboo sections to their respective piles.
Panda-Action: Move the panda at least one space in a straight line and eat a bamboo section, if possible.
The weather die is rolled at the start of each player’s turn (after the first round), and it provides the current player 1 of 5 bonuses. If a ‘?’ is rolled, the player chooses any of the 5 bonuses.
These bonuses are:
- gaining a 3rd separate action this turn
- growing one section of bamboo on any irrigated plot
- allowing 2 identical actions this turn
- moving the panda and eating a section of bamboo
- gaining an improvement tile
There are 3 types of improvements. Some plots start with an improvement. Each plot may only have 1 improvement on it. If a plot has neither an improvement nor bamboo on it, a player may place an improvement (gained from the weather die) on that plot on their turn.
End of Game
The final round of the game begins when a player completes a set number of objectives:
2 players – 9 objectives
3 players – 8 objectives
4 players – 7 objectives
Once a player completes the requisite number of objectives, that player takes the Emperor card (worth 2 points) and finishes their turn. Then, each other player gets one more turn. After the last player takes their final turn, players total their points from completed objectives. The player with the most points wins.
In case of a tie, the tied player with the most points from panda objective cards wins. If still tied, all tied players share victory.
Takenoko is a good family game, and it is gorgeous. The rules aren’t that complicated, but there is enough to think about to keep me interested. Games that can be played at different levels simultaneous appeal to me greatly because I play with non-hardcore gamers frequently.
I can play the game trying to optimize my strategy, read my opponents, and anticipate the flow of the game. Other players might try to optimize their play without worrying about the other players. Then there are players that play the game turn by turn just to enjoy the artwork and the company. Takenoko supports all of these players. Granted I do have a greater win-percentage when I play all out, but it isn’t guaranteed (since there is an appropriate level of luck), and, more importantly, the game feels close throughout.
Specifically, I am a fan of the interconnectedness of everything. I like that I can work on multiple objectives at the same time. Advancing a plot objective card and a gardener objective card simultaneously when they both care about pink plot tiles is incredibly satisfying. Or, when I need a 3-height pink bamboo tile for a gardener objective card and I need pink bamboo for a panda objective card, I can send the panda to a 4-height pink bamboo tile and advance both cards. It sounds boring in text, I give you that, but seeing these things in game and then successfully executing them is satisfying.
In addition, we generally have a lot of fun just interacting with the panda and gardener miniatures. Overall, this is a solid family game.