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December 10, 2014 / Jett

Takenoko Review


The Emperor of China has recently given the Emperor of Japan a giant panda as a gift. In order to take care his new pet, you and the other players must take care of the panda by tending to the Japanese Imperial garden. This is the crux of Takenoko by Antoine Bauza and Asmodee. I can’t speak for everyone, but the idea of playing a board game about creating a garden and feeding a panda doesn’t do much for me. Thankfully, I put that preconceived notion aside to give this one a chance. To my surprise, it’s actually an accessible and interesting strategy game. Central to the Takenoko experience are the panda and gardener figures. They both start the game on the koi pond tile. Both characters can move in a straight line, though the actions they perform at their final destination are different. The panda will eat a section of bamboo wherever he lands. Meanwhile, the gardener will grow bamboo on his destination tile and any adjacent tiles of the same colour that have water flowing through them. Before you start, each player will receive a set of objective cards. There are three different types of objectives in the game with varying point values for each card. The panda objectives are completed when you get the panda to eat the combination of bamboo chutes illustrated on the card. Farmer objectives are completed when you grow certain colours of bamboo to a specified height. Finally, land objectives reward players for creating specific combinations of terrain. TakenokoOnce the game commences, it’s up to the players to build up the land and set up irrigation for distant plots while moving the panda and gardener around. Players also get to roll a weather die at the start of their turn to enable a special ability, such as an extra action, the opportunity to move the panda anywhere on the map for a snack of your choosing, or even the opportunity to gain an improvement token that can alter how a plot of land works. For instance, one improvement token prevents the panda from eating there, which can make the act of achieving your farmer objectives easier. Throughout this whole process, all of your moves should take you closer to completing your objective cards. During your turn, you can also use an action to get another objective for more opportunities to gain points. Play ends when someone has completed nine objectives. That player is given two extra bonus points for achieving that feat, though the player with the most points will still be declared the winner. The hidden objectives are the heart and soul of this experience. Since players are usually aiming to do different things, there’s a constant struggle between doing what you want versus doing what you actually can because your opponents made your ideal moves impossible on this go-around. Even still, you usually only get two actions per turn, which means most of your objectives are going to take some time and planning in order to complete them. For a cute game about gardening and eating bamboo, it sure can generate some tension and drama between players. TakenokoOn our first playthrough, Steff and I didn’t use the weather die or improvement tokens, as the game did present that as an easier variant for newcomers. I would strongly advise against this approach. Without the die or tokens, the experience becomes much more methodical in nature. On a subsequent play, we used both and our experience was much better. Rolling the die adds a level of luck-based excitement to the game, as rolling the right benefit at the right time can swing things in your favour. Also, the improvement chips give you a bit more control over the land, as they can let you modify land in a way that goes outside of the traditional rules while aiding you in your quest for points. Yes, Takenoko is a cutesy game about a panda eating bamboo, but it’s also one that is easy to learn and fun for a wide audience. There’s enough strategic depth that comes with moving the character and plotting land to make things compelling over the course of multiple plays. I don’t think this game is a must-have, though it’s almost certainly going to generate a good time each time its played. Buy Takenoko Now From Amazon.com See More From The In Third Person Store

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