Takenoko, a stunningly illustrated action allocation, tile placement, strategy game. Where players must ‘cultivate’ plots of land to grow bamboo for a very hungry little panda. This beautiful set was the brain child of French game designer Antoine Bauza, released in 2011 and illustrated by Nicolas Fructus, Joel Van Aerde and Yuio, and branded by Asmodee Games. The game has also won the Ludoteca Ideale (Italy) in 2013, the Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nomination in 2012, and the Geek Minor League 2nd Place 2015.
The game retails on Amazon for $54.99, but can cost anywhere between $44.66 on Ubuy Australia to $97.80US+TAX on eBay. You can also buy the expansion Takenoko:Chibis, the mother and 9 children of the original panda gifted to the town, and a collector’s edition for $76.95 on ebay.com. You can even buy a statue of the little panda for $85.99 at TopToy.com.au if you are so inclined.
The board game comes with:
- 28 Plots
- 36 Green Bamboo sections
- 30 Yellow Bamboo sections
- 24 Pink Bamboo sections
- 20 Irrigation channels
- 9 Improvements
- 46 “Objective” cards
- 4 Individual boards
- 8 Action chips
- 1 Weather die
- 1 Panda
- 1 Gardener
- 1 Rule Booklet
Game play can take between 20-45 minutes depending on what strategy each player chooses to take, and the number of player (2-4). The final round is triggered only when one of the players gains the emperors bonus card after having collected 7 (if 4 players), 8 (if 3 players) or 9 (if 2 players) objective cards. The person with the most points collected is declared the winner.
At the beginning of the game each player is designated an individual board where they “store” their irrigation rods, action chips, bamboo and improvement cards. Three objective cards are handed out which they must keep hidden from the other players (though they can look at them at any time). Each of these cards asks the player to perform different tasks to gain points. These can be to arrange the tiles in a certain pattern, has the player ‘grow’ a certain number of bamboo shoots (max 4 per tile), or has the player ‘feed’the panda eat a certain number or colour of bamboo shoots. They are also given 2 action chips, the patterns on these chips corresponding to the patterns on the backs of their board.
Each round players rolls the weather dice and perform two or the five action tasks they have picked on their board (move panda, select a tile, move the gardener, place an irrigation rod or pick up an objective card). The weather dice is not used in the first round, only the tasks are performed. If a player chooses to collect a tile, they must select 3 tiles from the pile only placing one down on the board and putting the discarded tiles to the bottom of the pile. If a player chooses to move the panda, they can move him only in straight lines and only one tile at a time, this is the same for the gardener. However, if the panda lands on a tile with bamboo, and there is no improvement tile protecting the bamboo from being eaten, then he “eats” a single piece of bamboo which the player keeps until they’ve completed their objective. If the gardener is moved, then a single bamboo shoot grows where he lands if the plot is irrigated. If there is an improvement on this tile then two shoots will grow, and if all the plots surrounding that tile are the same and irrigated then a single shoot will grow on all of those as well. If the player wants to use an irrigation rod, then they place it down between the tiles. For a tile to be considered irrigated they must be connected to two fully irrigated plots. All plots that are directly linked to the irrigation tile are automatically irrigated, as are the tiles that have a improvement tile. Finally, if a player chooses to select a card, then they can select one from each of the objective cards.
After the first round, each player also rolls the weather dice. This dice has 6 different symbols on each side that determines the ‘weather’. The sun symbol means that the player must perform an extra action, however it must be different from the two actions that they have selected. The rain symbol means the player adds a bamboo shoot to one of the tiles, however this tile must be irrigated and if there is a fertiliser improvement on this tile then two shoots can grow. The wind symbol allows for the player to pick one action that they play twice instead of having to play two separate actions (they do not play the alternative action). The storm tile allows the player to move the panda to any tile on the board without having to move in a straight line. Wherever the panda lands, if there is bamboo then the player takes a single shoot. The cloud symbol allows a player to pick from any of the improvement tiles, they do not have to play these right away and can keep them to use later in the game. IF these tiles have already been used then they can pick any of the other symbols. Finally, the question mark means a player can pick from any of the other 5 weather symbols.
Playing the game:
After I finished cooing over the adorable little figures, and admiring the brilliantly illustrated tiles I found the game, at least initially, a little confusing to get my head around. This came down to the fact that the rule book has been translated, very badly, from French to English. But also because of the number of actions each player needed to perform each round, the rules when it came to growing bamboo and irrigation as well as exactly how the characters moved. Fortunately, with a little bit of help from someone who had played the game before joining us to help, we could get started.
While playing the game, I decided I would collect an objective card for each round so that I could gain the most points possible, while robbing the other players of the chance to get extra cards themselves. Once I had collected enough cards I took to the task of completed them. I was lucky that some of the other players were aiming for growing bamboo and creating tile patterns as this also benefited me, and meant I didn’t have to focus so hard on these objectives. After a few rounds you could tell that everyone had selected their strategy to win the game. When the final round was triggered, not by me, we finished up with me being declared the winner as I had the most points.
After we completed the game I realised that my group had not been playing it 100% correctly as we did not ensure that all plots were properly irrigated, but also that the plots needed to be irrigated for the patterns to be used.
I LOVED this game. After finally understanding the rules and how to play it was quite a lot of fun. Also, it was the first time I had ever played a game where you built the board as you went along instead of there being a board there already. I also liked how there was a background story for the game which added just another layer to the overall feel. I would be more than happy to play the game again, and think if I was to purchase it myself I would actually by the collectors addition with the extra-large pieces so that I can admire the artwork better.