Takenoko - Board Game Box Shot

Takenoko

, | Published: 2011

The players take the role of courtesans of the Nippon emperor. They take care of his Giant Panda by growing a bamboo plantation.

Their mission: to farm parcels of land, irrigate them, and have green, yellow or pink bamboo grow. In turn, they see what the weather brings and perform two actions from among those offered to them: get a new plot of land or irrigation channel, grow bamboo, feed the panda or draw an objective card.

The game ends when a player has completed 7 to 9 objectives (depending on the number of players). The player who gets the best score by adding the total value of their completed objective wins the game.

Takenoko game components
images © Matagot

User Reviews (27)

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9
I play black
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139 of 143 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Loads of Fun if You Can Find Others Who Love It”

I am a sucker for games with great mechanics that integrate seamlessly with their theme, and from what I’d read it was evident to me that Takenoko would be one of these rare gems. My concern was that, with such family-friendly/cute story and parts, I would have a hard time getting my friends in their 30s to play this with me… they love their zombies and superheroes, and usually prefer playing bad games with these themes to playing great games with PG-rated themes. This is a crew that would pick DC DBG every day of the week over Dominion, so I was worried it would be tough to get Takenoko on the table…

Observed Set-Up and Play Time
Considering the decent amount of small parts, the game is surprisingly spry in getting from its first open to play-ready. There are a handful of cardboard sheets to punch, but everything else is ready to go in baggies. And the instruction manual is super-simple… maybe 15 minutes to read it cover-to-cover. Add another 20 minutes for box opening and initial set-up, and you’re ready to play your first game in just over a half hour. Set-up time for replay is around 5 minutes, and the advertised play time (45 minutes) is spot-on, whether your first game or your 10th, whether 2-player or 4.

My Learning Curve and Teach Time
Although light-to-medium, this is a strategy game through and through, with little to no luck. While there is a die, all 6 sides are roughly equal and randomness only comes from the timing of your rolls. As a strategy game the most veteran player will typically have the advantage. The basic game mechanics are pretty easy to have down pat after one game; from there your “learning curve” is just making sure you have as much experience with the game as your opponent (also, avoid opponents in Mensa). Really easy game to teach as well… my brother was ready to play his first game with me after 10 minutes of instruction.

Group Sizes and Dynamics
Ah my biggest fear realized… I have 2 people who will always play this with me, but the rest of my group still prefers lesser games with heavier violence or nerd chic. You win some, you lose some. But when I can play it with those that appreciate it (both pro-Takenoko players in my circle favor Euro games) we have a great time. Fortunately I can get them together once or twice a week, so this game gets played that often. It’s better with 3 (or 4) players, but is plenty good with 2.

Objectionable Material
No. But due to the strategy and thinking involved you’ll probably need to wait until your child is 10ish to introduce this game.

Comparable Titles
There is nothing like Takenoko. The best I can do is pin-point a few games that share a small facet with it… for instance, Tokaido shares the heavily-Asian theme, cute artwork and one-of-a-kindness, and is insanely well reviewed. I expect to like Tokaido as much as Takenoko but haven’t played it (Takenoko won the coin-flip between the two for this month’s purchase). Games like Mage Knight – where the game board only appears as you explore – share that trait with Takenoko.

Overall, Takenoko is an awesome game marred slightly by the fact that it may be difficult to get your group to play it with you. It only plays up to 4 anyway, so as long as you have 2 people who appreciate Euro games and/or family theme you’ll be set. But you may find yourself in my shoes, where you’re stuck longing for Takenoko as you slog through another derivative deck-builder with pasted-on theme.

 
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7
I play blue
Cooperative Game Explorer
8
110 of 117 gamers found this helpful
“Not a game for deep strategists”

What do you get when you mash up tile laying, personal victory point goals and a big bamboo garden? Fun! Maybe!

I have owned Takenoko for one week now, with six plays at the time of this review. Five of those games have been one-on-one with Nimera, plus one three-player with other friends when I bought it. Here’s what I think so far.

How does it look?: Takenoko is adorable. It may be the most approachable Euro-game I’ve seen. It is very colorful, with interesting pieces that are fun to handle.

I don’t know if it’s true of the first edition, but my copy does have some iffy pieces. My Panda has a small pink “birthmark” just off its belly. A few of my Bamboo pieces appear to be from a different edition, as they are somewhat narrower. There have been a number of cases of bamboo stacks falling over due to loose-fitting pegs. This is not a game-killer, but it can be distracting. Do not play this with grabby children or pets that might enter the play space.

How does it play?: Players interact with a shared play space, rather than having any player-specific pieces. Everyone tries to complete their own hidden victory point cards over the course of play. There are three victory card categories, each rewarding different types of play. Gardener cards are worth the most points on average and contain the very highest possible point values, but if a player feels that the game will be a close one, Panda cards can be used to break ties – it pays to dabble a bit.

The rules as written are unambiguous and can be taught in minutes. However, as mentioned in some of the Tips here on BoardGaming, there is the potential for some seriously aggressive meta that may scare off newer players. As written, there is no limit to how many victory cards can be played in a turn, so a player who thought they were ending with a lead may get an unpleasant surprise loss when their opponents take their final turns. There is also a heavy dose of randomness when it comes to the spread of points within each stack of victory point cards, so two players employing the same strategies may have wildly varying results.

Overall Impression: Takenoko is a seriously cute game with tight mechanics that are very satisfying to interact with. Its random elements are a mixed bag, serving to potentially level the playing field or to make a player feel crushed by poor card draws. Out of the box, I would highly recommend it for beginning Euro players and young gamers. However, for a more strategic experience, it needs heavy house ruling. Look no further than the game’s Tips page for some great examples!

 
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3
Amateur Reviewer
10
93 of 100 gamers found this helpful
“Grow Bamboo! Eat Bamboo!”

The Basics: Takenoko is a basic trick taking game (think Ticket to Ride) where on your turn you roll a die to change the weather (which can give you an extra action, allow you to take the same action twice, move the panda, grow bamboo on a tile, or take a tile modification) and then you take your 2 normal actions that you get every turn. For your actions you can move the panda and have him eat a piece of bamboo, move the farmer to have him grow bamboo, take an irrigation stick, place a new tile, or draw a new card. The goal of the game is to complete a certain amount of tickets (I think it is 7 tickets with 4 players, 8 with 3 players, and 9 with 2 players) which will trigger the end of the game. The tickets include eating certain colored bamboo with the panda, growing bamboo on specific tiles, and having certain color tiles laid in a specific order and irrigated.

Replay Value: It really depends how much you like this type of game. It usually hits the table every other game night and the people in my group are always trying different strategies to win the game, but the game play never really changes dramatically. The replay value really just depends on how much you enjoy the game, if you hate it the first couple times you play it, then you are always going to hate it because nothing really changes…

Components: Most of the components for this game are really well made. The tiles are made of strong cardboard and the bamboo is beautifully painted and most pieces fit together well. And then there is the panda and farmer. The pieces are made of plastic that is a little flimsy, but they are both painted and look gorgeous! The cards are very small (about the same size as the Ticket to Ride cards) and they can be bent pretty easily, but as long as you aren’t playing with people who rage or little children they should be okay. The instruction book is one of the coolest I have ever seen for a game also. It is laid out like a comic telling you the story of why you are growing the bamboo along with all of the games rules. We have never had a question while playing the game that could not be answered by the rule book.

Ease of Learning: This game is decently easy to learn. My wife doesn’t enjoy games where there is a lot going on and she enjoyed this one. Outside of learning what 5 actions you can take on a turn and the dice actions, the hardest thing to understand are the cards and what type of patterns you actually need to make to score them. It is a little more complex than original Ticket to Ride, but I would still qualify it as a family game.

Overall Impression: I absolutely LOVE this game. I would have to rank it as my favorite game that I have ever played which is pretty weird because I usually enjoy heavier games (like Rex or Power Grid). I am not sure what it is about this game, but when I play it I just feel soooo relaxed. Even when losing the game I just enjoy moving the farmer around and growing the different colors of bamboo and completing different card combinations. Some of my gaming friends can’t stand the game while others love it just as much as I do. For me, it is a keeper…I plan to play it with my children when they are older and I plan to keep bringing it to the table at game night as long as it keeps hitting the table.

 
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Amateur Reviewer
9
80 of 87 gamers found this helpful
“A fun, beautiful game for all gamers”

Takenoko is one of our favorite games. It’s fast and light, but has enough depth to keep it interesting. In fact, it makes for a very nice introduction into the more Euro-style of game.

Components:
The components in this game are incredible. From the pre-painted miniature panda and gardener, to the wooden bamboo sections, to the insert which fits everything perfectly; every part of this game is top quality.

Gameplay:
This game is exceptionally easy to learn and the rulebook is very well laid out … it even has a short comic strip at the beginning to set the scene, which is a nice touch. The goal is to achieve as many victory points as possible, and you do so by growing bamboo using the gardener, getting the panda to eat bamboo or laying out tiles in a specific pattern. You do this according to objective cards which you draw throughout the game. These cards are kept secret, so you’re kept guessing as to what each player is going for and obviously their actions can often thwart your attempts to achieve your own objectives!
You get 2 actions each turn where you can choose to move the gardener, move the panda, draw an irrigation tile, draw a bamboo tile or draw a new objective card. However, at the start of your turn you also roll a weather die which gives an additional bonus to your turn. For example, rain allows you to grow an extra section of bamboo on any tile you choose, and the lightning bolt causes the panda to run away to a different tile and eat some bamboo to calm its shattered nerves! 🙂
The final round is triggered when a player has completed a certain number of objective cards, determined by the number of players. The victory points awarded by each objective vary according to difficulty and the person who has collected the most points wins.

Conclusion:
This game has probably seen the most table time out of all of our games so far. I think this is because it is fun and engaging, yet can be played in a relatively short amount of time. So it’s a great option for some mid-week gaming to relax together after work. It is exceptionally repayable, and the beautiful components and engaging artwork make this a great option for all players. A must for anyone who is looking for a light, fun game with enough depth to keep you coming back for more but not too much to make it inaccessible to casual gamers and families.

 
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4
Cryptozoic Entertainment fan
AEG fan
8
76 of 84 gamers found this helpful
“A fun game for everyone”

Takenoko is a 2-4 player game which places you in the middle of a pond, trying to complete objectives based upon how you make the board. You can control the Gardener, a man who can grow bamboo on the space and every space surrounding him of the same color. But you can also control the Panda, who can eat bamboo and add it to your collection. The three main colors are red, yellow, and green of bamboo you can grow and the land you choose as well. This can go hand in hand because you can be able to complete different tasks to get you the most points in the end.

As you can see, this is how the game board would look like after a couple of turns of selecting tiles. Improvements help the tiles in their own way. You can have a tile protected from the bamboo, making it impossible for the panda to eat it. You can also fertilize it to grow two bamboo stacks instead of just one. And you can have a water tile on it, making it possible to grow bamboo. The water blocks are a way to get water to the outer most tiles on the board that are far away from the center tile. Finally, you can roll the weather dice after the first round to give you an extra action, double down on a single action plus 4 other weather conditions to make the game that much interesting.

Everything about the game is just beautiful, from the bamboo wood pieces to the dice itself, the game is just beautiful in every way. You have the ability to place the tiles to meet some of your objectives. You can have the Panda cards, which allow you to eat the different colors depending on what the card needs you to have. The Gardener cards allow you to score points on how high and how many a certain color of bamboo you need to grow. And finally the Tile cards, making them set up in a shape and a color to get you the points needed to win.

There is also a Deluxe Edition of the game as well and it’s giant. It has giant pieces and everything but it will cost you $300 dollars but it’s a collector’s piece for sure for those who like collecting those games.

Takenoko is a fun game that surprised me and my gaming buddies with such a unique set of rules and what you have to do to win the game. The pieces are beautiful and the game is simple, yet challenging at the same time. Pandas need the love and this game really delivers and everyone should at least give this game a go with family and friends alike!

 
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6
Canada
Plaid Hat Games fan
9
54 of 61 gamers found this helpful
“A game that is as beautiful to watch as it is to play”

I’ll admit that when I first looked into Takenoko, I wasn’t all that impressed. The game’s lighthearted theme and its cute Panda protagonist (or perhaps antagonist? ;p) did not spark even the tiniest bit of excitement from me. However, that all changed when a friend who had received Takenoko as a birthday gift brought it over one night to play. After running through the game (and winning on my first time!), I can gladly say that I’m on board the Takenoko bandwagon!

First and foremost, for those of you who have not yet seen the game with your own eyes, you’re in for a real treat. The components are absolutely gorgeous!! The Gardener and Panda figures are highly detailed and painted beautifully. The level of detail displayed in the artwork of the cardboard tiles, objective cards, even the player reference cards is nothing short of amazing. Seriously, EVERYTHING that comes inside the box is a delight to behold.

The true magic in Takenoko happens when you are playing the game. As each player finishes their turn, the garden further evolves into a three-dimensional art piece. It’s a lot of fun to see how the Gardener, Panda and the weather die affect the wonderfully colorful landscape. As beautiful as this game is, however, it may not be for all types of gamers, namely hardcore Strategy and Power gamers. There are many variables at play that rely solely on luck, whether it be through the roll of the weather die, or drawing an objective card. Even if you are playing solely to win, the game’s light theme may tend to ease the edge of competitiveness among your fellow players.

Concluding this review, Takenoko is a game that is pure, lighthearted fun. I truly enjoyed watching my friends take their actions and witnessing the garden grow right in front of me. Even if you can’t appreciate the game for it’s fairly simple mechanics, it’s impossible to deny that this title deserves high praise as being a feast for the eyes. For that, this game falls into being one of my favorites!

 
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8
Gamer - Level 8
Novice Reviewer
Bronze Supporter
9
54 of 61 gamers found this helpful
“Laid back fun with bamboo and cute little panda”

Takenoko is a really cute, fun, and laid back game for 2-4 players. The artwork and components are great, and the setup is quick and easy.

Setup

– Give each person a player board and two tokens. The tokens are used to help keep track of which actions they take during their turn.
– Place the starting tile in the middle of the table along with the panda and gardener figures. Shuffle the other land tiles and place them to the side face down.
– Separate and shuffle the panda, gardener, and land tile cards and place face down.

Game Play

There are five actions you can choose from each turn.

– Draw a card (gardener, panda, or land tile)
– Draw three land tiles (choose one to play and put the others on the bottom of the pile)
– Take an irrigation stick
– Move the gardener
– Move the panda

Each turn you may choose two of these actions (unless the weather die allows you to take three). You may only do each action once per turn (unless the weather die allows you to do the same action twice).

The goal is to complete the objectives listed on the cards you draw. Panda cards require you to eat a certain number of a certain color of bamboo. Gardener cards require you to grow bamboo. And land tile cards require you to play land tiles in certain configurations.

Pink tiles are the least abundant and green is the most abundant, so completing objectives that require eating and growing pink bamboo usually scores you more points than doing the same action with green or yellow.

Depending of the number of people playing, the game ends when one person completes 7-9 objectives. The person to do this first also receives the emperor card which gives them two additional points. It is possible to finish more objectives, get the emperor card and still lose the game. So it’s best to concentrate on completing the higher scoring objectives that you draw.

Thoughts

I really enjoy Takenoko. It’s easy to learn, easy to play, and has great artwork and components. The only issue I’ve had with any of the components is some of the bamboo pieces don’t fit in the other pieces, but we just shaved them down a little and then they fit fine.

Takenoko relies a lot on luck (which cards you draw, which tiles you draw, what the weather die lands on, etc.), but there is a little strategy involved as well to get the most out of what you draw/roll. It’s a fun game for both adults and kids. If you’re in the mood for something light and not too complicated, this is a good option.

 
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8
Professional Reviewer
Canada
I play black
Silver Supporter
7
54 of 61 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Takenoko Review: All zen, no bite”

Sometimes an experience just clicks. Every single aspect of it seems to be a drop filling a perfectly clear pond that reflects the sun just right. You are not going to look at what is at the bottom of the pond, think what it is that makes it so beautiful, or ponder (sorry) if you really wanted to be by this particular body of water. It will leave you completely satisfied – nothing extremely memorable or desire to immediately do it again, mind you – just a feeling that the time there was spent in just the right way. Want this experience in board game form? Get in the zen mode and break out the bamboo. You are about to play Takenoko.

How it works:

In Takenoko two to four players play the roles of nobles at the court of Emperor of Japan, taking care of a gift from China – a giant panda, which acts as kind of a game’s mascot. You will build gardens from, grow bamboo and feed the panda in an attempt to fulfil three types of tasks that score you points.

The modular game board is built of pastel-hued hexagonal tiles with very nice illustrations of bamboo gardens. Under certain circumstances, these tiles grow bamboo, represented by stackable wooden pieces that are used to represent different height of the plants. Finally – pre-coloured finely detailed miniatures represent the ever-anxious Gardener who grows the bamboo and the source of his anxiety – adorable giant panda that devours the plants.

On their turn, players may add new tiles, dig irrigation canals to make sure plants are watered or move panda or the gardener growing or eating bamboo. Each player starts with a few task cards and new ones can be acquired throughout the game. Each turn starts with a roll of a chunky wooden die that customizes each turn in some manner by offering variable weather effects – for example the hot sun may give you an extra action or rain could make bamboo grow on any space you choose. The players take turns until a certain number of tasks are complete and then points are calculated to determine the winner.

How it plays:

There are a few sub-systems at work in Takenoko, all interacting with each other – the building of the fields, which grow the bamboo, which you then feed to the panda. Getting the interconnectivity can be a little tough for new players, but the immensely likable components help get over that. It cannot be overstated – the pastel fields, the glossy bamboo, the excellent miniatures – this is among the most inviting games to play, even if its’ rules are firmly medium in terms of complexity.

Even if higher-scale strategy can be difficult to grasp from the get-go, the bite-sized decision of each round are not and the game gets going in a lively and dynamic manner. Each turn is rewarding in some way as you see the gardens expand out from the initial hex, bamboo sprouts shooting upwards and the panda growing fat and happy.

The die adds in welcome elements to the proceedings both in terms of the variability (each one of your turns is slightly different based on the roll) and excitement – a desired outcome in an uncertain situation can feel triumphant.

The fact that other player’s actions can help you complete your tasks add an extra motivation to pay attention during the turns of others, however waiting for your chance to actively make decisions can get a little long in a four player game. The game can last a bit longer than the advertised 45 min duration and most of it is a very light and enjoyable affair with some good planning opportunities. A rare game does drag towards the end, but the veritable forest of bamboo you have probably grown by that point will make you so happy – you will most likely hardly notice it.

How it feels:

Takenoko is built on a series of solid mechanics that has every player try to maximize the benefits of their actions in order to complete their tasks as fast as possible. All throughout there is a sense of steady progress that is rewarding and encouraging. The game achieves this feeling of tranquil curiousness on what is going to come next, while making it practically impossible for you to feel like you are really falling behind or had a terrible turn.

In fact, Takenoko seems absolutely intent on not letting any sort of negativity seep into the game. Specifically – players do not see the tasks of others and so it is impossible to try to meaningfully impact the ability of others to achieve their goals – all you have to do is try to make the best of your own. In my opinion – this is Takenoko’s greatest weakness – in carefully avoiding any conflict in its perfectly pastel world, it managed to remove practically all interaction. You are simply given the situation as the previous players left it for you at the beginning of your turn and then can further affect it to meet your goals.

At the end of each game there is a feeling of satisfaction, but not excitement – you never feel that there was that deciding turn when you should have done something else or when others have seen through your cunning plans. Ultimately – it is a deeply satisfying, intricate, very well produced multiplayer solitaire.

You could try to divine the others’ goals by their actions, but it is not a particularly effective strategy as the game’s intended way to play is obvious. It certainly does not make the game bad –Takenoko is a very solid, very pleasant offering that will work really well for people who are seeking to avoid conflict in their games. However, from the perspective of a competitive game – this particular panda just does not have much teeth.

In conclusion:

Takenoko has loads of universal appeal and a gameplay that makes you think and relaxes you at the same time. Thanks to its consistent art style and top-notch components it is a pleasant and interesting game to play. The excellent presentation and gentle nature make it a great choice to introduce newer players to medium complexity in a safe and welcoming way. But if you are looking for a game to interact meaningfully with people you play against – look elsewhere. This panda does not quite have the teeth for competition.

If you enjoyed this review, please visit Altema Games website for more neat board game materials.

 
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9
Grand Master Grader
Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue
9
54 of 61 gamers found this helpful
“Bamboo and Tranquility - A Review of Takenoko”

Takenoko is surely the most relaxing and peaceful game I have ever played. I recall the early 1990s when compact disc sales were booming, and the Phillips Label issued scores of discs with lovely art and catchy titles like “Mozart For Meditation” and “Beethoven at Bedtime”. The performances and recordings were beautiful, and they served their suggested purposes well. Playing Takenoko makes me feel like I do when I listen to those classical recordings. Win or lose, it is nearly impossible to be tense or overburdened while playing Takenoko.

The components of Takenoko are as attractive as any I have ever seen. Even the box and its useful insert are lovely to behold, and the instruction book is colorful and clear. The game’s pink, yellow, and green tiles and coordinating bamboo sections transform an empty play area to a pastel wonderland. Add the small but well detailed Panda and Gardener figurines, and this game is loaded with visual appeal. The theme of growing, irrigating, and fertilizing beautiful bamboo plots is easy to embrace.

Gameplay is simple and straightforward, and a newbie can learn the basics in minutes. Takenoko does a great job of balancing luck with well planned decisions by giving players one action based on the result of a six sided die roll and two actions of their choosing. The goal is to complete seven to nine (depending on the number of players) objective cards. There are three distinct types of cards, and each has a goal and point value. Goals include the panda (eating certain bamboo sections),the gardener (growing specific bamboo stalks), and the “plot” (getting a certain pattern of hex shaped plot tiles).

The first player to complete the predetermined number of goals gets a two point bonus card, and the other player(s) gets one more turn. The player with the most points wins the game. Takenoko plays in about 30 minutes, and it works well with two to four players. And although I have lost more games than I have won, I still love this game.

Takenoko is a perfect light to medium game that works well as an introduction to tile laying and worker placement. The game couldn’t be less intimidating, and its aesthetics will attract players who might otherwise skip it. Antoine Bauza has a winner here, and I am curious to know how his follow up game, Tokaido, compares. I suppose Takenoko could be played competitively, but for me it is too sedate for that style of play. I find to be as relaxing an experience as a game could be.

 
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5
I Love Playin' Games
Explorer - Level 3
6
54 of 61 gamers found this helpful
“Cute, Cute, Cute!”

Takenoko is a game I bought with my Mothers Day gift card because I wanted it! After watching it played on Tabletop, I thought it was just adorable and a good change of pace from the heavier games we seem to gravitate towards here in the MamaGamer household. I also thought it would be a good game to have on hand when we have younger visitors. So far, although everyone who has played it has enjoyed it, it hasn’t seen as much table time as I would have hoped. Here is how it is ranking on my essentials list:

Game Play: The mechanics of this game are easily grasped and fun. There is a small element of luck in the wheather dice mechanic, but also some strategy in the two moves you get every turn. This produces fairly balanced play.

Theme: Well thought out, engaging, and submursive. Placing tiles to design your garden, growing bamboo and making the panda eat bamboo are all parts of the game well woven into the theme.

Components: All components are holding up well, and seem of good quality. I did laminate the player boards though, since I knew we’d have younger children playing this game at times.

Fun Factor: everyone has enjoyed playing this game, at least the first time. It just doesn’t seem to entice my group of players to play more than once, though. They would rather move on to something heavier.

All in all, a great game, just not what my group seems to enjoy.

 
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2
9
46 of 52 gamers found this helpful
“Grow it up, and chew it down”

Our regular group has had a lot of fun with this game. It seems to have the ideal combination of game length (time), instant replay value, and light competitive strategy. We found it very easy to play over and over for a few hours. It can be both as light and fun or as cut-throat competitive as you want to make it (typically the later for us, even with the best intentions).

The first few games played were mainly learning the general rules and getting accustomed to play, as is typical. Things got very interesting after this as we started learning the intricacies of using the panda and farmer to sabotage one another in addition to fulfilling our own goals. It is this aspect that generated our most competitive sessions.

The quality of the set is decent. The little character figures (panda and farmer) are fun and the cards are of good stock. The hexagonal tiles are nice heavy stock, however the set I purchased had poor scoring in the cardboard punch-out cards, which resulted in some little tears on some of the tiles. The set is obviously still very much playable. We also discovered that there is a need for a good amount of space. Our living room coffee table quickly filled with tiles and we found ourselves keeping our player cards on the floor as the hex tiles nearly filled the play surface.

 
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7
Canada
Z-Man Games fan
I play red
Indie Board & Cards fan
10
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful
“Panda vs Gardener, all in one gorgeous gaming experience!”

Pandas are cute. Pandas are funny. Pandas are not zombies. They are not elves, or warlocks, witches, or trolls. So what is a Panda doing in a game? And is that game any good?

Components

Oh. My. Really, when watching videos or seeing pictures of the game, you get an idea that this is a game made with care. But actually playing it? This is a top notch game. The cards are great (although a little small for some), the tiles are of heavy stock, and the wooden bamboo pieces are great. And of it is done in a perfect art style. Including a great instruction book.

But the box… that is a good box.

Seriously, I’ve seen too many games where the box is way to big, the pieces don’t fit properly, or you are left breaking out bags to keep everything organized. Not a problem here. Everything has it’s place, the sections to hold items have slots to make taking the items out, and clean up is a snap. Really, this is how it should be.

Seriously, this is one of the nicest looking, best designed games I have ever seen.

Set-Up

To get started, give each player a player card, and matching action tokens. This is another small but awesome design item. Each character card has a symbol that matches one of the sets of action items. Just good stuff.

Next, you will take the fountain tile and place it in the centre of the table. Next, place the gardener and panda character pieces on the fountain tile. Take the rest of the tiles and place them in a stack in reach of all other players. Deal out one panda, tile, and gardener card to each player.

You are now ready to play, with the tallest player going first.

Game Play – Basics

On a player’s turn, they will do two of a possible five actions: Place a tile, take an irrigation stick, move the gardener, move the panda, or take a new card.

When placing a tile, a player will take 3 tiles and place one on the board, returning the other two to the bottom of the tile stack. Tiles must be place either touching the centre fountain tile, or two other tiles. A tile that has a water source (more on this later) will grow one piece of a bamboo stack.

Irrigation sticks are used to link tiles to the centre fountain. Once in your reserve, they can be placed at any point on your turn (placing does not count as an action). A tile that is not touching the fountain, needs a connected irrigation stick along it’s side to be able to grow bamboo. A tile that had no water source does not grow bamboo when getting a water source added, it simply can now grow.

The way you grow bamboo after the initial tile placement is placing the gardener on the tile. The gardener moves in a straight line only. Whichever tile he ends up on will grow one additional piece of bamboo, up to the limit of a 4 on one tile.

The panda moves in the same way as the gardener. But this time, he eats a bamboo piece from the tile he ends up on. Characters ill them take the bamboo piece and place it on the panda section of the player card.

The final action is taking a card. There are 3 types of cards: tile, gardener, and panda. You score points by completing the task on the cards. For tile cards, this means a serious of tiles placed in a set pattern, all of which need a water source. For gardener cards, it means growing a stack of bamboo of a certain colour, or multiple stack of one colour. For the panda, it means eating a certain number of one or more coloured bamboo pieces.

The first player to complete a set number of cards starts the final round. This player also get the emperor card, gaining 2 bonus points. The player with the most points at the end of the final round wins the game.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

If the basic gameplay was all there was, Takenoko would be a good game due to simple gameplay and amazing design. But, there is more. And this makes a simple game go above the light category and gives more advanced games more options.

After the first round, player’s will start their turn by rolling the weather die. This gives them a round bonus of either fire, rain, wind, lightning, clouds, or unknown.

Fire gives the player a 3rd action (use the die to indicate the action you will take on your player card). This allows you to accomplish more in one round, putting your plans in to action before your opponents.

Rain causes bamboo to grow one any one tile. This can help speed up a gardener quest, or give you a piece of bamboo to eat where there once was nonce.

Wind allows you to do two of the same actions. This can be a big thing when you need to repeat an action before the board changes due to others turns.

Fire scares the panda and allows him to move to ANY tile, disregarding normal panda movement rules. Clouds give you a tile icon. There are 3 tile icons: water (provides water source to a single tile), fertilizer (causes 2 bamboo pieces the grow on the tile when the gardener is placed on a tile OR a tile has the rain affect played on it), or a panda fence (the panda can move on to the tile, but can not eat any bamboo on the tile). The icons can be placed on any tile that does not all ready have bamboo growing on it. As an added layer of depth, some of the tile will have one of the three icons placed on it by default. This makes those tiles extra attractive to players. The final aspect of the tiles is the gardener cards. Some of the cards can only be completed on a tile that has a certain icon. Others can only be completed if one or more icons are NOT on the tile.

The icons are great as they really do add what can and can not be done.

The final bonus action is unknown. When the player rolls this option, they get to pick one of the other 5 options available to them.

Theme

The game is cute, inviting, and funny…because pandas. This can be off putting to some people. These people are missing out. The theme is VERY light, and is more there for design then anything else. Yes, there will be panda pooping jokes. Yes, people will make jokes about the gardener wanting to kill the panda for eating his bamboo. But really, the game mechanics are where the fun is.

Replay Value

I’ve played this game more than any other game since joining Boardgaming.com. Not since I’ve bought it, but since I’ve been tacking plays. People love the game. In fact, the first time I played it (2 player), the other player went out and bought his own copy. The happened again after the first 4 player game. And as much as the cuteness may rub some people the wrong way, it makes the game inviting to a large number of players.

So what you get is a game with a decent amount of strategy, that a lot of people will want to play. And they will enjoy playing. Add that up, in this is one of the higher games when it comes to replay value.

Over All Impression.

I love this game. It has fun game mechanics, gorgeous design, and plays in under an hour with most players. And it’s a game people want to game. There’s never been a time when people have said no to Takenoko. It’s never that game where one person in your game group is playing it and just waiting for the next game.

And unlike some games, it’s simple to teach. I typically hand a player the player card and go through the items on it. Once I’ve done that, people are ready to play. It also scales really well. I’ve played 2 player, 3 player, and 4 player games and have had fun with ALL of them.

Yes, it’s not as manly or geeky as other games…but so what. A game that people WILL play that is fun? This is a must for pretty much any gamer.

 
Player Avatar
2
10
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful
“Gorgeous light tactical game”

I love all of Antoine Bauza’s designs, either mechanically or graphically or, most times, both. Takenoko is another of his Asian themed designs and it looks lovely.

The little panda and gardener models are beautiful, the stacking bamboo pieces look and work great and the tiles are chunky and nicely designed. The oversized weather die is also lovely to use and look at!

Mechanically it’s more tactical than strategic, with players having to achieve their own objectives while having to keep an eye on what their opponents are doing. This means a lot of the time the pieces you want are unobtainable (panda or gardener in wrong place, improvements unavailable, garden plots placed awkwardly etc), leaving players having to react rather than make strategic movements in preparation for a longer term goal. Personally I prefer this type of game over the more strategic brain burner types, so this works fine for me and my friends.

Others also criticise the weather die mechanic, but again… I like the injection of chaos and within the theme of the game the weather die fits perfectly well. After all, weather is changeable!

I love this game, it’s great fun to play, looks great, plays quickly and leaves you wanting more!

 
Player Avatar
5
Video Game Fan
Explorer - Level 3
Book Lover
9
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Fun family game that is fun for even the avid gamer in your life”

Takenoko in its simplest description is a fun, beautiful, and an easy to play game. It has a little bit of strategy but much of it comes down to luck on what you roll for weather, what you draw for cards, and what your opponents do in their turn that may help or hurt your chances of completing cards.

If you are a gamer that likes serious strategy then this may not be for you, there is possibly too many random components that can disrupt your plans. However, if you are looking for a lighter game, then you will probably still enjoy this. I, myself, enjoy a wide variety of games and particularly enjoy that it appeals to even my family members who are ‘not into board games’. It is far more fun than opening up the family monopoly game, and the cuteness factor appeals to both guys and girls alike, and even all ages. After I visited family and brought this game along, my parents bought a copy and even played this with my grandparents.

One point that I saw mentioned in a previous review that I will emphasize as well, not the best game for young children that are innocently destructive or grabby. Same for pets, so if Miss Kitty likes to plop herself in the middle of your game, it may be best to play in a location that she doesn’t have access to. 😉 Overall though the game is well made, there are a few bamboo pieces that stick or tilt but not usually much of a problem for regular play.

This game can be learned very quickly and due to the nature of the game is good for replayability.

When you do try to go through the instructions, really emphasize the detail about colors needing to match and showing comparing colors of the tiles. If you have someone who has issues with colors, there can be some issues with some of the yellow tiles (the artwork gives it a pinkish hue sometimes), so it can be good to show them the difference next to one another on tiles and cards next to tiles. I have only had this problem once but once they played the game a couple times, this was no longer a problem.

 
Player Avatar
5
Knight-errant
Explorer - Level 3
I Love Playin' Games
7
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful
“Look at the cute little panda!!!”

Everything about this game is chock full of character. The hexes and wooden pieces (irrigation channels, action tokens) are the only standard fare, but everywhere else the game is bursting with color. The panda and gardener are drawn in a cute, bright style and the included figurines match it well. The best part is the set of bamboo pieces, which come in green, pink, and yellow. As you play, you stack them to show the bamboo growing on the fields, which turns the board into a 3d growing field.

The gameplay is fairly basic. Each turn you choose 2 tasks from the following: add plot, grow bamboo, irrigate a plot, eat bamboo, or pick a new task card. You will choose what to do based on the task cards you hold in your hand. Some may require you to have the panda eat 1 of each color of bamboo, you may have to organize plots in a specific order, or grow bamboo a certain height. After the first round, you roll a die that gives you help in accomplishing your tasks such as giving you an extra turn or letting you do the same task twice.

Sure it’s fun to move the panda and gardner characters around and stack bamboo, but there is not much strategy involved and most of the time those around the table are helping you without knowing it. You never really feel in control. It is still a fun game, it just would have been nice to maybe have a bit more depth to dig into. It does it’s job as a relaxing, enjoyable game, and gets a lot of play time on my table due to its accessibility.

 
Player Avatar
4
Canada
8
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful
“Dévorer du bambou ou en faire pousser? [French only!]”

Takenoko!
Un excellent jeu familial, offrant une expérience de jeu plutôt amusante!
Un jeu simple à apprendre, pas du tout agressif, de 2 à 4 joueurs, d’une durée approximative de 30-40 minutes!

Grosso modo:
– Un jardinier qui veut, plus que tout au monde, faire pousser du bambou!
– Un panda AFFAMÉ qui dévore tout le bambou sur son chemin!
– Une météo toujours imprévisible qui changera vos plans et ceux de vos adversaires!
– Un empereur qui cherche le joueur pouvant obtenir le plus de points de mérite!

Je vous laisse les 3 vidéos disponibles pour ce jeu, et j’espère que vous y trouverez votre compte!

Version abrégée: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_wDrutX7qg
Règles complètes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0tni86sE0E
Avis personnel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtkdlMgoX6k

 
Player Avatar
5
South Africa
Scotland
10
59 of 68 gamers found this helpful
“The Mila Kunis of boardgames”

Okay so this is one pretty game.

The components are perfect, not only nice looking but tactile too (there’s a wooden die, bamboo markers, and fully painted figurines). This really makes a difference to the game itself, the longer you play the better the board looks, it’s really hard to explain but it’s just really satisfying which adds to the enjoyment.

The rule book is no different. Designed as a hi-gloss comic book, it’s pretty much the easiest to follow rulebook I’ve read. You read the book in 10 minutes and you’ve got it completely.

Now for the gameplay. Think Ticket to Ride. The idea is to draw objective cards (from three suits), and to build the board to fulfill objectives you’re holding (while trying to predict what your opponent is doing and get in their way). Each objective is worth victory points with are calculated once a certain amount of objective cards have been fulfilled by a single player. The winner is the player with the most victory points.

The game plays quickly, with the average player’s turn taking approximately a minute. I’ve only played two player games and they seem to be done in 20 – 30 mins.

Lastly, it’s a strategy game, there’s thinking, and planning involved, however it’s still a lot of fun to play. Again I feel the visual aspect adds to this.

Takenoko is without a doubt the best looking game I own, this alone makes it worth trying, however it’s fun, easily accessible for all levels of gamer, and is a thinking person’s kinda fun. Do it.

 
Player Avatar
8
El Dorado
I'm a Gamin' Fiend!
Rated 100 Games
Paladin
8
63 of 74 gamers found this helpful
“A fun game, but with strategy!”

Takenoko is my new favorite game. It’s a fun game that feels light and plays quickly, but there is some good strategy involved. Antoine Bauza has done it again. I love this and his other Japanese-themed game Tokaido. My gf is currently obsessed with Hanabi like so many others. (Oddly, my least favorite game of his is 7 Wonders. It just doesn’t do it for me.)

Anyway, back to Takenoko. It’s fairly simple. You have three different objectives.
– Build land by drawing new hexagonal tiles and placing them. (A truly modular board — love it!)
– Grow bamboo by sending the gardener to different colored plots.
– Eat the bamboo by moving the panda there (the cutest part of the game and why I think some people have written it off.)
That’s basically it!

But within this there are many ways to play and many different strategies to take. Also, everyone is working semi-cooperatively to create the garden and grow the bamboo. So your opposition could actually end up growing the bamboo you need to get those points!

Also, I can’t end this review without mentioning the components. Everything is wonderfully colorful. The garden tiles are beautifully drawn. The gardener and panda are cartoony but help create an atmosphere that wouldn’t be there with regular meeples. Stacking the bamboo with the interlocking pieces is wonderfully tactile. Overall, the components help push this game over the edge.

Final thought: Takenoko is a really fun game that isn’t void of strategy and is great to play when you feel like something light or don’t have a lot of time.

 
Player Avatar
1
 
65 of 80 gamers found this helpful
“Family game for sure”

This game is a simple, quick and enjoyable game.
In the game there are three routes of victory. You can please your panda by eating different colored bamboo. You could please the farmer by growing bamboo certain height’s. You can please the emperor by building land in different patterns.

In order to please them you can take 5 different actions to do so.

One, You could move the panda and eat a piece of bamboo on the tile you move to.
Two, You could move the farmer and grow bamboo on the tile you landed on and the ones of the same color adjacent to it.
Three, You could Take more land tiles and play them on the board.
Four, You could take a piece of river to irrigate your bamboo.
Five, You could draw more goal cards.

On the second round of the game you start rolling a die before taking your actions. This die will either give you another action, move the panda for free, grow bamboo for free, take an enhancement tile, allows you to take two of the same action, or you could take any of the extra actions you desire.

The game is a great gateway game to teach your friends and family. The components are great and its fun to move around the panda and eat the bamboo. Other then that the game is to simple to play often and I only use it with non gamers.

If you are looking for a simple family game, get Takenoko. If you are looking for a heavy game with lots of replay ability I would look for another game.

 
Player Avatar
2
Smash Up Fan
 
54 of 70 gamers found this helpful
“peaceful VS game. ”

Got it because of the cute panda (and Wil Wheaton’s review, i think in GQ or Esquire).

The pieces are superb! Would describe the gameplay as serene. I would recommend it if you’re playing with your girlfriend (or non-violent friends).

Replay value is good and 1 game was enough for everyone to memorize the mechanics. Might be too easy for avid gamers though I have only tried it on 2-player games so far.

 

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