Designer: Antoine Bauza
“Build me a garden, look after my panda, make sure the crops are plentiful!” Someone tell the Emperor where to shove it, bah, does he know how ridiculous his requests are? Someone tell him that a panda bear is still a bear! Sure they look clumsy and the darn things are too stupid to breed, but they aren’t too stupid to rip a man’s head off if you get between it and it’s bamboo. The same bamboo that he wants me to grow into a tall forest, surely a simple task when someone is eating it down faster than it grows! The only thing more likely to kill me than that darn bear is the Emperor himself if he finds out how I feel about him.
Takenoko is a 2-4 player panda-feeding strategy game where you try and make a bamboo garden to please the Emperor while ensuring that his pet panda is well looked after. During the game you will build plots of bamboo, irrigate the garden, move the farmer to grow crops and move the panda to eat the bamboo.
|The player board with 1 yellow bamboo in the panda's belly, 2 irrigation pieces saved up and 3 actions chosen thanks to rolling the extra action.|
There are three kinds of objectives in the game, the first kind are panda feeding objectives, to complete these you need to get the panda to eat the right coloured bamboo, there are three different colours, green, yellow and pink. Generally these objectives require you to eat 2 of the same colour, but the occasional card required three, one of each colour. The second are gardening objectives which require you to get a tower of bamboo up to the right height on a bamboo tile (or tiles), these cards often specify not only colour, but what kind of token can be on the bamboo tile. Finally there are landscaping objectives which require you to place bamboo tiles of certain colours in certain shapes, these also require you to irrigate the plots. Objectives are worth different point values depending on how difficult they are and how rare the bamboo colours needed are (green is common, yellow is average, pink is rare).
Due to its secret objective cards you may often find that your actions help your opponents as much as you, irrigating a plot of land might be all they needed to score a landscaping objective, while growing some bamboo might score a gardening objective or give them something for the panda to munch on, there is certainly a meta-game of working out what your opponent wants and thwarting them, the tokens help with this as they allow you to upgrade a plot with one of three abilities, as the cards sometimes require a specific token or no tokens at all this can block your opponent. The tiles can make a plot irrigated when when not near water, make 2 bamboo grown each time the plot is farmed or make the area panda-proof preventing any unwanted gobbling.
|A selection of different objective cards, points values vary based on how common the bamboo colour is, green bamboo tends to be easy co come by, but scores you the least points.|
The game ends when a certain amount of objectives are completed depending on player count, with a bonus 2 points for the first player to reach that amount, every other player then has 1 turn to get as many points as possible. I quite like that this bonus isn’t too big, it gives an incentive to be the player to end the game, but doesn’t give you an insurmountable bonus, so you have to be pretty confident that you’ve done enough.
Takenoko is a game I always find myself wanting to play when it’s an option, but not one I find myself needing to own, perhaps it’s because I know so many people with the game. The art of Takenoko is adorable, the instruction book itself is presented as a comic strip, the player mats are drawn beautifully and the panda miniature is simply perfect. If l have to flaw the game sometimes the points given for objectives can be a little arbitrary, making a 4 tall tower of pink isn’t actually that harder than making one in green, but it does reward more points. Still the game is great fun, has wonderful components, and a good amount of tactical play options for each player.