A to Z 2015 : TAKENOKO

Splendor made for an excellent Christmas gift. It's light, fun, and fairly accessible to people with varying levels of gaming experience. But what if I had given a panda? The receiver of the gift would then have to tend to its needs by starting a bamboo garden. But what if the panda was constantly eating all of the bamboo?!

That is a similar tale told in our next entry in which the Emperor of China bestows the gift of a panda to the Emperor of Japan, as a token of peace, in a garden full of...


In Takenoko, players compete by placing and treating land plots, growing and eating bamboo, and attempting to complete objectives to gain the favor of the Emperor. They do this by manipulating a Gardner and Panda, strategically selecting actions, and sometimes getting lucky with good weather.

The setup is pretty simple. First the Pond tile is placed in the middle of the play area with the Gardener and Panda character figurines on it. The remaining tiles are shuffled and placed in a face-down pile off to the side. There are 3 different decks of Objective cards: Plot/Gardener/Panda. All are shuffled and placed face down in a row, with the Emperor card is set next to them. Piles are made of Irrigation Channel pieces and Improvement tokens (split into each type) next to the cards and tiles. I prefer to leave the Bamboo pieces in the bag and remove them as needed, but you can also make separate piles of each, as well.

Every player receives a Player board,  2 Action markers, and one card of each Objective type.

A turn consists of 2 phases: Determining the weather conditions and completing actions/objectives. The first thing the Active Player does is roll the Weather die (featured above with the Question Mark icon side shown). There are 5 different conditions (Sun/Rain/Wind/Storm/Clouds), while the Question Mark acts as a "wildcard" allowing you to pick any one of the five conditions. I will give a brief description of what each condition entails.

Sun allows a player to take an additional action (different from other actions they take). Rain allows a player to place bamboo on an irrigated plot (up to a limit of 4 sections high). Wind allows a player to take two identical actions (as opposed to two different actions as normal). Storm allows the player to place the Panda on any Plot tile, and the Panda eats a piece of Bamboo from that location (if allowed). Clouds allows a player to select an Improvement token and either immediately place it on a Plot tile or save it on their individual board for later use). The Question Mark, as mentioned above, acts as a wildcard and allows a player to choose whichever single weather affect they want.

NOTE: There are 3 types of Improvement tokens: Enclosures ensure that the Panda can't eat Bamboo from the Plot tile it's placed on. Fertilizers grant a Plot tile to grow 2 Bamboo pieces instead of 1, whenever it would be grown there (up to the cap of 4 sections). Watersheds grant a Plot tile the ability to grow Bamboo as though it were irrigated. If there are no Improvement tokens left, the player may choose any one of the remaining weather conditions of their choice (it acts like a "wildcard"). Improvement tokens may never be placed on a Plot tile with an inherent improvement.

After the Weather condition is determined and resolved, the player may proceed to choosing their two different actions (modified by the Weather Die roll, of course).

They may draw the top three Plot tiles, keeping one (placing the rest on the bottom of the pile), and then plays it on the board following some restrictions for placement. If it is placed next to the starting Pond tile, or has a built-in Watershed Improvement it immediately grows one Bamboo piece of the appropriate color.

They may take an Irrigation Channel piece and either play it right away or store it on their personal board. They are played on the shared border between two Plot tiles and must always begin from the center Pond tile. If it's saved, it may be played at any point during one of the owner's turns, without counting as an Action. Plots irrigated for the first time (bordering the Pond tile, irrigation channel placed along its border, or has the Watershed Improvement) grow one section of Bamboo of the appropriate color. Only irrigated plots can grow Bamboo!

NOTE: Plots only get the initial bonus Bamboo once, if a second Irrigation Channel is placed along the boarder of a Plot tile that has already received this bonus, nothing happens. Two Plot tiles may be affected by the Bamboo bonus at the same time.

A player may move the Gardener anywhere in a straight line (excluding gaps) and grow a piece of Bamboo wherever he is placed (if irrigated), as well as each adjacent irrigated plots (to the cap of 4 sections) of the same color.

A player may move the Panda anywhere in a straight line (excluding gaps) and it eats a piece of Bamboo wherever he is placed (if allowed). The eaten piece is removed from the board and placed on the Panda icon on that player's personal board.

NOTE: The Gardener and Panda must move at least one Plot tile if the Action is chosen by a player. They cannot remain stationary and utilize their abilities on the tile they were originally on.

And lastly, a player may draw an Objective card from any of the three types available. There is a hand limit of 5 cards, however.

At any time during their turn, a player may complete an objective, once the conditions of the Objective card are met. The player places the Objective card face down in front of them and at the end of the game is awarded the points displayed in the lower lefthand corner.

NOTE: There are a wide variety of requirements throughout each Objective deck type, so I won't cover them here.

Once a certain number of objectives have been completed by a player (determined by the number of players), the Final Round is triggered. The player who triggered the Final Round acquires the bonus Emperor card, worth 2 points. The other players each get one last turn before points of completed objectives are tallied.

The player with the highest score wins! In the event of a tie, the player with the highest point value shown on a Panda objective wins! If they are still tied the victory is shared!

Full Review Forthcoming

Have you ever played Takenoko before? If so, did you enjoy it? If not, does it seem like a game you would like to try?