Takenoko is a tile-laying game for two to four players designed by Antoine Bauza. The players place hexagonal tiles of three different colors adjacent to each other on the table, move a plastic gardener and panda to add and remove circular wooden pieces with the same colors as the tiles. All of this is performed to fulfill the requirements as stated on mission cards that come in the box.
In Takenoko, players are court members to the Japanese Emperor responsible of setting up the bamboo garden for a panda that Japan received from the Chinese Emperor. The ever-growing Zen garden has its own gardener that makes bamboo grow, while the panda makes sure the bamboo gets eaten.
Get ready for some bamboo eating in this colorful board game in which players compete for the acknowledgement of the Japanese Emperor!
In Takenoko, plots are used to illustrate different sections of the Zen garden in which the game takes place. Players, or the court members, build the garden with plots as the game progresses. The ‘pond tile’ is placed in the middle and acts as a water source for the irrigation of other plots. Some plots have minor hexagonal signs on them that give them special properties – see improvements.
When drawing plot tiles, players are drawing three and pick one of them. This diminishes the element of luck, at least a bit. However, there are a few translation mistakes in different variations of the rules when it comes to what to do with the remaining two plots. Some variations state that the plots are to be returned to the top of the pile, whereas others state that the remaining plots are to be returned to the bottom of the pile. The second one is the correct one. (See the response of Antoine Bauza, the designer of Takenoko – https://boardgamegeek.com/article/8135503#8135503)
The land plots are beautifully designed and offer several different motives to bring the garden from a stale abstract game to a vibrant thematic scene.
Takenoko comes with 28 plots (one pond plot, 11 green, 9 yellow and 7 pink).
Plots can have improvements printed on them, as illustrated in the plot section. But the same three improvements that are found on the land plots are also available as separate components for the players to alter tiles that don’t have the properties they want.
There are three different improvements in the Takenoko:
Enclosure – The red improvement with a panda crossed over protects the bamboo on the land plot from being eaten by the panda.
Fertilizer – The grey improvement with two rakes and a bucket increases the number of bamboo sections added to the land plot each time bamboo grows.
Watershed – The blue improvement with water and a bamboo stick on it irrigates the land plot without being connected to the pond plot. (This does, however, not work as a separate water source for new irrigation channels)
There are nine improvements in the game, three of each type.
Irrigation channels are components used to connect land plots with the source of water, the pond. They are needed to illustrate which land plots are irrigated and, thus, able to grow bamboo on.
There are 20 irrigation channels in Takenoko.
Bamboo sections are stackable wooden pieces that illustrate how much bamboo is on each land plot. They come in three different colors (Green, yellow and pink) that correspond to the three different colors of the land plots. The bamboo sections are grown by the gardener and eaten by the panda.
Like most pieces in Takenoko, the bamboo sections burst with color. It’s lovely to get a bit of height in games without making it seem too gimmicky. Takenoko manages to not only avoid the gimmick feeling of this construction, but also make it into a very enjoyable aspect of the game.
One thing that annoyed me is that it’s quite hard to place the bamboo sections in piles on the table as they are perfectly shaped to roll around as they please (unless you stack them). This made us keep the box nearby and that reduced some of the enjoyment. However, this is easily fixed by bringing three minor bowls to keep them in during the game.
There are 90 bamboo sections in Takenoko (36 green, 30 yellow and 24 pink).
The gardener and the panda
The gardener and the panda are used in Takenoko to grow bamboo and to eat bamboo. All players are collectively controlling the gardener and the panda. Whenever the gardener is moved to a tile that is irrigated, a bamboo section is added to that tile and every other irrigated tile of the same color connected to it. Whenever the panda is moved to a tile with bamboo, one bamboo section is removed and given to the player that moved the panda.
The gardener and the panda are only to be moved in a straight line. By adding this mechanic to the rule relating to only allowing placement of new land plots that connects to at least two other land plots (making the playing area more compact), the possibility to reach all plots from any other given plot is reduced. This limitation requires additional consideration by the players as they may be unable to reach the plot that they need on a single turn and waiting for the next turn may result in a new playing field.
In the rulebook there is a comic strip giving a bit of background to the game. In the end of the comic strip, the gardener finds out that the panda is eating pink bamboo from the garden – resulting in the gardener chasing the panda. I would like to see this reflected in the gameplay. Why is the panda allowed to eat bamboo from a land plot that the gardener is currently standing on? (We added this in our house rules section)
I was surprised when I opened Takenoko and saw these two pieces. I had seen the game played on Tabletop, and assumed they had painted the pieces themselves. The fact that the game comes with painted miniatures at this price point really amazes me. Does anyone know if this is done by hand or how they color miniatures? It doesn’t seem as if the pieces are ‘built’ by a range of different components of different colors. Please let me know in the comments below if you know or have an idea about how this works.
There are three different types of objective cards in Takenoko: One for the panda, one for the gardener and one for the garden. Fulfilling the missions stated on the cards gives players points corresponding to the number in the bottom left corner. The objectives are performed to please the emperor and the first person to complete enough objectives (determined by the number of players) starts the end game and receives the emperor card (the green card worth two points). The player with the most points at the end wins the game.
Seeing as the objective cards are drawn randomly from three different decks of cards an additional bit of luck is introduced to the game.
There is a slight difference between the three different mission types. I’d like to divide them into two categories: active and passive.
The active mission type requires you to do some work yourself (the panda cards) whereas the passive mission types can be completed by the actions taken by others (the gardener cards and the garden cards). It would seem reasonable to assume that the passive mission types would be preferable compared to the active mission types. I am not able to calculate this, as there are simply too many variables for my non-mathematical-brain to handle. Although, it seems as if the game designer also considers the passive missions to be a bit over-powered. One of the suggested rules in the rulebook relates to making players discard objective cards that have already been completed once drawn. This only affects the passive objective cards, making them less powerful as the game progresses towards the end.
I do, however, like the variation in the objective cards and seeing as all players have the same options in choosing a specific objective type, all players are equal – even though the objectives may not be.
The weather die
Tending a garden, and a panda, is affected greatly by the weather conditions. Even though meteorologists are able to, to some extent, foresee the weather conditions – there is no way to affect the weather. Takenoko has implemented this uncontrollable, random element that affects gardeners around the world by introducing a die to the game – a weather die.
The weather die affects players’ turns by allowing players to do additional actions, the same action twice or special actions. It is rolled at every player’s turn and comes with a bit of randomness.
There is one weather die in Takenoko.
Individual boards and action chips
Each player receives an individual board and two matching action chips. The individual boards show the six different outcomes of the weather die with a minor picture explaining each, five different possible actions and three slots to stash improvements, irrigation channels and bamboo sections.
Takenoko is a game with a clear theme, especially in terms of the detailed and well-crafted game components. However, the only thing that makes players (or court members) different from one another is the pattern that appears on both the individual board and the action chips. Even some of these aren’t that very distinct (see below).
There aren’t that many things that help me connect to who I actually am. I am not seeing myself as a court member when playing Takenoko. I consider myself a normal person, moving a panda around on a set of tiles.
Even though not all games need to have clear roles, I think Takenoko could benefit greatly in at least making the pictures on the individual boards relate to the court members and making every player feel unique. It doesn’t need to involve special abilities or deep background stories, just anything that makes me different from the player next to me and something that makes me relate to who/what I actually am.
The action chips are used to keep track on what action the player has performed during his or her turn and to make sure he or she does not break the rule of doing the same action twice.
I am of the opinion that the action chips are unnecessary. Primarily because the time it takes between the first and the second action is (almost) none. There are cases that create a bit of a delay between the actions (e.g. completing an objective card) that could make players lose focus. This could extend the need of guiding aides to keep players on track. I have not experienced this when playing Takenoko and am therefore playing without the action chips, as they become more of a distraction than assistance. I think there is a bit of a challenge for a game designer when deciding whether or not a game mechanic needs to be complemented with a component. This is especially true for game mechanics that initially are complex and would require aiding components, but after revising end up being simple enough to be fine without.
However, I reached out to the kind people over at BoardGameGeek to get their opinion on the matter. They suggested several reasons and situations in which the action chips might be of importance:
– Groups of gamers that are highly social and thus easily lose track of the game progression.
– Players that are learning the game and are unfamiliar with having more than one action per turn.
And finally, there was a notion on the fact that the original rules (as have been amended by a FAQ) required players to first pick two actions and then perform them. This would stop players from changing their mind based on the outcome of the first action. The action chips clearly help in enforcing this rule.
How about you? Do you use the action chips? Let us know in the comments about your thoughts on this!
There are four individual boards and eight action chips in Takenoko.
This edition came with two additional tiles with the panda on them. I am not sure if this comes with every copy of Takenoko or just some. It was probably included because there were space left on the cardboard sheet. There are also three fully grey tiles in the shape of the improvement tiles (not in any of the pictures).
I haven’t read anything about these and I haven’t seen them in the rulebook covering the components. But we decided to create our own house rules involving them. You can read about it in our house rules section below.
There are two special tiles in Takenoko.
Hide and seek
Hide and seek was created using pieces from the game, as presented above.
#1 give the special tile of a panda eating bamboo to the first player to have all three colors of bamboo on his or her individual board. This generates three points at the end of the game.
#2 Give the special tile of a panda holding an umbrella to the first player to have three irrigation channels on his or her individual board. This generates three points at the end of the game.
#3 The panda is not allowed to eat bamboo on a land plot that the gardener is standing on. If the gardener is moved to a land plot where the panda is, he gets returned to the pond plot.
Publisher: Matagot, Enigma and Bombyx
Possible product identification number: MDG904