In the game Takenoko, the Japanese Emperor has assigned you the task of caring for a giant panda bear and tending his bamboo garden. Players cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow, and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener. But the gardener has to deal with a pesky panda bear who has an insatiable appetite for bamboo.
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Genre: Tile Placement, Set Collection
Play Time: 45 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 10
Players collect objective cards to either grow bamboo, feed the panda specific colors of bamboo, or layout land plots in a specific pattern. The first player to a certain number of objective cards (dependent on number of players) ends the game. But the winner is the one who gained the most points from their cards.
On your turn, you can take any two unique actions from the five available:
1) Take an objective card
2) Draw three plot tiles and place one
3) Take an irrigation canal to provide water to a tile
4) Move the gardener and grow bamboo on that tile and all adjoined tiles of the same color
5) Move the panda and eat one piece of bamboo
The second round of the game introduces the weather die, which gives you an additional action or special effect that you can utilize on your turn (extra action, growing bamboo, complete same action twice, get a special token to modify a tile). This dice, along with how players place their tiles, creates a unique experience every time the game is played.
The expansion Takenoko: Chibis adds a Ms.Panda figurine, special plot cards, baby panda tokens, and more objective cards. We’ll be writing a mini review for the expansion sometime in the future and whether it makes the game better or worse.
If you want a full run-through on how to play this game, we suggest Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop episode on this game.
There’s nothing more fun than moving around a panda and making nom nom noises as you devour the precious bamboo other players spent their actions to grow. With the nice game components, it makes it really easy to get into the role of whatever character you’re moving with, which is a lot of fun if everyone gets into it.
The only thing that is sometimes problematic in the game is once the map gets built up more, it’s possible for someone drawing an objective card to have it completed already. This is especially true later on in the game once more bamboo is grown and plots complete the board. Although this is a pretty awesome feeling when you’re trying to catch up to someone, it could leave the person in the lead with a bit of a sour taste in their mouth. Overall, this problem hasn’t come up too much and hasn’t lead to someone winning by a huge margin, but it definitely could be a problem if someone gets extremely lucky with their objective card draws. There’s also not much you can do to plan ahead for your next turn if it involves moving the panda or the gardener since they can only move in a straight line and you aren’t really able to guess where they’ll be when it’s the start of your turn.
This was one of the first games we bought when we got into the hobby and we still have it in our collection today. Everyone we’ve introduced it to has enjoyed it because it’s fairly easy to teach and every action can be tied to the theme, which makes it a lot easier to understand. The completed board at the end game is also really pretty to look at with the mixture of pink, yellow, and green plots of land and bamboo growing everywhere. I feel like anyone looking for a game with a light amount of strategy and enjoys the theme of causing panda-monium to a freshly grown bamboo garden would really enjoy Takenoko.
The best thing about this game is the components. You really can’t beat adorable panda figures that eat pieces of wooden bamboo. The theme in this game is very strong, which makes playing the game more fun, especially if you play with a group that really gets into the story behind the actions. And it hits on a few of my game likes – animals and a strong theme.
I’ve found that there isn’t one strategy that works best for this game, which is what makes it so great. Every time you play it, it’s different. You can choose to go for more panda objective cards or to go for a nice mixture of all three. It’s definitely not a very intense strategy game, but there is some strategy to what objective cards you draw. The other thing that makes the game different every time is that the board is never the same. You build the board as you go by placing plots to provide the gardener places to grow bamboo and the panda places to eat bamboo.
I do agree that it can be annoying if someone draws an objective card and it’s automatically completed because someone else already did the work to set up the plots in that pattern or the board already has the right amount of bamboo needed for the gardener objective card. But this could be solved with a simple house rule that says this isn’t allowed. My only other issue with this game is that, depending on who you play it with, the game can go down the path of purposely trying to screw over people so they can’t win.
Overall, this is a game I recommend for people just getting into board games. It’s also a nice and refreshing game for the more experienced gamer after you’ve played a few too many heavy Euro games. It also makes a great game for kids – probably over the age of 8 due to all the small pieces.
- Easy to teach
- Great components and artwork
- Good amount of replayability
- Great theme that’s easy to get into
- Only takes about an hour to play
- Get to pretend to be a panda
- Plays well at all player counts (plays 2-4 players)
- Objectives being completed when a card is drawn can sometimes be annoying if you’re in the lead
- Hard to plan your turn ahead if you’re planning on doing a gardener or panda action
- Not a super deep game in terms of strategy (could be a pro if you’re looking for a lighter game)
He gives this game 7 stacks of bamboo out of 10.
She gives this game 8 panda paws out of 10.