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Board Game Review: Takenoko

Updated on May 3, 2016

Some games are too simple. After all, how much strategy can go into a game of Candyland? Still, other games are too complicated, or require counting money or relatives that will never sell their properties and will fight to their very last breath? Think Monopoly.

That's why Takenoko is a breath of fresh air. There's some strategy involved, but it's still relaxed and won't cause you to miss the next family reunion. Factor in its bright colors and the fact it's based on a panda and you can't go wrong.

Board Game Box Art
Board Game Box Art | Source

What is it?

Takenoko is a 2-4 player game that includes territory building, farming/recipe building, dice rolls, and grid movements. The board has a chance to develop semi-randomly when prompted by players, and there are three main pieces: the bamboo pieces (which come in 3 colors), the gardener who makes more bamboo, and the panda that east the bamboo.

The goal of the game is to have the most points by the end of the game. To do that, there are three different kinds of cards that are worth points if you fulfill their requirements. There are panda cards (which you fulfill by eating a recipe of different colored bamboo pieces), land cards (which you earn by arranging certain patterns on the game board), and the gardener (which you earn by arranging certain groupings of bamboo on the board). Depending on the number of players, the game enters its final phase once a single player has earned x number of cards. Everyone else gets 1 more turn before the game ends and the points are tallied up.

Game Pieces
Game Pieces | Source

Why is This Good?

Dude, it's got a panda. 'Nuff said.

But really, it's a simple game that's a lot of fun. It will probably take you a game to really understand how the flow works, but once you do it's effortless. It's a good game for couples and families and is easily picked up. It's got a good amount of replayability since no strategy is particuarly stronger than any other (some give more points, but take a lot longer than others to cash in) and the board is built almost randomly as the game carries on.

If you don't like a lot of competitive games where players directly or indirectly attack each other to win, you'll like Takenoko. You can't do anything specific to anyone else (unless you know someone is trying to build a tower of 4 green bamboo and you keep sending your panda to eat it, but they shouldn't have showed you their card anyway).

The box says it can be played by 8 years old and up, and I can more or less agree with it. An eight year old might not get the depth of the strategy, but then again they might.

It's also one of those games where you will be hard pressed to actually have a grudge against another player. By that, I mean other games (Monopoly specifically comes to mind) you may leave (or quit) while actively hating your fellow participants. Maybe it's because of the game's simplicity, or perhaps there is no way to screw over your opponents, but I don't believe you actually can get this feeling.

That Panda
That Panda | Source

Expansions

When I started writing this article, I didn't actually think there were any expansions. I was wrong. Instead, there's an expansion called Takenoko: Chibis, where there are multiple pandas on the board and some new garden tiles. As it stands, I'm quite content with how Takenoko is. I sincerely doubt I'll be picking up said expansion.

Closing Thoughts

Is it my favorite game? Not by a long shot. Am I tired of this game? No, not really. I don't have a passion for the game, but I tend to enjoy really difficult games or those that have a deep strategy to it.

The cute-ness and aesthetics really don't turn me off the game but it is simple and relatively quick to play. It's a good game to introduce to those who aren't really 'veterans' of tabletop games

Have I peaked your interest in this game?

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Tl;dr

  • Simple game to learn and play
  • Around $35
  • 2-4 Players
  • 30 min.-1 hour of playtime
  • Colorful and completely inoffensive
  • Pandas!
  • Has moderately high replayability as you will receive cards that give you different objectives; board is built anew every game

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