Players: 2 to 4
Game Length: 45 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2-4 players who want a cute and accessible light strategy game
Takenoko is a contract fulfilment game where players will be taking turns building a bamboo garden. The panda will be making a meal of the growing bamboo shoots, much to the chagrin of the hapless gardener who will be frantically trying to grow it back. It is a light strategy game with wide appeal, thanks in no small part to the beautiful components.
Over the course of the game, each player will have a chance to influence the bamboo garden, whether by adding new tiles and irrigation channels, by moving the gardener, who grows the bamboo, or the panda, who eats it. The vibrantly-coloured bamboo pieces, together with the gardener and panda figurines, add extra charm to the game and help it leap from the table and capture players’ imaginations.
To win the game, you will need to score point cards. These come in three varieties – panda cards, that may be scored by having the panda eat certain colours of bamboo; gardener cards, that may be scored by growing bamboo in particular configurations; and plot cards, that may be scored by growing garden plots in specific formations.
You’ll need to weigh up which cards to collect as the game proceeds – the panda cards are the easiest to work towards, requiring players to simply make the panda eat bamboo on their turn, but other players can inadvertently help you fulfil your own gardener and plot cards, which may make them the more efficient option. Late in the game in particular, you may end up drawing a card that has already been completed or can be completed with a single action, allowing you to score it that same turn.
Thanks to its attractive components, Takenoko makes an excellent game for newcomers to boardgaming, and an entertaining light game for those with more experience. It has a chaotic side, however, and you can feel like you aren’t in control of the flow of the game at times.
Despite this, Takenoko makes an enjoyable light strategy game and its relatively short play time makes it easy to get to the table. If you want a game that is virtually guaranteed to interest non-boardgamers, Takenoko comes highly recommended.