Welcome to Board Games With OB, a somewhat profane, possibly semi-regular feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.
So, for the first game, I looked at my shelf of board games and thought, “OK, this is the first go-round on this. I need a game that’s colorful, easy to learn, and has something awesome about it. You know what’s awesome? Pandas. Pandas are awesome. And I HAVE TAKENOKO WHICH HAS A FUCKING PANDA FIGURINE IN IT HELL YES LET’S DO IT BECAUSE PANDA.”
So, our inaugural edition of Board Games With OB will be a discussion on Takenoko.
Players: 2 to 4
Gametime: Between 45 to 60 minutes.
Designer: Antoine Bauza (France). Bauza is a two-time winner of a Spiel des Jahres award, which is the Pulitzer/Nobel/Best Picture Oscar of the board game world. He won this year’s SdJ for the cooperative card game Hanabi, and won the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres (expert game of the year) for 7 Wonders.
Story: The game of Takenoko takes place in Imperial Japan. The Emperor of China has come to Japan to wrap up a diplomatic agreement, and has presented the Japanese emperor with a gift: A giant panda. This panda will now live in the emperor’s bamboo gardens. You are a member of the Japanese emperor’s court, and your goal is to manage the construction and cultivation of the bamboo garden, along with managing the panda’s consumption of bamboo to meet your personal objectives.
What do you do?: Well, basically on your turn, you get to choose from several different actions to take. Five, to be exact:
- You can add a plot (hexagon tile) to the garden to grow bamboo on. There are three different varieties of bamboo that can be grown, differentiated by color (green, yellow, pink).
- You can move the garden’s gardener figurine to a different plot in the garden. If that plot is irrigated with water, bamboo grows.
- You can move THE FUCKING PANDA FIGURINE to another plot in the garden. If that plot has bamboo growing in it, the panda eats a piece of bamboo.
- You can get an irrigation channel, which can be used to irrigate dry garden plots so they’ll grow bamboo.
- You can get an objective card, which gets you the points needed to win the game.
On your turn, you also roll a “weather” die that, depending on the roll, also has influences on your turn. You might get to do things such as choose three different actions instead of the normal two, you might get to do the same action twice on one turn, you might get to choose a garden plot upgrade (grow bamboo twice as fast, make it so the panda can’t eat bamboo on a plot, etc.), and so on.
“But OB,” you might be saying (proabaly not, but play along here), “What the fuck is the point of all this besides getting to make pretty-looking patterns and PLAY WITH A DAMNED AWESOME FUCKING PANDA FIGURINE?” Well, that’s where the objective cards come in. You want to complete the objective on the cards to score points. The objectives comes in three flavors: Plot objectives (get bamboo plots laid out in the design on the card and irrigated), gardener objectives (get bamboo grown to the color and height(s) indicated on the card) and panda objectives (get the panda to eat the color and quantity of bamboo indicated on the card).
You keep doing all this until one player completes a certain number of objectives (depends on the number of players). The player who does that gets the Emperor card (2 bonus points), and the other players get one more turn to try to complete any objectives they can.
How to taste sweet, sweet victory: After that last turn, everybody counts up the points on the objective cards they’ve completed. Whoever has the most points is The Winner and all the other players must bow down before them in reverence to their glory (Note: the bowing down part is optional. Unless I win, in which case YOU BETTER BOW MOTHERFUCKER.)
So, what’s awesome about this game?
- THERE’S A FUCKING PANDA FIGURINE. AND PANDAS ARE FUCKING AWESOME.
- The weather die does bring with it an element of luck, but it tends to complement the strategy of your action decisions as opposed to overpowering it.
- Great visual appeal on three dimensions with the color choices and the growing bamboo.
- Multiple strategy options. Do you go for the easy-to-accomplish but low-scoring plot objectives to complete objectives as fast as possible before your opponents can score points? Or do you opt for the tougher, but high-scoring gardener objectives? Or shoot for a middle ground with panda objectives?
- Have I mentioned the FUCKING PANDA?
So, there you go. Takenoko, a game I dig, a game I think some of you might dig. Go find it at your FLGS (friendly local game shop) or online.
ADDING: Takenoko is one of the games that is available to play for free online at Board Game Arena. So even if you're a semi-loner like me, you can GET YOUR FUCKING PANDA ON.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post away, yo!
Images via BoardGameGeek