Takenoko is a game of growing bamboo. If you were looking for spaceships or samurai though, don’t be too disheartened. This is reasonably fast-paced and family-friendly fare.
The ‘board’ is actually comprised of a growing number of hexes: at the start of the game, only one (the pond) is visible, and players will build the bamboo garden around it. Two characters start on the pond together: the gardener, and the ever-hungry panda. Players each have a small board to show what actions they are taking on a given turn, and everyone receives three goal cards – more on those in a moment.
On your turn, you take two (different) actions from the following: add a hex to the garden, move the gardener, move the panda, take a goal card, or irrigate. You want the garden to grow, as everyone is after bamboo, and whenever a hex is added, it instantly grows a section of bamboo on it. You want to move the gardener, as whichever part of the garden he visits grows more bamboo, And you definitely want to move the panda, as the panda eats a section of bamboo wherever he ends up (assuming there’s any there) and you keep that digested bamboo for yourself – it’ll get you points later. Hexes that aren’t adjacent to the pond don’t grow bamboo unless they are irrigated, so that’s your reason for taking that action. And goal cards just give you certain goals to score you points: either a collection of bamboo of certain colours and/or amounts, or a specific pattern of hexes in the garden itself.
After the first round has finished, players roll the weather die at the start of all subsequent turns: the die gives you one of a number of little boosts; such as moving the panda or farmer (ignoring the usual straight-lines only rule) taking a duplicate action, or even a free (third) action. Any time you complete a goal card, you must announce it and play it face-up to the table.
Play continues until any one player has completed seven goal cards, at which point the game will end after the current round finishes.
A rather lovingly-produced and gentle game where combative play is non-existent, but it definitely contains tactical play. Easy to learn as well, this is good one for families, especially kids who don’t want to feel targeted. It didn’t go down that well in our house, but I think that was purely down to the theme, as we played it at a time when the kids were more interested in space battles than horticulture. Kids, eh?
Low - there is no fighting, stealing, or ambushing here. However you may find your plans inadvertently held up by opponent's moves.
Low - you shouldn't be waiting too long for your turn.
Low - there's no heavy thinking involved, and options aren't that plentiful.
Goal cards and shuffled hexes bring some variety, as does the weather die. It's a gentle game.