Takenoko – Review

Welcome to my lovely garden, I’m glad you are enjoying your time here. What? That thing behind me. Oh that’s just a Panda eating all the Bamboo. Yes he will probably make himself sick. Sorry, I have to go and make this bamboo over here grow some more so the ravenous little git can eat it later. Don’t mind me. Please enjoy the garden.


Not exactly Black and White

As you can see we haven’t built up the garden a lot yet. Oh you would like to lend a hand, that’s extremely generous of you. Well let’s see we could do with the help since the Emperor is on his way and we need to get ready. Let’s make it a bit of a game shall we, inject some fun into the proceedings.

First of all you’ll need some direction, you can’t just go about willy nilly planting bamboo and getting that *beep* panda to eat it. No, you need to do it in a certain way so grab some objective cards would you and let’s get to it. Oh sorry, they do come in 3 different flavours:  my that bamboo is tall, what a lovely garden & panda nom nom.


From left to right ‘Grow bamboo in yellow 4 tall on a hex with a panda fence’, ‘align 3 pink hexes that are irrigated in this pattern’, ‘feed the panda one of each bamboo type’

Each of these objectives, will be fulfilled under different conditions.

My that Bamboo is tall: Once you’ve grown the bamboo depicted you will get some points

My what a lovely garden: Once you’ve expanded our garden in the correct way, keeping an eye on irrigated and dry sections, you will get some points.

Panda Nom Nom: Once the little git has eaten the amount of bamboo depicted you will get some points.

To throw some fun, read complication, into the mix you can’t just fulfill these objectives will nilly. Oh no. Sometimes we will require you to make sure you are growing the bamboo in an enclosure or similar, don’t worry we will get to those I can see I am front loading things a bit, you’ve got that confused look on your face.

Now every game needs to end so let’s say once one of you has completed a certain number of these, that probably means there is only one more day before the emperor arrives. Once he’s been we total up all the points from your objectives, that’s the number in the bottom right of each card. To add a little spice to the proceedings the first person to complete the right number of objectives will meet the emperor first getting a few bonus points. Employee with the most points is the winner!

Now we all need to start somewhere and in this case we are going to start on this beautiful ornamental pond. No there are no ducks, just some coy carp. This pond will supply some water to the tiles next to it, what do you mean why is that important? Well no water means no irrigation doesn’t it, can’t grow bamboo without water. Well yes we can make channels out from the pond, did you read the job description?


The starting setup

Look let’s recap what you are here to do. You can go out into the garden and build some irrigation channels, you can expand the garden (the emperor likes a big garden), you can grow bamboo, you can shoo that ‘lovely’ panda around, ask the head gardener ‘politely’ to attend to your particular part of the garden or you can come to me for another objective if you like.


The pink tiles are all irrigated and would allow you to play the ‘My what a lovely garden’ card above. The yellow hex on the far right is not irrigated, all hexes adjacent to the pond are irrigated.

What do you mean that sounds a bit odd? Look expanding the garden will help you with your ‘my what a lovely garden‘ objectives, shooing the panda about will make him hungry helping with your ‘panda nom nom‘ objectives and growing bamboo will help you with the ‘my that bamboo is tall‘ objective.

Of course the panda only moves in one direction and stops when he meets an edge or an enclosure, don’t worry we will get to the enclosures. That’s how panda’s move. Don’t you know anything? Once the Panda stops moving he noms a single piece of the bamboo in that part of the Garden. The head Gardner moves the same way and grows bamboo wherever he ends up as well as nearby (he gets a bit enthusiastic).

Is that it? What do you mean by that. This isn’t simple, there is always something going on and never enough time to do everything you want. In fact you’ll probably only have time to get a couple of things done in one day and I don’t want to catch you ever doing the same thing twice. Well maybe occasionaly.



Cloudy (renovations), Sunny (extra action) , Question Mark (choose another side)


Lightning (move the Panda to any hex), Rain (grow some Bamboo), Windy (Same action twice)

Look. Look. Here is the deal. The garden’s a bit weird and who knows what random stuff might happen during your work day. Occasionally I’ll ease up on you and give you a hand allowing you to do 3 things that day, maybe it will rain or I’ll allow you to do the same thing twice. Lightning scares Mr. Panda, he insists on being called that to his face, and he pops up somewhere random and the clouds mean it’s a good day to get some renovations done on the garden. You really didn’t read the job description did you?


From left to right: A spring, Anti Panda 1000 fencing, Bamboo growing

There are 3 renovations that we normally do to the garden. Sometimes we manage to find a spring under a new part of the garden so we don’t need to run irrigation channels down to it. We have a limited amount of Anti Panda 1000 fencing that we can deploy, yes I am just trying to make gardening exciting, should you earn my favour. That will protect your bamboo from being eaten should the Panda turn up there. The last renovation means deploying one of the sub-gardeners to look after your latest plot, meaning the bamboo will grow taller, real tall. (Oh slight side note some bits of the Garden will have these in them already, previous seasons work and all that).

That really is it in the end. You have to make best use of your time in this Garden and with the Emperor coming you are bound to fall over one of the other recruits rushing around trying to appease all the demands we have set upon you, but don’t worry. I think you have potential. Now grab this rake and get out there and don’t look round. The Panda is behind you!

Welcome Back to Reality

Takenoko is one of my favourite gateway games at the moment: beautiful to look at, simple to teach with interesting decisions. What’s not to like? I thoroughly recommend you add it to your collection for those times when you need to introduce people to the hobby in a gentler way than something like Lords of Vegas, which is my other goto Gateway game for folks I think will enjoy a more confrontational time.

Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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