Takenoko: Gardening for the Emperor

The gardener and the Panda both at your disposal to cultivate the garden.
The gardener and the panda both at your disposal to cultivate the Emperor’s garden.

In Takenoko you are racing to complete a set number of tasks dependant on the number of players. Either feeding the panda the type of bamboo he wants to eat, having the gardener tend bamboo to a desired height, or arranging the coloured bamboo hexes in a particular pattern. It is usually a peaceful game as your tasks are hidden from the other players, although it is possible to mess up someone’s plans either inadvertently or sometimes even on purpose (if you figure out what one of their tasks might be).

The pieces are beautiful, the little panda is cute and the pieces of bamboo slot together well. The communal garden is very pretty to look at as it grows throughout the game.

Early in the game and the garden is in its infancy.
Early in the game and the garden is in its infancy.

Play is quick as on your turn you roll the weather dice to find out your bonus and then take two additional different actions. Actions include expanding the garden, moving the gardener or panda, taking on irrigation channel or choosing a new objective.

Generally the easiest objectives to complete are the panda ones, which just involve moving the panda to eat the required combination of coloured bamboo. Although on most turns you are only able to move the panda once, so these are a slow but steady way to complete objectives.

Creating set patterns of coloured bamboo hexes which must have a water supply is probably the next easiest. You draw the top three hexes and choose the one you want, so you have a fairly good chance to draw the colour you need. The biggest risk with these objectives are other players putting a hex where you were needing to put a different colour. It can also be quite slow to get a water supply to hexes that are far from the starting pool – either you need to build a long irrigation channel or have the weather dice grant you the ability to draw a water improvement.

Growing bamboo to the required height is the hardest to achieve. The bamboo cannot be too tall or short and these tasks often require certain improvements to exist on the hexes (improvements can be awarded in certain weather conditions or be pre-printed on the hexes). Other players can easily thwart these tasks by munching the bamboo you were carefully tending or by growing the bamboo you wanted to keep short.

The garden is complete and the Emperor judges who has best met his requirements.
The garden is complete and the Emperor judges who has best met his requirements.

Overall, this is a low conflict game but with a good amount of interaction as you are cultivating the same garden. The objectives are easy to understand and as you are allowed to have five uncompleted ones in your hand there is always plenty of options to choose between on your turn.

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