By: Kristen McCarty
The story is set in the Japanese Imperial Court, after many years of arguing the diplomatic relations between China and Japan are finally on the mend. The Chinese have sent a scared Giant Panda to celebrate the alliance.
The Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players), with the task of caring for the animal by setting up his bamboo garden. The court members will cultivate land plots, irrigate them and grown of the three species of bamboo on the plots, with the Imperial gardeners help.
The court member who grows the most bamboo, managing the panda’s ravenous hunger for the delicate bamboo, and the plots will win the game.
The components for Takenoko are beautiful and top quality. The plots are large hexagonal pieces. They come in three colors, green, yellow and pink. There is also the starting “pond” tile where bamboo does not grow.
The wooden bamboo comes in two different shapes; the base / top and center pieces. They also come in the same three colors of the plots; green, yellow, and pink.
Because the bamboo needs water there are included wooden blue irrigation sticks. The last wooden component is the weather dice. It is rolled to determine what the weather condition will be during a players turn.
There are also three types of improvement chips that players can use to help the bamboo grow. There are three categories of objective cards that help players earn victory points. At the end of the game the Emperor card will visit the garden and declare the winner.
My favorite components are the Gardener and Panda. The Gardner supervises the bamboo to make sure the bamboo grows. The Giant Panda roams freely through the bamboo and eats the bamboo the Gardner has tried to grow.
The special “pond tile” should be placed in the center of the playing space. The Gardner and the Panda are placed on the plot. The remaining Land Plot tiles are mixed to form a draw pile, and placed face down. The irrigation channels and improvements (sorted by type) are placed next to this draw pile as a reserve.
The Emperor Card is set aside and the other cards should be sorted by category (plot, gardener, and panda) and shuffled to form three draw piles.
Each player should be given an individual player board, two action chips, and one card of each category. The tallest player should start the game.
On a players turn, a player must perform two steps in this order. First they must determine weather conditions and then perform actions and complete objectives.
1. Determine Weather Conditions
During the first round of play the weather does not come into play, player ignore this step and
proceed directly to the next.
The player rolls the weather die and applies the effect of the climatic conditions obtained.
Sun – “Great sun shines on the bamboo garden.” the player gains an additonal action. This action must be different from their two regular actions.
Rain – “A fine rain nourishes young bamboo shoots.” The player may place a bamboo section on the irrigated plot of his choice, up to a limit of four sections per plot.
Wind – “A refreshing breeze blows through the bamboo garden.” The player may, but is not required to, take two identical actions in this round (instead of two different actions).
Storm – “The sky rumbles and lightning strikes, frightening the panda.” The player can put the panda on the plot of his choice. To recover from his fear, the shy animal eats a section of bamboo.
Clouds – “Gray clouds darken the sky. Never mind, it is time to go on and perform same handy work.” The player chooses an Improvement chip from those available in the reserve. It can then be placed immediately on a plot or stored on his individual board. If no Improvement is available the player applies the effect of another climatic condition of their choice.
Question Mark – If they get the “?” face, the player chooses what conditions they wish to apply this turn: Sun, Rain, Wind, Storm or Clouds.
2. Perform Actions and Meet Objectives
The player has two actions to take which must be chosen from among five options. These actions must be different from one another. To finalize their choices, the player puts two chips on the appropriate spaces of their individual board. The order in which the actions are resolved is chosen by the player. Then the player passes the weather die to the player on his left
Plots – The player draws three plots and chooses one.
Irrigation Channel – The player takes an irrigation channel from the reserve. He can use it immediately or keep it in his reserve for later rounds.
Gardener – The player moves the gardener in a straight line in the direction of his choice. He grows a section of bamboo on the plot where he finishes this movement as well as one all adjacent plots of the same color. Remember: Section only grow on irrigated plots.
Panda – The player moves the panda in a straight line in the direction of his choice. The panda eats a bamboo section from the plot where he finishes his movement.
Objective – The player draws an objective card of the category of their choosing and adds it to his hand.
The player draws three plots, chooses one and places the other two back on top of the deck, face down in order of his choice. The selected plot is then put into play following either one of both of the following rules: The plot is adjacent to the special “pond tile.” The plot is adjacent to two plots already in play.
Each plot can grown one and only one bamboo shoot of its color.
Note: the plots next to the special pond and those with the watershed improvement are automatically irrigated! a bamboo section is immediately added (see irrigation). Regardless of color, some plots have built in improvements.