Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Antoine Bauza


No. of Players:
2 - 4

G@mebox Star



The Japanese word "Takenoko" is a combination of the words "Take" (Bamboo) and "Ko" (Child), and combined with the kanji-syllable "no" the complete word means "Bamboo Sprout". And indeed, bamboo sprouts play an important role in the new MATAGOT-game Takenoko, since the players assume the roles of gardeners who have to take care of a giant, bamboo-eating Panda who was given to the Japanese Emperor by his Chinese counterpart.

During the course of the game the players score victory points by fulfilling objective cards, and three different categories of objectives exist in the game. On the one hand there are gardening objectives which can be fulfilled by completing a certain layout of bamboo tiles in the garden. Next come the gardener objectives, and here a player needs to have bamboo-sections of a certain height on one of more bamboo tiles in the garden. Finally, and in opposition to the gardener objectives come the panda objectives, and these can be fulfilled it a player can feed a certain combination of Bamboo-sections to the giant panda which roams the garden. Each player starts the game with a hand of one objective card coming from each category, but more cards must be drawn as an action during play, because the game ends when a player has completed a certain number of these objectives. Now all players total the victory points from all of their completed objectives, and the player with most points will have won the game.

Photo of a large-scale demo copy at the SPIEL '11 convention

The situation at the beginning is quite straightforward. Of the garden just one special tile with a pond has been placed, and on this tile the figures of the panda and of the Royal Gardener are waiting for action. Taking turns, the players now have the possibility to take two different actions each, and whenever a player succeeds in completing the task set out on one or more of his objective cards during his turn he may declare this, show the card to the other players and place it onto his own stack of completed objective cards.

As indicated, a player may use an action to draw an additional objective card from one of the three different categories of objective cards, but he may also opt to draw a hand of three bamboo tiles, choosing and placing one of these tiles next to the already placed tiles and discarding the excess tiles. However, the placement of a bamboo tile in the garden is not enough to start the bamboo growing, but instead the tile must receive irrigation in order for the first bamboo section to be placed on the tile. Thus, all tiles placed adjacent to the pond tile are automatically irrigated, but all other tiles must be irrigated by the use of channels which can connect the tile to the pond. Thus, a player may spend his action to take one channel, and he may place it along tile borders so that one channel always irrigates the two adjacent tiles (placement is just like the roads in Settlers of Catan). However, if a player prefers to wait, he may just take a Channel and use it in a later turn together with other channels in order to make a longer connection. Once a bamboo tile is irrigated, a first section of bamboo matching the colour of the bamboo tile is placed on the tile.

Further growth of the bamboo can be reached by moving the Royal Gardener, and a player may use one of his actions to move the Gardener in a straight line for as many bamboo tiles as he chooses. After the movement, one section of bamboo will be added to the tile where the Gardener stopped, but in addition one bamboo section also will be added to all neighbouring bamboo tiles of the same colour. Thus, the bamboo on the tiles can become bigger and bigger, up to a maximum of four sections.

However, the bamboo is in constant danger of being eaten, because the players also may use an action to move the panda. Once again, the movement may be for any number of tiles along a straight line, and where the panda stops he will proceed with his destructive work by consuming one section of bamboo from that tile (if available). The active player may place this section onto his own collection board, and when he has enough sections of the required colour(s) he may use these sections to fulfil an objective card.

As can be seen, competition between the players depends on the kinds of objective cards they have drawn, but usually there will be a conflict of interest between players who want bamboo to grow in a certain height to fulfil gardener objectives and other players who want to consume some of the tasty bamboo with the giant Panda. This competition becomes more pronounced after the first few rounds, since the start phase sees the players more active in terms of placing bamboo tiles and thus fulfilling some gardening objectives.

An additional element of chance comes into the game through the weather dice which each player needs to roll at the beginning of his turn. Depending on the result of the dice, the active player may gain an additional action (sun), a free bamboo section for placement on a tile of his choice (rain), the possibility to perform two identical actions (storm) or a free movement and eating action of the panda (he is frightened of a thunderstorm and needs to hide and recover). The fifth possible results are clouds, and this allows the player to draw a random improvement chip from the reserve. Three different improvements exist in the game, and the player can add them directly or later to a bamboo tile of his choice. One of these improvements is a small pond which will water the tile even if no channel is present, whereas the fertilizer chips mean that two sections of bamboo grow on this tile whenever there is growth. Finally, the enclosure will protect all bamboo on this tile, and the poor hungry panda will not be able to eat any bamboo from there.

The cute comic at the beginning of the rulebook illustrates the general situation in the game. There seems to be quite a bit of chaos, with the players desperately longing to fulfil their gardener objectives but with their efforts constantly spoiled by the ravenous panda. However, the game certainly leaves room for tactical play, and despite the opposite approach Takenoko has some first hand similarities with Hey, that's my fish! by Günter Cornett where ice tiles with fish are stepwise removed (and not added). However, this similarity is only concerning the basic placement and movement principles, since Takenoko chooses a somewhat different tactical approach due to a higher influence of luck caused by the use of the weather dice and the randomly drawn objective cards. Players with a liking for planning games must be aware that they will find their plans thwarted on a regular basis, but on the other hand this is exactly the reason why the game offers a quite high entertainment factor. And, despite the unpredictable results of the weather dice, there are some possibilities to plot and plan, and it's quite fulfilling for a player if everything works out so that multiple objectives can be fulfilled within the same turn.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany