Roughly translating as ‘bamboo sprout’, Takenoko by Bombyx is an adorable board game all about tending to the needs of a hungry panda. Set in the Japanese Emperor’s garden, 2-4 players will compete in an action points allowance system, where they are aiming to complete secret mini-missions – whether that be feed the panda or grow the garden to a particular size (or height).
The garden in Takenoko starts out as one hexagonal pond tile. Two pre-painted minis – the panda and the gardener – begin here. This garden will grow in a modular fashion through the game as player attempt to race to complete seven Objective Cards (in a four-player game).
There are five different actions players can pick from on their turn. They have to pick two different actions from the following:
- Draw three garden plots (hex tiles), pick one to lay into the garden and discard the other two.
- Take an irrigation channel from the reserve.
- Move the gardener in a straight line (thus increasing the bamboo to grow in that plot as well as on adjacent tiles of the same colour).
- Move the panda in a straight line (‘eating’ – removing – a piece of bamboo from that tile).
- Draw a face-down Objective Card.
The key to Takenoko is completing those Objectives. They range from feeding certain types or quantities of bamboo to the panda (there are common green tiles that grow green bamboo, less-common yellow, and rarer-still pink), to having certain
alignments of garden terrain (such as a row of 3x yellows, for example), to having a certain amount of bamboo grown in a certain tile. Rather deliciously, these objectives butt heads somewhat, because while Player A is trying to grow bamboo using the gardener, Player B might be more interested in feeding it to the panda!
To add spice, tiles have to be within an irrigation network in order to grow bamboo, so tile placement is a real consideration. Some tiles will also have symbols on them, meaning that bamboo grows at twice the rate, or perhaps it cannot be fed to the panda at all. These symbols can also be acquired to place on plain tiles, meaning you can control the layout to a degree.
There is no limit as to how many Objective Cards you complete on your turn, but your hand size is limited. Helpfully, on your turn you also roll a Weather Die, which will inform you which of the six bonuses the weather gives you (ranging from an additional third action to select, to having the option to take the same action twice, and so on).
Takenoko is wonderfully vivid. And since there are literal bamboo towers that you’ll build, along with a cute, mini panda moving about, it gathers lots of attention from curious passers-by. Gameplay is simple to grasp, and games last about 45 minutes. Simply put, Antoine Bauza’s Takenoko ticks every box going for being a brilliant gateway game!
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 45 Minutes