Hey, gang! In this week’s The Robot Plays, I’m talking about Takenoko by Asmodee, designed by Antoine Bauza.

This is a very tight multi-objective game with a lot to love. Basically, you and up to three opponents take turns building and irrigating a bamboo garden, moving a Gardener miniature to grow the bamboo chutes, and moving a Panda miniature to gobble the bamboo up. You’ve got your choice of three different types of objectives to score points – “Panda” objectives, which you score when the Panda’s gobbled up enough bamboo of specific colors, “Gardener” objectives, which you score when the Gardener grows enough bamboo of specific colors, and “Plot” objectives, which you score when the board has a specific configuration of bamboo fields.

So there’s quite a bit of meta strategy involved – for example, if one player is going for a lot of Panda objectives, it may be more difficult for you to score your Gardener objectives. And the board set-up is of utmost importance – moving the farmer across the tiles ultimately allows for more bamboo to grow, while moving the panda across the tiles gobbles up more bamboo. Where the 3 different colored tiles are placed matters too – it’s easier for the Gardener to grow where fields of the same color are adjacent to one another. There’s a lot of nuance to this seemingly simple game, and I’m considering getting the expansion, Takenoko Chibis, since I can see Takenoko making its way into my rotation.

Takenoko game.jpg

One thing that I really love about this game, though, is how it reminds me that the best games also take themselves seriously as physical objects – as pieces of art.

It would have been simple for the game to use cardboard tokens to represent chutes of bamboo, but instead it uses custom wooden bamboo chutes that stack together. This adds a lot to the gameplay experience, and it’s really cool to see the bamboo garden grow as the game goes on. All of the artwork for the game lends itself so well to the humorous theme of this tireless gardener and a gluttonous panda constantly at odds with each other. One of my favorite little details is the pained look on the Gardener’s face compared with the jolly Panda.

Takenoko Gardener and Panda.JPG

Played Takenoko? What are your thoughts? Or have you played any other fun games lately? I’d love to hear about it! Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,

Nick

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