In the latest of our board game spotlights, Zatu Games gently teases open its encrusted lids and directs its viewholes at Takenoko, the 2011 release from designer Antoine Bauza and publisher Bombyx.
A lot of games grapple with trivial subjects like city construction, disease and the Cold War. It can leave you yearning for a title that centres on life’s more intellectual and taxing truths. In answer to that plaintive call comes Takenoko, a game in which you feed a chubby panda bamboo.
The concept stems (lol) from a story about the Chinese Emperor giving a large panda to the Japanese Emperor as a symbol of peace, which is far better than the Twix I gave the last person I punched. Players are members of the royal court, tasked with cultivating and tending the creature’s bamboo garden.
The rules are simple: each turn, a player may take two out of five possible actions. They can take an objective card, which will give them a goal to accomplish like growing a specific type of bamboo; draw three plot tiles and place one down, creating land they can later cultivate; use irrigation canals to provide existing tiles with water; move the gardener and his excellent haircut to grow bamboo on existing tiles; or move the panda to eat some of those juicy shoots.
Completing objectives gives you points. Having the most points at the end wins you the game for some reason. The objective card mechanic makes for an interesting game dynamic. If one player’s card urges them to feed the panda only blue bamboo, while another’s suggests pink, then the obviously the two must compete, ideally in single combat. However, one may have the objective to grow a certain type of bamboo while the other must lay down plots of a specific type, meaning in some instances players’ actions are complementary.
Bombyx are a French company known for competitive word guessing game Wordz and, of course, for Panda gullet stuffer Takenoko.
Antoine Bauza is perhaps best known for his extremely successful title 7 Wonders. Originally a student of chemistry and computer science, since turning to game design he has won a number of prestigious awards.
Like the sound of Takenoko? Buy it right here from Zatu Games!