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How To Play Hanamikoji


Welcome to the most famous geisha street in Hanamikoji! Masters of art, music, dance, and performance, you want their favour and you want it now! How do you get it? Well, friends, that’s what I am here to show you!

Set Up Is Simple

You place the 7 large Geisha cards in numerical order in a row between the players so that each person is sitting opposite the other. Each card gets a victory token placed in the centre.

Players choose their 4 colour Action Markers and set them down in front of themselves colour side up.

First player then shuffles the 21 item cards (whose colours match the Geishas) and discards one face down back into the box, before dealing 6 face down cards to each person. The remaining item cards form a deck at the end of the Geisha Row. Note that the Geishas and their matching item cards show a “charm value” – this has relevance at end of round scoring (see below).

That’s it! You are ready to play!

Take A Turn

Players alternate taking one action each until all 4 have been used on both sides.

Whoever goes first must draw a card from the item deck into their hand.

Then it’s time for them to choose their action from the 4 in front of them:

  1. Secret - you take a card from your hand and place it face down under the Action Token with a tick on it. That card is then reserved for you to place at the end of the round.
  2. Trade Off – You choose two cards from your hand and place them face down under the Action Token with two cross symbols. Those cards will not be placed or scored this round.
  3. Gift – You choose 3 cards from your hand a place them face up. Your opponent chooses one and places this on their side under the matching Geisha. You do the same on your side with the remaining two cards for scoring at round end.
  4. Competition - you select 4 cards from your hand and arrange them into 2 piles face up so that your opponent can only see the top card on each pile. They choose one and place the two cards on their side underneath the relevant Geisha(s). You do the same on your side. All of the cards will be scored at round end.

Once you have chosen your action this turn, you flip your Action Token over so that it shows the greyed out side. This helps to remind you that those actions may not be used again this round. Then it is the next player’s turn to draw a card from the item deck and then perform an action.

Once all 8 Action Markers have been flipped by both parties, it’s time for round scoring.

First, the Secret cards get revealed and added to the relevant side of the matching coloured Geisha. Then players compare the number of item cards on each side of every Geisha. Whoever has collected the most has won the favour of that particular artist and so the victory token slides to their side of the card. If there is a draw, the victory token stays put in the centre.

Winner Winner Ramen Dinner?

If one player has won the favour of 4 Geishas (i.e. they have the majority on 4 different Geisha cards) they win the game. Alternatively, if both players have less than 4 Geishas, the winning player will be the one whose charm values add up to 11 or more – note that the charm values are not multiplied by the number of cards used to win a particular Geisha (so e.g. a majority set of 2 x flautists (purple Geisha with a charm value of 2) is still only worth 2 charms).

If nobody has achieved the victory condition, the item cards get collected up (including the one in the box) and they get shuffled ready for another round. Importantly, the victory tokens remain where they are so players start the next round knowing that they are going to have to decide whether to defend an existing victory or go after their opponent’s!

Gloriously Painful! Hanamikoji is a superb 2 player card game. The basic idea is set collection, and you think only 4 actions is going to make for a short, simple game. But what you do with those 4 moves means everything. This is “I cut you choose” turned up to maximum volume! And when I tell you that you are going to need mental mettle to win, I am not exaggerating!

Every action hurts. You know you are potentially (and literally) playing into your opponent’s hands when you offer something up. Even discarding cards feels like you are shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to potential majorities.

My eyeballs start sweating when I play Hanamikoi – I know staring at my Action Markers and my cards isn’t going to make a jot of difference. But I retain a glimmer of hope that the intensity of my laser pointed focus could cause the cards to spontaneously combust, just so that I don’t have to put anything down!

Fortune favours the brave, or so they say. And I hope this guide helps you steel yourself ready for the pursuit of the beautiful and musical Geishas in Hanamikoji!