How to Play – Takenoko

How to Play Takenoko

A long, long time ago relations between Japan and China were very strained. After a series of long disputes, things between the two countries were finally on the mend. As a way to celebrate this new era of co-operation between the two countries, the Chinese Emperor sent a gift of peace to the Japanese Emperor - a giant panda bear.

The Japanese Emperor has now entrusted the imperial gardener and you - the players, with the task of keeping this giant panda bear happy! In Takenoko, players have to cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow the three different types of bamboo. All to satisfy the appetite of the giant panda bear, who needs to be kept happy!  So let's take a look at how to play this quiet gem....

Game Components

The components of this game are very well made and look great! Takenoko comes with a panda figure and a gardener figure, a weather dice, bamboo sections in pink, yellow and green. There are also irrigation sticks, land tiles, improvement chips and objective cards.

Setting up the Game

Before gameplay can begin, you will need to place the special pond tile in the middle of the playing area. Place both the imperial gardener and the panda on this plot. Mix the rest of the land plot tiles to form a draw pile and place them face down. Place the irrigation channels in a pile next to the land plots and also the improvements, sorted by their type. Place the emperor card to one side and then sort the remaining cards by their category.

Once you have them sorted into plot, gardener and panda cards, shuffle them and place them down in three draw piles. Each player gets a player board, two action chips and one card from each category. Each player must keep their cards secret. The tallest player gets to start the game. Play proceeds clockwise from there.

Takenoko Gameplay

On your turn you must perform the following actions in order:

  1. Determine the weather conditions.
  2. Perform actions and complete objectives.

Determine Weather Conditions

On your turn you roll the weather die and then apply that weather condition's effect. So, if you roll sun then you would gain an additional action (this must be a different action to the other two actions you perform in this turn). If you roll rain then you may place a piece of bamboo on an irrigated tile of your choice (up to the limit of four bamboo sections per tile). If you roll wind then you can (but you don't have to) take two identical actions this round.

If you roll the storm then you can put the panda on any plot you choose. To recover from the storm, the panda eats a section of the bamboo on that tile. If you roll clouds the you can chose an improvement chip from the reserve. This can either be placed on a tile immediately or kept on your game board. In the event that there are no improvement chips left then you may choose any other weather condition you like. If you get the question mark then you can chose which weather condition you would like to apply.

Perform Actions and Meet Objectives

In Takenoko, each player has two actions to take on each turn. You can chose from five options and you cannot repeat an action - so both actions must be different. To specify which actions you are going to take you must place your action chips on the corresponding spots on your player board.

1. Plots

You draw three plots from the deck, choose one and then place the other two back on the bottom of the deck. The selected plot is then put into play following one or both of these rules. The plot must be adjacent to the pond tile or the plot must be adjacent to two plots already in play. Each plot then grows one, and only one, bamboo shoot of it's colour. Any plots placed next to the pond or that have the watershed improvement, are automatically irrigated. This is something you should definitely think about doing on your first go!

2. Irrigation Channel

You take an irrigation channel from the reserve. You can either play it immediately or you can place it on your player board for later (which is definitely worth doing - I have found that irrigation tends to run out towards the end of the game!). If you decide to put it on your player board then you can use it at any time during your future turns and it does not count as one of your actions.

Irrigation channels are placed at the boarder of two plots and form a network from the corner of the pond plot. The sides of the pond tile do not need irrigation channels. Irrigation is important because without it the bamboo cannot grow! Once a plot is irrigated for the first time it grows one piece of bamboo of the corresponding colour. This only happens to each tile once. A plot is irrigated if it is adjacent to the pond tile or if one of its six edges has an irrigation channel or if it has the watershed improvement. If an irrigation channel irrigates two plots at once then both plots would receive a section of bamboo.

3. Gardener

You can move the gardener in a straight line, any number of plots in any direction. The gardener can only move over plots - not empty spaces, so bare this in mind before you take your move. The gardener grows a piece of bamboo on the plot he ends up on as well as on all directly adjacent plots of the same colour. Plots can only grow bamboo to a maximum height of four, so if a plot has the maximum amount of bamboo, you cannot add any further sections. It is also worth remembering that plots cannot grow bamboo if they are not irrigated, even if the gardener finishes on the plot or the adjacent tile.

4. Panda

You can move the panda in a straight line, any number of plots in the direction you choose. As with the gardener, the panda can only move over plots and not empty spaces in between. The panda then eats a section of bamboo from the plot where he ends up. You then keep this piece of bamboo on your player board and use it to fulfil an objective card.

5. Objectives

You can draw an objective card from a category of your choice and add it to your hand. You can only have five objective cards in your hand at once. If you have five cards in your hand you must complete one of your objective cards before you can draw any more.

Plot objective cards show three or four adjacent plots and to complete this objective the configuration of plots shown on the card must be reflected in the bamboo gardens. Gardener objective cards represent specific bamboo shoots that need to be reflected in the bamboo gardens. They will either have a bamboo shoot with four sections, a bamboo shoot of four sections and an improvement or a group of bamboo shoots with three sections.

Panda objective cards show two or three bamboo sections. To complete the card you must have the sections shown on the card on your player board. Once you have completed the objective card you must return the sections of bamboo used to the reserve.

Completing Objectives in Takenoko

This doesn't count as an action. At any time during your turn you can complete an objective card if the conditions on the card are met. Once you have completed the objective you place the card face up in front of you. You can complete more than one objective card in your turn if you want to.


Improvements can be built into plots already or you can add them to plots if you have acquired an improvement chip thanks to cloudy weather! You can use the improvement chips at any point during your turn and it does not count as an action. Improvements can only be added to plots where no bamboo has grown. This means plots that have only just been placed, plots that are not irrigated and plots where the panda has eaten everything. Each plot can only have one improvement whether it has been built in or added to the plot and it cannot be changed.

The three improvements are;

  • The Enclosure - This protects the bamboo on the plot. It prevents the panda from being able to eat any of the bamboo that grows there but panda can still move over the plot and even stop there. (Just no snacking Panda!)
  • Fertiliser - This increases the growth of bamboo on that tile. So each time the bamboo grows you add two sections to it instead of one up to the maximum of four.
  • The watershed - This provides the bamboo in that plot with all the water it needs to grow the bamboo. This plot therefore, does not need to be irrigated and will automatically get its first growth of bamboo.

Takenoko End Game

The game end in Takenoko depends on the number of players. With two players, once a player completes their ninth objective card this triggers the final round. With three players, a player completing their ninth objective card triggers the final round. With four players the final round is triggered once a player completes seven objective cards.

The player that triggers the final round gets the Emperor card and completes their turn. All other players get one more turn to try and complete any objective cards to improve their score. Each player totals up their points as indicated on their completed objective cards. Any incomplete cards have no value.  The player with the most points wins the game and receives the praise from the Emperor.

Takenoko is a lovely game to play when you just want a nice quiet afternoon of gaming. All you have to worry about is where that pesky panda is going to eat next!