Takenoko – The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

Winter is here with it’s gray and cold. A game centering around growth and the great outdoors seems like just the thing right now.

A friend brought this game over, and I loved it, though I must admit I got really hung up on one of the cards. 😬

Cover of Takenoko

Man vs. nature – a very basic conflict, which in this game it’s manifested as a gardener trying to grow bamboo while a panda is eating it. Anyone who has dealt with deer eating bushes or dogs digging up flowers can relate to the poor gardener.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-4

Play time: 45 minutes

Age: 13+

By: Asmodee

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Panda figurine on tiles with pink bamboo pieces.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

When most people think panda, they think the large, black and white, bear-like creature gracing these tiles. Not the crazy cute red ones dubbed the First Pandas by the Chinese – Red Pandas, nor the “Trash Pandas” that grace our lawns – raccoons. That’s a different game.

Tiles placed at the end of the game.

In this game, you will at times gain control of either the panda or the gardener. These tokens are not monopolized by any players.

Players find out the weather, draw and place a tile, move either panda or gardener, irrigate the land to help bamboo grow, gain or place tokens (anti-panda, and for/against tokens for irrigation and fertilization), or they may draw new goal cards.A yellow bamboo goal card.

The weather effects the actions for the turn. A die is cast indicating whether it will be:

  • ☀️sunny (extra action)
  • 🌧rainy (one extra bamboo)
  • 💨windy (two of same action if desired)
  • 🌩stormy (scared panda dashed through the forest then gorges itself for comfort)
  • ☁️cloudy (no irrigation, fertilization or anti-panda tokens may be placed)
  • ❔and lastly, a wildcard ❔sidePlayer card.
  • While this game is adorable, easy to play, and has few words … the coloration is not the most distinctive. This is somewhat addressed by differences between tile design, (a circle indicates a three leaves for pink, two leaves for yellow, and one leaf for green) but it’s my opinion that those are small and could be easily missed by someone who is color blind.
  • The lack of text makes this a good game for those of us who may need reading glasses from time to time, or who are dyslexic.Mischievous panda figure.
  • The pieces are on the smaller side, and we did have a few instances of bumped tiles needing straightening despite none of us having issues with motor skills. At the same time – it was no more tedious than average. The irrigation lines are probably the most difficult to handle as they are very thin rectangular blocks.Goal cards.
  • Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Gameplay is very straightforward. The beginning of the game gives you three goal cards (like Ticket to Ride). There is no penalty for incomplete goals – you simply don’t receive the points for them. I should have tried to get more goals earlier in the game. Instead I was hung up on a specific tile pattern placement goal and … ya snooze, ya lose. As I’m wont to do, I did not play as aggressively as needed to be successful. Though honestly isn’t that my mood toward life? Hmmm. Too philosophical and deep for this cutesy game.

    Placing the tiles and choosing a course of action are pretty quick, but there are so many options as the game progresses that it can be time consuming to decide your turn.The gardener piece.

    Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

    Here’s one point where it did struggle a little. I found my mind wandering as others played. There’s not a lot that can be done while other players are thinking about their turns.

    The game play is fairly quick, so I wasn’t bored for long.

    Planning my own turns ahead of time was not very successful. The board changes quite a bit with four players by the time it’s your turn again.

    Irrigation tiles, and sprouts of green and yellow bamboo.

    In Conclusion

    This is an adorable game. It even has a chibi expansion! I can see it appealing to a wide care of players. It’s like Catan with pandas. The backstory of this game is that a long time ago a Chinese emperor offered a Japanese emperor a panda as a symbol of peace, but it was challenging to take care of. This game incorporates tile placement like Settlers of Catan and requires strategy for fulfilling the goal cards like Ticket to Ride. Unlike Ticket to Ride, the tickets do not count against you if you fail to complete them (I shoulda grabbed more tickets!!!!!).

    Panda next to a pagoda.

    This post is #NotSponsored. Takenoko is available at Walmart (yes, Walmart). I’m suggesting them because I price checked and as of this date the difference was substantial.

    Happy Gaming! Play On!

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