Takenoko Game Review – A fun Family Game about a Panda and some Bamboo

Takenoko Board GameTakenoko Board Game

Wondering if a game about a Panda eating Bamboo is right for you? Read my Takenoko Game Review, and you will see that this fun game is perfect for the whole family! In Takenoko (which means delicious “bamboo shoots” in Japanese) your objective is to lay out plots of land, irrigate them, grow bamboo, and feed a panda … all while completing enough objectives to score the victory points you need to please the Emperor! This sweet game, designed by Antoine Bauza (of 7 Wonders fame) is perfect for young players… but is also complex enough for serious board gamers… To me, that makes it an essential for any family board game collection.


How to Play Takenoko

takenoko game reviewIn Takenoko, you are trying to grow perfect plots of green, pink and yellow bamboo for the Emperor… and manage the panda who is trying to EAT your bamboo! You have certain objectives to reach in order to gain points, and receive the Emperor’s favor.

Game play is fairly straight forward, on your turn you may do 2 Actions (or three if you are lucky with a die roll).

  1. Create a plot of land …. choose the top 3 hex tiles, and play the one you like (discard the others)
  2. Irrigate the land… bamboo needs water to grow, so irrigation lines are necessary!
  3. Move the Gardener… moving the gardener to a new plot of land causes the bamboo to grow.
  4. Move the Panda… when you move the panda to a new location, he gets to eat bamboo.
  5. Improve the land… you can choose to make special improvements to the land, like fertilizer or panda fencing.
  6. Choose a new objective card… either related to the Gardener, the plots or the Panda’s appetite.

Adding to the fun, a die with weather symbols gets rolled before each turn, to see what special bonus you get. Will it be an extra action? Will the rain make bamboo grow a little faster? Or will lightening scare the Panda into moving to the plot of your choice?

The actions are meant to help you resolve the objective cards.

Objectives could be as simple as; Panda eats 2 pieces of green bamboo. They can also be more complex; Gardener manages to grow 3 stalks of pink bamboo 3 segments tall. Other objectives have to do with the color layout of bamboo plots.

When you have achieved an objective, you can choose to lay down your card and collect those points.( Of course, you can always keep the cards in your hand as a secret… but you risk the board changing, and the panda eating a stalk you needed!) The person who first completes 7 objectives wins the favor of the Emperor (an extra 2 points), and triggers the final round. Everyone else gets one more turn…. and then points are added up. The highest score wins.

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Takenoko Game Review

I was easily able to lure my daughter to the gaming table for one reason… the Panda. This adorable round figure, combined with the pink bamboo made us all think… “awwww… this will be an easy game.

And it is.

And it isn’t.

Let me explain. Learning Takenoko is fairly straightforward. But, like many games, learning to use the right strategy to not only achieve your goals, but actually thwart your opponents… that’s where it gets interesting. Laying down the right combinations of bamboo plots can be difficult, especially if others are also laying down plots that they need. And sometimes you want to grow bamboo, and other people send a Panda in to eat it!

Honestly, this really is a great game for teaching kids and new players how to play a game based on actions instead of dice rolls. It takes some critical thinking and planning to achieve your goals.

But don’t think of this as a childish game!

how to play takenoko

Poor Panda… this Bamboo is off limits…

The Panda may make the game look “cute”, but a cute theme doesn’t mean boring. (You could create a new version of the game with Cthulhu eating sanity, and suddenly, it becomes quite edgy, without changing the game mechanics). The game is solid and interesting. And we get quite competitive when we play.

Takenoko Game Components

takenoko game review

All the components store neatly

I love the components of this game! Both figurines are painted plastic. The adorable Panda figurine is perfect, chubby and round… and the Gardener figurine has a great look of exasperation on his face. The bamboo is made from painted wood, and each segment slides neatly into the other, and they stack well. The game “board” pieces are cardboard of a decent thickness, and are illustrated nicely. Finally, the cards are cards… I wish they could be a little bigger, but they do the job. Also included is a wooden weather die… painted with symbols for weather, and improvement tokens.

The included box insert stores everything neatly.

Who Can Play Takenoko

how to play Takenoko

Player Board.. keeps everything organized

The box says 8 and up can play Takenoko in about 45 minutes. For some reason, Amazon says 14 and up… ignore that. I really feel like an 8 year old can pick up this game and enjoy it…. maybe with supervision the first few times, but after that, no problem.

As a family game Takenoko shines. Adults can play with kids, and be competitive. The rules are simple enough for kids to manage on their own against grown ups… and adults won’t find it boring and repetitive.

And for  an advanced Board Game hobbiest? Takenoko makes a great filler game. You can use some serious strategy, and even use some offensive moves to keep opponents on their toes. (And if the cute panda bugs you, replace the figure with one of your D&D minis… you will feel better)

Don’t hesitate to add Takenoko to your Family Game Night line-up!

Where to buy Takenoko

Takenoko comes in a regular edition… and a super deluxe Collectors edition.
The primary difference…. SIZE! Both have the same components … but the Collectors edition has wonderful HUGE pieces; he Panda is 7 inches tall instead of 1. Perfect if you play a LOT, and easier to see and handle for people of all ages.
We just have the regular, and it works very well.

Takenoko Board GameTakenoko Board GameTakenoko Collector's EditionTakenoko Collector’s Edition


Takenoko Expansions

Can’t get enough Takenoko? Add a bunch of baby Pandas with the Chibis Expansion Pack!
(note- this is NOT a stand alone game! You must have the basic Takenoko game to make it work!)

Takenoko Chibis Board GameTakenoko Chibis Board Game


takenoko game review

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