Recommend
27 
 Thumb up
 Hide
14 Posts

Takenoko: Chibis» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Takenoko Chibis in depth review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Dan Smith
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
I really should stop writing in depth in my titles since it's the only kind of reviews I do.

Chibis add extra tiles, an extra character and a new way to make points and grab improvement tiles. If you like the base game, it's very unlikely you will not like this.

If you're the type of person that can't read a lot of text (But still do anyway because you likely read several small reviews rather than one long in depth one) Then you can scroll down to the conclusion. If you just want to quickly know if this expansion is for you, Then scroll down to the plus and minuses and see if you appreciate its strenghts more than you'll hate its weaknesses.

Is this expansion a must have to make your game more enjoyable? Well, that depends on the type of player you are, and how well you know the base game.
For me, it was an absolute necessity. Because Chibis fixes some issues I had with the base game.

The big question, does it make Takenoko better? That is an easy yes. It does.

First.

What's new?

Chibis isn't a "more base game" expansion. Yes, it gives you more hexes and objective cards (among other things). But those actually allow you to do things you couldn't before. So it's not just a new paint job.

-Miss Panda


Miss Panda is the new character added to the game. Since you still have the same actions as before, you can move her with the "move panda" action. You pick which between her or the Panda to move with the action. We'll call her MP from here. Imagine her name is Mary Paula.

MP doesn't start the game at the pond like Panda and Guy Gardener. Instead, she will be placed on any tile that has her symbol on it when it is drawn by a player. (6 in total) When another of her tiles shows up, she moves there automatically

Moving MP to the tile occupied by Panda allows you to make a baby panda. This only works if SHE moves to HIS tile. If you move Panda to MP's place, nothing happens. (This is actually realistic, as female Pandas, despite being able to conceive babies in a short window of 2 to 3 days of estrus, which only occurs once a year, are not necessarily in the mood at the time. So they're very picky)
Once that is done, you need to trade a piece of bamboo of any color for a baby. And you pick up a baby of the same color.

The game does not specify which side the panda babies tokens are on. So I assume players can look at them and pick the bonus they want.



Each Baby is worth 2 points, and gives you a bonus when, and only when you get it. You cannot chose to use that bonus at a later time. One of those bonuses is picking up an improvement tile, which was previously only possible by rolling the die and getting the ? or the cloud.

-New tiles

There are 6 tiles in the expansion. Which include 3 new types.

Kamis Garden

The Kamis garden is a tile where all three colors of bamboo will grow. You put one bamboo of each color when it's irrigated, or when the gardener stops on it. If the gardener stops on an adjacent tile and grows bamboo, you grow the corresponding color on the Kamis garden. When Panda stops there, you pick one color of bamboo to eat, not one of each.

Most players will generally place this tile when they draw it, as it makes all objectives easier to achieve. Plus it looks good.

Sacred hills


The sacred hills are like regular colored tiles, except that when the gardener stops on them, every tile of the same color in the game area will grow bamboo as well. Regardless of being adjacent or not. This makes gardener objective requiring 3+ bamboos (like the infamous quadruple 3 story bamboo card) much easier to acheive. On the flip side, if you're trying to get a specific colored bamboo to grow at a size less than four. Other players may overgrow them by stopping on that tile often.

I think the names of the Kamis garden and sacred hills may have been reversed in the game though. As the sacred hills have a spirit (Kami) pictured on them, whereas the Kamis Garden have nothing but Bamboo. But only anal people like me notice these things.

I will point out though that players sometime forget that the sacred hills are a special tile, because they're conditioned not to pay attention to the picture on the tiles. Especially the green one where the spirit pictured merges with the color more. It would have been preferable to put an icon on them, since players do notice improvement icons. Which would have created design space for new objectives in the future.

The gardener's cabin



This new tile is activated when the gardener stops on it, and allows you to draw one objective card from each deck. Chose one to keep and put the other two on the bottom of their decks. I have yet to play a game where a player put it in play. And I have never selected it when it was one of the 3 tiles that I had drawn. Simply because, if a tile allows you to complete the objective, you won't sacrifice it for a tile that may do absolutely nothing for you. (or that may just help your opponents). Most of the time, when you're going through the terrain hexes, you will be looking for something specific, and you'll usually have picked up an objective card first, so you're not just randomly putting a tile in play. So the idea of putting the cabin there and have my opponents use it first, while I spent my action to provide that opportunity, is not appealing. It may have been put there to offset the difficulty of scoring the miss panda plot objectives (To draw something you can actually achieve). But if I have that card (miss panda plot objective) and can't score it. The first thing I'll do is draw another objective card. Certainly not go look for terrain tiles. So they don't synergize at all. This to me is the limping piece of the expansion. Also, it has no color as far as plot objectives are concerned. So one less reason to want it around. Bad design in my opinion. Having it count as all colors would have fixed this. As it is though, you will likely never see it. Unless you take one for the team to see what the game is like with it around.

Celestial Pond

Despite its name. This does exactly what the base game pond does. It irrigates everything around it. It's a nice addition to the game, as it somewhat fixes the most frustrating and unbalanced part of the game. Getting tiles irrigated to score your objectives. I play with a houserule that fixes that. But this is a must have for those who won't play by non-official rules.

I must point out though that, at least in my printing of the game. The expansion hexes are of a different shade than the base game hexes. So you can tell when one's on top of the pile, or when a player is holding one or more.

-New objective cards

Gardner objectives


These welcome gardner objectives offer new, generally less restrictive ways to score gardner cards. The grey pluses on a card means that in order to complete the objective, the bamboo can be either the size of the colored bambo or one higher. So you're not fighting a near impossible uphill battle of trying to grow everything faster than other players can eat or outgrow them. And because they don't all have to be the same height. Other players won't always know exactly what you're doing.

Panda objectives


The new panda objectives either require one, or two pieces of bamboo. The one of's are pretty easy. All of them require that you move the Panda back to the pond in order to score them. (You can score the card if the panda is already on the pond tile during your turn) And I suspect they were put in the game to give you a choice of wether to get a baby panda if you cannot move panda to the pond on your turn, or to wait and score the card. However, it's very unintuitive for the game to have different behavior for same card type. With the expansion, some cards will require the panda to go to the pond to be scored, and some won't. This is not good design. And players who start Takenoko with Chibis included will stumble on this, and expect their 2nd panda card to behave like the first. Even though there is an extra icon. (Like the irrigation icon.) Most players just don't see it.

The new cards have a slightly diffferent shade than the old ones. But it's only easily noticable on the panda cards.




Plot objectives


These are definitely not the expansion's strongest point.
The miss panda plot objective require that you place a miss panda tile between two tiles of the same color. (And of course they all must be irrigated)

Now, plot objectives were already often the hardest and least rewarding ones to complete. These manage to be worse.
The miss panda plot cards are each worth 3 points. That makes absolutely no sense. It assumes that it's just as easy to complete any one of them. Which is not true.

There are 12 green tiles, 10 yellow ones and 8 pink ones (Plus the Kamis Garden) So for the pink one, you have to draw a miss panda tile (Of which there are only 6), have a pink terrain somewhere on the edge of the game board and draw another pink one, then irrigate the whole thing. And all that gets you is a pitiful 3 points. The work and time it requires is completely disproportional to the amount of points you get. You can get the same amount of points by eating a single piece of bamboo and going to the pond. Meaning, two panda movements. So as you can see. Having the pink and green ones both be worth 3 points is completely illlogical. The base game already had these issues, so there's no excuse this time around.

The numbered plot objectives requires that there be the specified number of the corresponding colored tile in the game area. So for Example, the pink 5+ requires that there be five or more pink tiles in the play area. Again, managing to put all but three of them in play is pretty hard and can require a lot of time. (They must also all be irrigated once you found them) And it definitely should be worth more points than eating two pieces of yellow bamboo. Plus, the game might end while never reaching that amount.

This bring me to the conclusion and balancing part of the review.


Conclusion
Chibis is definitely an overall improvement of the base game that makes it less one dimensional. Miss panda gives you the option of performing an additional action, where before you likely had none (If you got the lightning and there's no bamboo to eat for example). And also a way to try and score some extra points on your last turn, where most of the time you couldn't do anything. It also makes Gardener objectives more desirable. It helps plot objectives a bit with the addition of sacred hills and Kamis Garden as well as an additional pond for much needed irrigation.


However, it still suffers from big balancing issues. There is already some luck in the game. So the part that you can control should be balanced. Or as balanced as they could make them.

I will tell you how to fix those. However:

If you enjoy Takenoko and don't find anything wrong with it, then don't read the text within the spoiler. Once you know about the imbalance and how to abuse it, you cannot unlearn it. And it will only reduce your enjoyment. In this case, ignorance is bliss. If you already know, read on.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

The best strategy in Takenoko, is to get only Panda cards and score them as fast as you can. The reason being that panda objectives are the easiest to acheive, in the shortest amount of time while being worth the most points.
For example, eating two pieces of bamboo will get you 4 points in two turns (one with the lightning ) By comparison, the plot card that has you assemble three yellow tiles in a pyramid pattern (pictured) is worth 3 points.
Achieving it means searching through terrain tiles for yellow, then setting them up without anyone else slapping another color and ruining it (which you have no control over), and then picking up irrigation sticks so you can actually score the card. This will take several turns and is worth less points than a 2 turn objective. It can easily take 8-9 turns. During this time, another player can make 13 points with three panda cards.

Another issue is that the plot objectives will have you likely help whoever is trying to achieve gardener cards, or other plot cards. In contrast, Panda objectives actually slow down other players trying to grow bamboo, since you're constantly eating it. And doing so costs you nothing. I figured this out on my 2nd play. How that got through playtesting is beyond me. Also, keep in mind that the ?, lightning, and the wind results on the dice can allow you to get your panda card a turn sooner. So you very often have a 50% chance of speeding it up. Which no other objective type can achieve.


Now here's the thing. The designer isn't oblivious to all the issues of the game. However, for some reason, he did not want to completely commit to fixing it. Having the Chibis Panda cards require you to move the panda back to the pond to score them was a good idea. But why have only 6 cards in the game behave that way? Also, included at the end of the rules are two variants. One does not allow the panda to eat the first shoots of bamboo, only the upper sections. Doesn't really stop me from screwing everyone else, but it does mean the early game has me do something other than eat bamboo. The second, the diversity variant, is that each set of 3 different objective categories is worth 3 bonus points at the end of the game. So if you only have panda cards, you don't get extra points that other player do. But you don't fix a game by adding a few variants at the end of the rulebook. It really feels like, while aware of the game issues. They did not want to actually change the rules. It seems they were afraid of having people learn a new rule or two after adding an expansion. (Which is weird since most expansions add new rules) The extra pond was obviously added solely to address the irrigation bull$1t. The expansion does not increase the player limit. So there was no other reason for them to add it.

So how does Chibis help with this? Well, picking up points by making babies gives you some nice bonuses while slowing down players hugging panda objectives . Second, the "bring the panda back to the pond to score panda cards" Must be applied to all panda cards. The diversity variant must apply at all times. I would also suggest having the "pickup an irrigation stick" action, have players take two sticks rather than one. Which makes the additional pond less of a necessity. So no player will be forced to to use an action to help everyone else.

So Chibis will be worth it if you like the base game. If you liked the base game but were bothered by its issues, and if you want to lower the effect of the built in imbalance in the game. Or if you liked the base game and wanted more to do with your actions.

Plus and minuses

+Simple concept, easy to teach.
+Theme is very well integrated.
+Girl/women friendly theme. (That is an observation, not my opinion)
+Excellent integration into the base game. Seamless and not much to re-adjust to.
+Babies offer more choices, and options for the game's last turn.
+Extra pond mitigates irrigation issues.
+Gardener objectives now less difficult to achieve.
+Sacred hills makes gardener cards less grindy and less susceptible to disuption.
+New tiles and Kamis graden makes the game more visually pleasing. (I understand this aspect of the game appeals to several people)
+More choices involved.

-Expansion Panda cards having different rules than those from the base game is unintuitive.
-No player ever wants to be the one to put the Gardener's cabin in play.
-New objective's point value are still completely disproportional to the work required to achieve them.
-New plot objective cards are unbalanced.
-New cards and hexes are colored differently than those from the base game.
-New options/choices are offered by Miss Panda, but she may show up late in the game since the time she appears is random.

-Here are the changes that create the optimal ruleset for Takenoko in my opinion/experience.

-All panda cards can only be scored when the Panda is at the pond
-When picking up irrigation tiles as an action, you pickup two sticks instead of one.
-Each set of 3 different objective categories is worth 3 bonus points at the end of the game.
-The Gardener's cabin counts as all plot colors.(It still doesn't grow bamboo though)

Finally the end

50 
 Thumb up
3.02
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve deWinter
Canada
Alberta
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the review Dan, I enjoyed reading it. I've been on the fence about adding this one, and I have a bit more to think about now. Cheers.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tyger mom
United States
Forest Lake
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have not read any of your reviews before this one. Articulate, decisive and a clear opinion! I really enjoy reviews like this because it is easy for me to see where our opinions match up or where we would disagree. Thank you for your honest and straightforward opinion.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Smith
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
snailslung wrote:
Thanks for the review Dan, I enjoyed reading it. I've been on the fence about adding this one, and I have a bit more to think about now. Cheers.

You're welcome. It has, in my opinion, more qiualities than flaws. But the best way to decide is always to get a demo and actually try it.

If you do enjoy Takenoko, I have no doubt you will like this.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Smith
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
Tygermom wrote:
I have not read any of your reviews before this one. Articulate, decisive and a clear opinion! I really enjoy reviews like this because it is easy for me to see where our opinions match up or where we would disagree. Thank you for your honest and straightforward opinion.

You're welcome.

It takes a lot more work than it looks to write these (reasearch, playtests etc) But it's worth it if people find it useful.

Your comment means a lot.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Désirée Greverud
Sweden
Stockholm
flag msg tools
Keeper of the Sacred Aardvark
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My family loves the game but yeah, the flaws are quite noticiable and abusable and we have been doing so for a while. We already house ruled taking two irrigation sticks and use the diversity rule. I just got Chibis for Xmas and am looking forward to adding it in. I know already, when teaching, I will be adding the "panda must be on the pond to score ALL panda objectives" and "gardener counts as all colors" house rules as well. Thanks for those.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Carla
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
We find the game is well-balanced with the simple addition of the now-official variant rule, by which you earn 3 bonus points for every set of gardener, tile and panda objectives laid down. As to irrigation, drawing an irrigation channel counts as one action, but you can hoard as many as you like on your player card, to play them in multiples during a turn, and this does not count as an action, so drawing of two in one go doesn't seem to add value unless there is some house rule that irrigation channels must be played when drawn. (We were mistakenly playing this way for some time, and after reviewing the FAQs and playing the irrigation channels properly, they stopped being so much of an issue.)

I do agree that there is imbalance on points value for some objective cards. Why is eating one each of pink, green and yellow worth 6 points! That's galling, especially when the same player ends up using it twice. I suppose this could be mitigated by the advanced rule that states once an objective has been fulfilled in the game, it can't be used again and if drawn must go to the bottom of the draw stack (though I'm not sure why it isn't just withdrawn from the game entirely).

Thanks for your in-depth review!



 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Smith
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
Solanum wrote:
We find the game is well-balanced with the simple addition of the now-official variant rule, by which you earn 3 bonus points for every set of gardener, tile and panda objectives laid down. As to irrigation, drawing an irrigation channel counts as one action, but you can hoard as many as you like on your player card, to play them in multiples during a turn, and this does not count as an action, so drawing of two in one go doesn't seem to add value unless there is some house rule that irrigation channels must be played when drawn. (We were mistakenly playing this way for some time, and after reviewing the FAQs and playing the irrigation channels properly, they stopped being so much of an issue.)

I do agree that there is imbalance on points value for some objective cards. Why is eating one each of pink, green and yellow worth 6 points! That's galling, especially when the same player ends up using it twice. I suppose this could be mitigated by the advanced rule that states once an objective has been fulfilled in the game, it can't be used again and if drawn must go to the bottom of the draw stack (though I'm not sure why it isn't just withdrawn from the game entirely).

Thanks for your in-depth review!


Hey, thanks for the feedback.

I'm aware that placing irrigation sticks is free. But if you need say, 5 sticks to irrigate. Drawing them one at a time would require 4 turns to complete your irrigation. Drawing two requires 3 turns instead.

This was to offset how quickly panda cards are achieved. But people are free to use it or not.

The rule that doesn't allow you to play a dupplicate card is optional isn't it?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lean Heuch Hansen
Denmark
flag msg tools
Great review. I agree that the rules should provide a further incentive to play the Gardener's Cabin.

I propose the following house rule: "When this plot is put into play OR when the Gardener stops on this plot, the player can immediately draw the first card from each objective deck and keep one."

I think this makes more thematic sense than having the tile count as all colors, since no bamboo can grow on it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Smith
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
Lean Management wrote:
Great review. I agree that the rules should provide a further incentive to play the Gardener's Cabin.

I propose the following house rule: "When this plot is put into play OR when the Gardener stops on this plot, the player can immediately draw the first card from each objective deck and keep one."

I think this makes more thematic sense than having the tile count as all colors, since no bamboo can grow on it.

Not a bad idea.

I don't feel it's an issue to have the card count as all colors for two reasons.

1.It would be one less thing screwing players trying to achieve a terrain card, since it creates a blind spot no matter where you put it.

2. Thematically, since the gardener no doubt grows plants in or around his Cabin, it's not that far fetched. He wouldn't harvest anything nor would he let the panda eat there.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
BG.EXE
United States
flag msg tools
I favor Euros, but I like pretty much all games.
badge
Make the kinds of posts you want to read.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I completely disagree with your "broken strategy" and find the gardener to be a better strategy. Often enough you'll draw cards that are already finished. Though I agree with which of the three is weakest.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Smith
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
boardgamesdotEXE wrote:
I completely disagree with your "broken strategy" and find the gardener to be a better strategy. Often enough you'll draw cards that are already finished. Though I agree with which of the three is weakest.

The rules let you chose whether you play that already finished cards are scored or not. We chose not to play with the auto score rule, as it adds another element of luck to the game. Having a player focus on just buying a lot of cards in the late game, and auto score 3 of them in two turns didn't feel balanced.

Plus, the end game turns into a heads or tails of who gets the most free cards first (Mostly, everyone wants to roll wind or ? on the die to buy two objective cards) and a lucky player can win over making actual good decisions. Myself, and most players I play with are not fans of randomness. Especially if it can determine the outcome of a game.

However, I'd like to see your analysis of how garden objective compare to panda on a turn to achieve vs points gained basis. Maybe you took a variable into account that I overlooked.

However, there is the fact that panda objective players will slow down your gardener objective, while you are not affecting them at all. (Actually, you're helping them by growing bamboo for them to score with)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin Larouche
Canada
Longueuil
Quebec
flag msg tools
Melting souls with cuteness since 2007
badge
Lovin' N-16
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
boardgamesdotEXE wrote:
I completely disagree with your "broken strategy" and find the gardener to be a better strategy. Often enough you'll draw cards that are already finished. Though I agree with which of the three is weakest.

It has been proven again and again that rhe panda strategy does not work.
A good equilibrium of objectives will win.

Pandas keep the same time to achieve all throughout the game.
Gardeners and terrain are almost impossible to do quickly at first, but they snowball later on.
Thing is, you can piggyback the actions of others with those and many timds, they will be completed for you, making them faster than pandas.

Best way to win: use terrain to start gardeners. Use panda to help do gardeners.
A single action towards multiple objectives...

Going panda alone will lose you the games if you don't understand that.

or check the Tabletop episode. The panda strategy lost big time.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
A C
United Kingdom
South Yorkshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Very interesting and well structured review.

I disagree with you on the irrigation "problem" - we found that tile objectives were the most popular ones, particularly later in the game, because there was a chance they'd already be on the board and completed. Not making irrigation so easy means that those tile objectives become a little trickier and potentially balances out the ease at which players can complete them.
I'd also disagree with the panda strategy for the reasons mentioned by others - the panda strategy is the only solitary strategy where you're responsible for eating the bamboo all by yourself; gardener and tile objectives both have the chance to be completed/aided by other players as they go for their own objectives. So it's not as simple as a single tile objective card taking, say, 6 actions to complete, and a panda objective card taking 3, because the former's 6 actions may be split amongst other players and require only 2 or 1 or none of your own actions, whereas the latter's 3 actions will always require 3 actions from you.

Definitely agree with you on poorly thought out gardener shed (and, like you, it's yet to be played in any of our matches).
And, i agree that while the variety bonus rule is a great addition, it really SHOULD have been in the base game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls