Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Mina's Mini Review - Gaming Elegance
Hanamikoji is a beautiful card game about trying to gain the favor of various geisha ladies by collecting their associated performance items. Your goal is to gain the favor of 4 geisha or gain 11 or more charm points.
To set up the game, you arrange all the geisha cards in a line between the players and shuffle the deck of item cards. Each geisha card features an item and a number that denotes the associated charm points. Each item card features an item and charm points that indicates the number of cards of that type in the item deck. Each player also gets 4 different face-up action tiles.
Each game of Hanamikoji takes place over one or more rounds and each round consists of 3 phases.
Shuffle the 21 item cards, remove one from the round, and deal 6 cards to each player.
Alternate turns by drawing a card and taking one action per turn. You have 4 different actions that you will be able to take once each over the course of the round.
The actions are
*Secret - Choose 1 card from your hand and place it face down under the action token. It will be scored.
*Trade-off - Choose 2 cards from your hand and place them face down under the trade-off marker to remove them from the round.
*Gift - Choose 3 cards from your hand and place them face up in front of yourself. Your opponent will choose 1 card to take and place in front of the corresponding geisha on his side of the table and you will get the remaining 2.
*Competition - Choose 4 cards from your hand and divide them into 2 sets of 2, placing them face up in front of yourself. Your opponent will choose one set and you will get the other.
After both players have performed 4 actions, you compare the number of item cards on each player's side for each geisha. If one side has more cards than the other, move the victory marker towards the side with more cards. If, at this point, one player has 4 or more victory markers and/or has gained the favor of geisha that amount to 11 or more charm points, that player wins. If one player has 4 geisha, and the other 11 or more charm points, the player with 11 or more charm points wins.
Played prior to review 6x
1. So beautiful!
I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but I cannot underscore enough the beauty of this game. The geisha art is sublime and truly elevates what could have simply been an abstract mess of numbers and colors to a sublime and oddly thematic experience...if you have a good imagination, which appears to be one of my superpowers.
2. Unique theme
How many geisha games are there in this world!? Not many. Hanamikoji may not be the most thematically immersive game in the world, but I appreciate the fact that the theme selected for it is quite completely out of the norm. And it's a beautiful theme at that; one of culture, beauty, and entertainment.
3. Quick to play
Hanamikoji isn't a game that takes place over a set number of rounds, so it doesn't always take the same amount of time to play. However, it has never taken us longer to play than it "should." Depending on how tricksy you get with your actions and cards, it can take between one and several rounds and each round lasts no more than a few minutes. We've completed the game in a single round of about 5 minutes and we've taken as long as 4 rounds of about 20 minutes.
4. Tricksy card counting, timing, and mind games
Hanamikoji is an incredibly tense and surprisingly rich game for being comprised of only a few cards and tokens. You could conceivably think of it as a microgame based on its component count, but it doesn't feel like one at all. It feels like a classic card game that gives life to complexity through simplicity. It's a beautiful thing.
There aren't a huge number of decision points in this game, but the ones that are there are excruciatingly delicious! You have 4 actions each round and you can only take each action once. That's tension point 1. What you WANT to do is stuff ALL the cards in your hand under the "secret" action, but you can't; you can only do that ONCE. You will have to give your opponent some cards. Which ones do you let go? Which ones do you keep? Do you use the actions that give your opponent cards early in the round, before both you and your opponent have seen many of the cards? Or do you wait to use those "giving" actions until later in the round when you have a better idea of your needs and your opponent's needs when it comes to gaining majorities in various items.
Early in the round, your decisions are based entirely on the hand of cards you have been dealt. But even with that limited hand of cards, you can make some informed decisions. Knowing that there are as many items of each type as there are charm points on the item means that you know exactly how many of each item remain in the deck and/or in your opponent's hand. And as the round goes on and you gain more and more knowledge about the distribution of the item cards and whose side each geisha will favor, you become increasingly able to make informed decisions about how to order your actions and which cards to use for each action.
Despite the fact that your decisions will be at least somewhat informed by your knowledge of the deck, you will never have perfect knowledge. One card is randomly removed at the start of the round, which keeps both you and your opponent guessing and generates a lot of tension in the game.
And then you have the mind games. These are my favorite part! Because you have a handful of knowledge your opponent doesn't have and because you are able to secretly throw away cards and keep one to score without revealing it, you can try to manipulate your opponent into selecting cards you want him to select when composing sets to offer.
5. Big game with a tiny footprint
Hanamikoji is a deep filler and, for many people, easy-to-learn, quick-to-play, tiny-footprint games that are still challenging are pure perfection. The tension and depth I described above make Hanamikoji feel much bigger than its temporal and spatial footprint would suggest and the fact that it takes up little time and shelf space makes it accessible to a broad audience!
1. Only supports two
This is not a negative for me, but it may be for some people, so I'll just underline the fact that this is a 2-player-only game. Take note if your needs extend beyond that player count.
2. Could theoretically go on for a while
Although this has never happened to me personally, Hanamikoji could, in theory, go on for a long time. Being a tug-of-war game for domination over a certain number or value of geisha, it could result in players repeatedly ending in draws, which could get a little annoying. Again, this has never happened to me personally, but it is theoretically possible. In our longest game, which went for 4 rounds, I felt myself starting to grow weary of the tugging and warring. Had it gone for another round, I would have felt it was too much.
Hanamikoji is beautiful gaming elegance at its finest. It perfectly embodies the words, "classic" and "timeless," and I think that its simplicity, elegance, and accessibility mean it will appeal to anyone and everyone. I'm not typically a fan of small, simple card games. There are a few I enjoy, but I don't usually find them satisfying enough to play very often. If they take little time and space but involve much thought, they are much more likely to stay in my life and get played often. And Hanamikoji certainly satisfies those requirements. This game is beautiful, but it isn't just a pretty face; it's a thoroughly engrossing game of mental gymnastics and mathematics!
MINA'S LOVE METER LOTS OF LOVE
Mina's Love Meter
- I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale) Dislike
- I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale) Some like
- I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale) Like
- I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale) Some love
- I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale) Lots of love
- I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale) All love all the time
- I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)
Great little review miss!
This sounds really neat! I love those types of decisions in games. Thanks for putting yet another game on my radar!
I am so happy my copy arrives last Friday
I need to test it urgently
It is interesting to find each of the ladies has her own name (the red words in the circle).
It was one of the games I brought home from Essen this year, and the first one to hit the table. We immediately fell in love with it: simple, elegant rules set, yet deep and engaging gameplay. Highly recommended!
We also had one game lasting four rounds, and like you we felt that was enough. If it would have dragged on after that, I would have simply called it a night and probably have felt frustrated about the unfinished game, but I managed to pull out a win so I went to bed feeling very happy :-)
Great review Mina! Just one thing: in my copy of the game there is written that the game should last maximum three rounds. After that charm points decide who wins. So you can cross that one disadvantage (that the game might go on for a long time) off your list!
- Last edited Mon Jan 23, 2017 9:35 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Jan 22, 2017 10:33 pm
It is interesting to find each of the ladies has her own name (the red words in the circle).
Is there anyone who can transcribe the names? Do the names have any meaning (or etymology)?