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Subject: A Two Player Casual Gamer Review rss

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Dag Rabbit
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Kirkland
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Takenoko is a 2-4 player game revolving around a farmer trying to grow bamboo, and a panda trying to eat it. In my limited experience with pandas, all they do is eat and not breed in captivity, so, given the options, this is probably the best theme possible for a panda game.

Gameplay Summary
The goal of Takenoko is to complete a series of tasks worth more points than the other player. There are three different types of tasks to complete, and each is worth a different amount of points based on how difficult it is to accomplish. Players will need to lay down tiles in a certain pattern, grow bamboo to great new heights, or stuff their panda full of specific combinations of bamboo.

On each turn, players get to pick two unique actions to try and achieve these goals. They can place a new tile, make the panda eat some bamboo, grow some bamboo, or pick up a new mission card. Tiles come in multiple colors that need to be irrigated to grow bamboo, so players may also procure irrigation channels on their turn. This quickly leads to a very colorful looking game with a patchwork of red, green, and yellow tiles connected by blue lines with wooden towers of bamboo growing skyward.

Typically, these two turns don’t feel like quite enough to get the job done. To help with this, players roll a die at the beginning of their turn that may allow them to take an extra action. This might move the panda, grow some bamboo, or get an improvement tile to alter how bamboo grows on the tiles. Still, players will spend most turns looking their hand of mission cards and trying to figure out what is the best pair of actions they can take to get closer to finishing one or more cards off.

The game ends when one player finishes a set number of tasks, nine in the two player game. Points are then added up based on the value of everybody’s completed cards, and the highest number of points wins.

Opinions
The component quality of the game is outstanding. Everything from the box art, to the manual, to the insert, to the actual gameplay pieces are wonderful to look at. Aside from being visually appealing, this makes the game very vibrant and easy to tell what’s happening at any given time with a single glance.

You won’t really need to look at the board as a whole very often though, because the game is very tactical in nature. There’s not a lot of long-term strategy needed, since each mission card is pretty quick to complete. Interaction between opponents is minimal, so there’s not a lot of thinking to be done on other players’ turns. Sure, you can try and eat someone’s bamboo talk with the panda, or place an improvement piece on a tile where they don’t want one. With only two actions per turn, however, such modest attempts to thwart your opponent aren’t very appealing.

This makes the game feel a little boring. Even if the players don’t mind minimal interaction, there’s no sense of building something meaningful since each task can be completed quickly. The task itself rarely leaves a last impression on the board, or help complete other tasks in a meaningful way. Ticket to Ride is a similar weight of game, and there building a long train track or series of routes is a more lasting accomplishment that can be built upon in later turns for other routes. Takenoko doesn’t really have that.

Which isn’t to say the game is bad…it’s…fine. It works, and it plays reasonably fast with two. However, having a nine card goal feels a little long, and my attention would start to wander after finishing seven cards or so. Casual gamers won’t have too much trouble getting used to the flow of the game, though the prevalence of short-cut symbols means they’ll constantly ask what actually happened after they roll a die.

The rulebook does have a misprint around how tiles are managed in the draw pile, and slightly awkward rules around how to handle missions that have already been completed by the current board state. This, combined with the high level of luck in drawing mission cards, make the mission selection aspect of the game feel a little uneven.

Conclusion
Takenoko is far from a bad game, but it’s merely an alright game with tremendous production. I’ve tried to spell out why in some detail above, but it really boils down to: It’s fine. I kept wanting to like it more than I did because it was so neat looking, rather than for the gameplay. It’s accessible to casual players and plays well with two, but it doesn’t seem like the game has a lot of staying power.

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Joel Weeks
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Roswell
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it is a light quick game, but I tend to like light quick games.
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Leonard Moses II
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Hixson
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We don't agree at all. Neither one of us. Which is kind of funny, since even between my wife and I, we disagree a lot about a lot of the games we have tried. However some people will agree with you. Just giving our 2 cents back. Takenoko is a rare game for us.

I'd probably thumbs down you if I could. I feel that strongly about it though I feel you have adequately explained your position. That probably says more about me than I would like it to.
 
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Dag Rabbit
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Kirkland
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What about the game clicked for you guys? I typically like lighter stuff (Ticket to Ride, Eruption, 10 Days in...), but I just couldn't find a hook with this one.
 
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Leonard Moses II
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Hixson
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Okay what I'm about to say will make the game seem worse for you, but here you go.

We play where you can push your luck.

Right? So lets see. You are watching to see how the board develops. In this example board someone has laid a lot of tiles. Then you would want to draw the easy to complete colored cards. Or a lot of bamboo has grown. So you'd draw those.

The boards aren't the same each game. A little different based on how the players end up building the board. The mix of cards you are going to want to have in your hand between those 3 colors is going to be somewhat different as well.

However. You can't go too low and get bashed by the higher # cards of your opponent. Because there is a race like scoring method.

You get to roll dice. And rolling dice is fun because it doesn't let you do whatever you want. It can even change your mind as far as the turn you want to take. A few times a game anyway.

You might really want to roll something on that dice that you don't get. And then you make do.

The fun is simple fun. Basic, yet in my mind fun in its purest form. Similar to how I feel about Arena Roma II. Those would make great games to have in the same order for someone that loves these types of games. I would be interested to know exactly how many people there are out there that love Roma or Arena Roma II but that don't like Takenoko. I would guess that there would be very few.

Plus the components are great.

I get a rush from playing the nosy hobbit. I watch what she is doing. Then sometimes on one of those turns (where I roll bad) and don't get to do what I want. Well, then I do what I can pretty much guess that she doesn't want. And then she gets this little frown. It is so freakin' cute and fun. Then I rub it in. Hey I saw you were trying to grow a little over there. Or I see you only wanted to grow a few sections here and there. Did I mess you up? Etc...

Cute, light mindgames.

The "harder" version of this game does it a disservice. You either like light and fun games sometimes or you don't. This game is best played where you can push your luck at the end. That is my opinion. We would not play that other variant. Ever.

However it isn't just that. You'll find the light game that you love the theme and gameplay mechanic of just like I'll find the heavy game that draws me in. I'm a 2.4 weight gamer most of the time right now, yet tend to get somewhat offended at some of the 2.0 or less games. Just not enough game there. I tend to buy games more now though if they are 2.6 to 3.2

Takenoko is one of those lighter games that makes it easy for me to look the other way. We adore the theme, not just the bits. Animal games get a boost with us. The theme can even be pasted on a bit ala Crows. We'll love it. There's animals there.
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Laszlo Molnar
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I agree that while the game felt a bit maybe too light to me, the advanced game does a disservice to the game (and makes the mission cards less balanced). It is a very light game that should be enjoyed as such.
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Keith Textor
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Ames
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darkestoceans wrote:
I'd probably thumbs down you if I could. I feel that strongly about it though I feel you have adequately explained your position. .



You want to "thumbs down" because you disagree with an OPINION?
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Steven Wall
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Completely agree with the OP. This is a fun, light game with great production values. The game is just a bit ... too light. The comparison to Ticket To Ride was a very valid one in my opinion. TTR is also a light, quick game but it also has the benefit of the risk/reward mechanic when drawing more tickets. Takenoko does not have this, you just blindly draw objective cards, maybe you can complete them, maybe not.
 
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