This is a story of a panda. A very fat and happy panda. One that loved to lounge around, eat bamboo, and sleep the day away. And each and every day he did just that. His master was always so kind and generous and made sure he had all the bamboo he could eat. And he could always eat. It's good to be a panda. He smiled, ate some more bamboo and soon drifted off to sleep. He dreamed a peaceful dream, one with lots and lots of bamboo..

When he awoke from his long nap, he found himself in a strange new place. It was very different than the place he had called home. There were people here, speaking a language foreign to him. But all around him there was all kinds of bamboo! And he liked bamboo! So he was once again happy. And soon again would be very, very fat.

There were so many kinds of bamboo he could hardly believe it! What would he try first? He grabbed a handful and popped it in his mouth. It was delicious! He had to try some more! Another handful went in, even better than the first! He was so happy eating all this bamboo he barely noticed the man with the rake running his way. He was furiously shaking it over his head and yelling something. Maybe he just wanted some bamboo too.

The panda smiled and kept on chewing. He was going to like it here.

  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Duration: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Board Game
  • Tile Placement, Set Collection

The Gameplay





In the game of Takenoko, the Chinese Emperor, while on his visit to Japan, bestows a gift of a giant panda to his Japanese counterpart in appreciation for his hospitality. Wanting to insure that it's well taken care of, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted you and your fellow players with setting up a bamboo garden in which to keep it. With the help of the Imperial gardener you'll add new plots, grow bamboo, and keep the panda fed.

During your turn, you choose two of the following actions. You can play a plot tile, draw an objective card, take an irrigation channel, move the gardener, or move the panda. You must choose two different actions. If you choose to play a plot tile, you draw three tiles, choose the one you want to play, and return the others to the draw pile. There are green, yellow, and pink tiles. You place the tile either directly next to the starting pond tile, or adjacent to two other tiles already in play. If placed next to the pond tile, it becomes irrigated and the tile will immediately grow one bamboo shoot of that tile color. Some tiles also have improvements built right into the plot. Enclosures stop the panda from eating your bamboo, Fertilizer grows 2 sections of bamboo versus the standard 1 section, and Watershed tiles have all the water they need to grow new bamboo.

You can also choose to draw one of three types of objective cards. Plot objectives, in which you try to form specific plot layouts, Gardener objectives, in which you try to grow specific heights of bamboo, and Panda objectives, in which you attempt to eat the various types of bamboo. Each player begins their game with one of each type and may have have a maximum of 5 cards at any given time.

On your turn you may also choose to take an Irrigation channel. You may place this immediately or save it for a future turn. Placing it is not considered one of your two actions. When playing an Irrigation channel, you place it on the border of two existing tiles originating from the starting pond tile or a previously placed Irrigation channel. You may not use a Watershed tile as a starting point. Any tile that borders a new channel is now considered irrigated. If this is the first time the tile is irrigated, it immediately grows one bamboo shoot of that tile color.

As one of your actions you may also choose to move the Gardener. He may travel any number of plot tiles as long as it's in a straight line from where he started. If he happens to land on an irrigated tile (one that is adjacent to the pond tile, borders an Irrigation channel, or a Watershed) then bamboo grows on that tile and all same color adjacent irrigated tiles. The maximum height for any bamboo shoot is 4 sections.

And finally, we get to our guest of honor, the Panda. Like the Gardener, the Panda moves in a straight line any number of tiles. However, where the Gardener grows new bamboo, the Panda only eats it. If he lands on a tile with bamboo, he will eat one section unless it it is an Enclosure. These eaten bamboo are saved on your player card until you have enough to complete one of your objectives.

After all players have taken one turn each consisting of two different actions we introduce the Weather die. Each players turn now begins with rolling the die to see how the weather will affect them. Each die face has different benefits that affect your turn and the world around you. The Sun grants you one additional action that differs from their two standard actions. The Rain allows you to grow one piece of bamboo on an irrigated tile. The Wind allows the player the opportunity to take two identical actions during their turn if they desire to do so. The Storm allows you to place the Panda on any tile, who then immediately eats a piece of bamboo if available. The Clouds let the rolling player choose one of the three improvements, Enclosure, Fertilizer, or Watershed which can be played immediately or kept for future turns. They are not considered an action when played but must be placed on a tile with no existing improvements, built in or otherwise. Lastly, there is the ?, a wildcard that allows the player to choose any of the previously mentioned weather conditions.

Each player take turns and takes their actions to complete the objectives shown on their cards. Completion of the objectives does not count as one of your actions and you may complete as many objectives as you can during your turn. You do so by stating the objective and placing the card on the table in front of you. Once an objective is completed it can not be lost, even if the board changes during future play. Once a player reaches a set number of completed objectives (9 for 2 players, 8 for 3 players, and 7 for 4 players), they receive the special Emperor card (worth 2 points) and the final round begins. Each additional player takes one last turn and then totals the numbers on their completed objectives cards. The player with the highest total wins the game and gains the honor and congratulation from the Emperor.

Think you can grow the perfect bamboo garden, keep the panda happy, and gain the accolades of your Emperor? Or will the panda run rampant, eat all your precious bamboo and leave your garden in shambles? It won't be easy and it'll take a lot of patience, cunning and maybe just a little luck to pull this one off. But you're not the only one and the competition is tight to appease the Emperor. Can you manage to prove yourself the gardener worthy of the Emperor's praise or will you find yourself a few bamboo short and out of a job? Either way, you better get to growing because the panda has a head start and it's always hungry. Do you have what it takes to keep him fed?

The Grub

Bacon Sushi with Sriracha Mayo

Hitachino Nest Beer


For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Japanese cuisine is sushi. Katie and I have always been fans of the various traditional types but after hearing rumors of a bacon sushi we knew we had to take a crack at it for Takenoko. Our Bacon Sushi is a savory and spicy combination of crispy bacon, cream cheese, green onion, avocado, and jalapeño all rolled up into tasty bite-sized pieces and drizzled with a Sriracha mayo. Wash that down with a surprisingly tasty Hitachino Nest Beer. Brewed in Japan, this stout goes down incredibly easy and it's slightly sweet taste pairs really well with the sushi. Last but not least, we have the Samurai for you cocktail fans. It's a refreshing blend of sake, lime juice, triple sec, and sweet and sour mix that I found very reminiscent of a margarita but with just a little Asian flair. The perfect summer drink for all you thirsty bamboo gardeners after a long day fending off hungry pandas.

The Reviews

Dave's Review:

This is one of those games that I never would have known about had it not been for Tabletop. In fact, I have to thank them for introducing me to quite a few games in my collection. My first introduction to Takenoko was watching the Tabletop episode on Youtube and I knew right away this would be one for my collection.

When we first got Takenoko we invited some friends over to give it a play. Having only seen it played on Tabletop and giving the directions a quick read through we were easily able to pick it up and play. The directions are really straight forward and concise and easy to understand. There are fun illustrations to clearly show how all the actions work. I was able to get the four of us up and playing in no time. Now it's become the must play game every time they come over.

The box and the play tiles are very heavy cardboard and will stand up to years of play. The artwork is great and really reflects the whimsical nature of the game. The very sturdy player sheets act as a quick reference guide to the available actions and weather die results as well as a space to store any eaten bamboo, irrigation channels or acquired improvements. The figures of the panda and the gardener are solid and well painted. The bamboo and action markers are made of wood and nicely painted. This is a very well produced game of the best quality materials.

As for gameplay, simply put, it's one of my favorite games. It's simple enough to teach to anyone yet there is quite a bit of strategy involved. Do you push forward to your objectives or do you bide your time and find a way to stall out your opponents? I've done both and with varying results. There's also quite a bit of replay value since the game board changes with every play. It's my go to game to play to introduce any non-gamers to the world of board games. If you're looking for something a little different with a fun and whimsical feel then Takenoko might just be the game for you.

I give Takenoko 8 of 10 Pesky Pandas

Katie's Review:

This is a super fun family game that can be played with anyone from the newbie to the serious gamer. There are always lots of laughs and who could say no to that adorable panda, I know I can't. Feed my little panda feed!
Takenoko is a cute and quick strategy game. The directions are fun and easy to read but it can take a few rounds to figure out the nuiansces of the irrigation. The other nice thing about this game is that each time is different. There are no individual advantages and anyone can win as long as you eat enough bamboo, plot your land and grow your nummy bamboo. I really do not have any complaints about this game. The pieces are high quality and the box is very well designed.

I give Takenoko 9 of 10 Bamboo Shoots

Looking to pick up Takenoko?

Takenoko can be purchased at Amazon or at your local game store. Ours is the Wandering Dragon out in Plainfield, IL. If you're local check 'em out. It's an incredible place run by some incredible people. You won't regret it!