There’s only one thing that could possibly make Takenoko, the game about growing a garden and feeding colourful bamboo to a panda, more appealing… And that’s adding more pandas! Designer Antoine Bauza knows how to tug at heartstrings. Chibis (Japanese slang for ‘something short’, as in, a small animal) is an expansion for the superb gateway game Takenoko and it introduces not only a mama panda, but also baby pandas. The latter of which can be earned if both pandas cross paths in the Emperor’s garden!
Takenoko: Chibis isn’t just a cute overload for cute-overload’s sake, though. Also in this expansion lies six additional hexagonal garden plot tiles (plus extra bamboo pieces to compensate) as well as 18 extra Objective Cards. Together these add a wonderful extra level of strategy into the mix, which is ideal for those who feel they have mastered the base game of Takenoko – which, in its own right, is an excellent gateway game for folks new to the world of board games. Remember, Takenoko is a race of sorts. The end-game is triggered once someone has completed seven (in a four-player game) Objective Cards. The beauty lies in that the Objective Cards are all worth varying victory points depending on how challenging they are to complete. Do you rush to complete low-value ones? Or work tirelessly to complete the harder, more valuable ones? On your turn you’ll roll the Weather Die to see which bonus you’ll get, then you get to either extend the Emperor’s Garden, move the panda and eat bamboo, move the gardener and grow bamboo, gain irrigation pieces, or take another Objective Card. The main rule tweaks that come in Chibis are to do with those new garden tiles. Some tiles have the mama panda symbol on them – she doesn’t start in the garden until one of these tiles is placed. Then, instead of opting to move the male panda as one of your actions, players can move the female. If she and the male panda land on the same hex, the player can discard one bamboo shoot to acquire a baby panda token (imagine Sir David Attenborough narrating that).
The babies (the Chibis, themselves!) offer not only end-game victory points, but also immediate benefits, such as being able to exchange unwanted Objective Cards, or gaining sought-after irrigation or hex-improvement chits. That, and being ridiculously cute! Other unique garden hex tiles include a plot that grows all three types of bamboo, a ‘Sacred Hills’ spot that, when the gardener lands on it, grows bamboo on all matching colour plots, a second pond (which really helps irrigation networks!), and the gardener’s cabin, where players can visit to gain more Objective Cards. Takenoko: Chibis is not a wild leap up in difficulty, strategy-wise – it’s more of a pleasant hike. It’s still the same bright, colourful, fun Takenoko – trying to build and grow the garden in a way that suits the hungry panda best to match your Objective Cards. Like many expansions, once you’ve tried Chibis, you’ll find it tough to go back to ‘vanilla’ Takenoko!
Player Count: 2-4 Time: 45 Minutes Age: 8+