top of page
  • Writer's pictureJared Neal

Takenoko - Grow and Eat Your Own Bamboo

Updated: May 12, 2021

Retail Price: $50

Player Count: 2-4 (best at any number)

Age Range: 8+ (5+ in our experience - more on this below)

Play Time: 45 mins. (we run around 15 mins per player)

Complexity: 4 out of 10 (I would lower this to a 3)

Mechanisms: Action Points, Contracts, Dice Rolling, End Game Bonuses, Modular Board, Route Building, Set Collection, Pattern Building, Tile Placement

Designer: Antoine Bauza

Artist: Nicolas Fructus, Picksel, Yuio

Publisher: Bombyx, Matagot

Educational Value:

  • Strategic Thinking

  • Problem Solving

  • Spatial Reasoning

  • Math: Addition

Flavor Text:

"A long time ago at the Japanese Imperial court, the Chinese Emperor offered a giant panda bear as a symbol of peace to the Japanese Emperor. Since then, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players) with the difficult task of caring for the animal by tending to his bamboo garden."


In Takenoko you are trying to fulfil contracts to score points, by building bamboo forests of different colors and types, and feeding the panda.


  • Each player will take a player board, and 2 matching action markers to place in front of them.

  • Shuffle the stack of contract cards of each color into their own pile, and then each player gets 1 contract of each kind.

  • Place the blue pond tile in the middle of the playing area.


In Takenoko, you will first roll the dice, to see what special action you get on your turn:

  • Sun - player gains an additional action, which must be different from their two regular actions

  • Rain - the player may place a bamboo section on the irrigated tile of their choice

  • Wind - player may, but is not required, to take two of the same action for their two regular actions

  • Storm - player can put panda on the tile of their choice, and the panda eats a section of bamboo if available

  • Clouds - player chooses an improvement chip from those available in the reserve

Then the player chooses two actions to take each turn out of the following:

  • Draw three tiles and choose one to place

  • Draw and/or place an irrigation channel (you may draw and hold for a future turn)

  • Move the farmer to help grow bamboo

  • Move the panda to eat bamboo

  • Draw a new contract card

When placing a bamboo tile, if it is irrigated (either it is touching a tile with water directly, or an irrigation channel directly, or it has a watershed improvement), then you place the base bamboo there immediately. The contract cards consist of three different types:

  • Plot Objectives - which scores for the color patterns of placed bamboo tiles (all of which must be irrigated)

  • Gardener Objectives - which scores for the height pattern of bamboo shoots grown of a certain color, or on a tile with a certain improvement (improvement must be present to fulfill)

  • Panda Objectives - which scores for a collection of bamboo pieces eaten by the panda

Some tiles have improvements on them, which can be activated using chips you gain from the supply when you roll the Clouds symbol on the dice. These improvements include:

  • Enclosure - which prevents the panda from eating the bamboo on this tile

  • Fertilizer - which doubles the growth rate of the bamboo on this tile

  • Watershed - which irrigates this tile without it having to touch any other source of water

Each card has a different score associated with it, based on it’s assumed difficulty. You may turn in a contract card at any time during your turn, when the objective is fulfilled. If you have a bamboo grown objective, you must turn in the card while that bamboo objective is currently met, but it doesn't have to stay met. The game ends when one player completes a certain number of objective cards (which varies by the player count, 9 with 2 players, 8 with 3 players, and 7 with 4 players).


Due to the combination of the dice roll at the beginning of your turn, the fact that you draw tiles to play without knowing what's on them, and you draw objective cards, there is a fairly high amount of luck in Takenoko. The drawing of tiles is somewhat mitigated by the fact you get to draw three, and then place one, putting the other two on the bottom of the pile. With that said, there are certainly some things you can do to help develop a strategy, and there is a tactical nature to the gameplay. One complaint I would make against the game here, is that it seems like the objective cards to score for eating certain types of bamboo are much easier to achieve, and therefore if

you exclusively go for those, you greatly improve your chances of achieving them sooner and going out first. They are valued lower to offset this, but if you go out quickly enough to prevent the other players from fulfilling their contracts that doesn't matter.


The artwork here is absolutely adorable, and incredibly immersive. All the way from the box art, to the rulebook (which is designed like a comic book), to the components (who doesn’t love a mini farmer and panda, not to mention the pastel colored wooden bamboo pieces), everything makes this game feel very thematic.


Due to its beautiful artwork and its silly nature, most people probably won’t really even notice the theme in the mechanics, but I feel like they are definitely there. The dice you roll to start your turn with special abilities, all have thematic explanations, and the special requirements/abilities of certain tiles all make thematic sense. I had to look it up to verify, but different pandas even have different preferences on the type of bamboo they like.

Replayability/Fun Factor:

This game, especially if you add in the expansion, has tons of replayability. You have so many variable things, from the hex tiles, to the objective cards, to the special abilities, that it keeps each game pretty fresh. I have never played this game, and not had a ton of fun, whether it was with kids or just other adults.


This game is going to be great for family members of all ages. I mention above that this game in our experience can be played with kids 5+, and that has certainly been true for our family. My son who is 3 at the time of this writing, completely grasps the game mechanics, and what he needs to do to score his objective cards. He definitely doesn’t quite understand the point values associated with those objectives, and thus can’t yet play strategically to maximize his point total, but this might be his favorite game to play anyway. Should work for Elementary age kids and up, and possibly younger if you are willing to play along with those children.

+ Easy to learn

+ Beautiful artwork

+ Lots of variety

- Can be a bit fiddly

- The winner can feel a little more luck than strategy based

Final Score:

Jared - 8

Abigail - 7.5

Other Games You Might Like:

Carcassonne, Isle of Skye, Splendor, Century: Golem Edition - Eastern Mountains

This game was purchased from my friendly local game store, and Takenoko is available here and Takenoko: Chibis here. This isn't an affiliate link, but just my way of trying to support my FLGS, who carry great games at even better prices.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page