We don’t need another hero

takenoko

This week, Azriel, Peleg, and Sheer joined me, as we welcomed Hero Realms to the group, and had another bash at Takenoko.

First off, the latest addition my collection: Hero Realms. It’s a development of Space Realms, and is a kind of supercharged Dominion – a deck building game – where you get to slash, kill, destroy attack your opponents while trying to fend off their assaults. In the standard game, each player starts off with 50 Life. Once you are down to 0, you are dead.

We played two multiplayer versions where the first dead player (so to speak) ended the game, and the player inflicting the fatal wound gets to claim the win. Sheer won two of these, knocking out (I think) me in one game, and Azriel in another.

Then we played a team version with Sheer and Peleg beating Azriel and me. That one dragged a bit, possibly because the suggested format gives each team 75 Life instead of 50. Just when I thought we were mired in a slow, slow draw, Sheer and Peleg broke the deadlock. As it happened, Azriel had built up a decent deck, and if we had lasted just one more turn, we would have won. So many near things…

In between we had played Takenoko, with Azriel wiping the floor with us. He seemed to be getting victory points every turn, no matter what he did. Quite an achievement.

Thanks to all who came. It was fun.

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More Shabbat Gaming

takenoko-bamboo

I felt less than well over ourĀ Shabbat away in Metar, but managed to introduce Susan, Peter, and Anne to Takenoko. As usual, I did such a good job of explaining the rules, that I lost! Susan edged me out by two points, with Peter and Anne close enough behind me.

Peter had a dreadful run of luck with the die, rolling five or six ‘Storm’ results in a row. Anne was less unlucky with that aspect, but her victory card draws were too tough. Susan latched onto the game mechanics quickly, and was consistently ahead.

Good stuff, though it did highlight the potential unbalancing effect of the damn die. Maybe an experienced Takenoko player would have been better able to weather the storm of bad fortune.

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The panda, the gardener, and the bamboo

takenoko

This week I was joined at first by Sheer, and we returned to the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, to see if we could do any better than last week’s struggle. We couldn’t. In a previous session, we had completed the first quest – given a difficulty rating of 1 (on the scale of 1-10, the higher the more difficult) – but this ‘4’ rated second quest was just slaughtering us. Since the third quest in the box is a ‘5’, we won;t be going anywhere near that for a time. Meantime, Sheer and I are off to research solutions for quest number two.

When Peleg turned up, we started a game of Takenoko, new to all of us. I read and explained the rules – it took about 15 minutes – and off we went.

The gardener

The gardener

The theme involves the Emperor’s garden and a panda. The players are competing to keep the panda happy, and have the best contribution to the garden, growing bamboo, and irrigating plots. Meantime, the panda is wandering around eating the bamboo.

The panda

The panda

The components are high quality: the plots are stiff board hexagons (in three colors), the bamboo are exquisite pieces that can stack (again in matching three colors), and the panda and gardener are lovely painted miniatures. The production standards are excellent. The only slight niggle was a poorly worded rule about game end, but we figured that out correctly.

The bamboo

The bamboo

Each player’s turn has two parts: weather die, and actions.

The weather die is a six sided thing with symbols, each representing a weather and game effect. For example, the sun gives you an extra action. The cloud allows you to take a development marker. So, there is a pretty chunky luck element here. I would think about taking this out and replacing it with a deck of six cards for each player, each card only usable once in each of six rounds. But that’s for another time.

As actions, you can add a new plot to the garden, take an irrigation channel, move the gardener (which increases the bamboo growth), move the bamboo (which reduces the bamboo by eating it!), or take a victory point card. You can always add an irrigation channel or a development marker, without costing you an action. The channels allow plots out from the center to be irrigated (and so grow bamboo) and the development markers do things like boost bamboo growth, protect from panda attacks, and automatically irrigate a plot.

The cards are how you win. Each has a goal – for example, four yellow plots in a particular pattern, or a yellow bamboo at a height of four, and so on. Once you have the matching requirement, you can claim the victory points and put the card down in front of you. The first to eight cards down triggers the last round.

I screwed up one major victory point card by not noticing the need for a development marker. That set me back, but I was already falling behind. Peleg got the game quickly, and he raced off to a decent score. Just over the last two rounds, Sheer managed to catch up and overtake him.

The game claims a playing time of 45 minutes. With repeated play that is possible, I guess, but an hour seems a more reasonable target if everyone plays quickly.

This is good fun, light, and a great bridge game for novice gamers. As stated above, for my own tastes I would reduce the luck element, and that would make it more of a gamer’s game. I would rate it now as a high quality filler.

Thanks to Sheer and Peleg for joining in.

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