Takenoko Chibis is the first and only expansion available for the family friendly, incredibly awesome Panda themed game Takenoko. This expansion builds upon the gameplay of the base game, which is required. For those new to the game, check out Just Push Start’s review of the base game of Takenoko here! The Chibis expansion adds in a range of content across the game including: Mrs. Panda, baby panda tokens, new tiles, new objective cards and some additional bamboo pieces.
The core of Takenoko is unchanged by the expansion but it is built upon and adds some additional decisions to be made. Therefore, the complexity of the game is slightly bumped up but if you are familiar with the rules of the base game this shouldn’t be an issue. Unlike most have anticipated, Mrs. Panda does not eat bamboo – in fact she will make you spend bamboo. On top of this, she only spawns into the game when one of the new tiles, with her symbol, are put into play.
When you move Mrs. Panda onto the hexagon with the Panda you can exchange a preciously consumed bamboo piece for a baby panda token of the matching colour. This manages to be a pretty “PG” event with the token simply being chosen by the player. Each colour (green, yellow and pink) have the same set of three baby panda tokens. Each are worth 2 points at the conclusion of the game but have instant benefits too! These allow players to instantly gain an irrigation stick, take one of the upgrade tokens or discard an objective card and draw a new one.
These help to discount some of the randomness of the dice rolling, which can see some players unable to acquire the upgrade tokens via rolling a cloud. The baby panda tokens are the element of the expansion which is the biggest change to the core game. This is mostly as it is the only new mechanic. If players are new to Takenoko this could be something to drop out. The game could still include Mrs. Panda but treating her simply as a second panda. This could also work better with younger gamers while they are learning how to play.
6 new tiles are added into the game with the Mrs Panda symbol. These adds some variation to the base game but work nicely with what was already there. My favourite new addition is the secondary water tile, the Celestial Pond. Like the original pond tile, it can be used to irrigate a decent number of tiles at once. When this is placed down it can change the dynamic of the game with a secondary water source to irrigate from. The Gardener’s Cabin is a completely new tile. This is a new way to gain additional objective cards, by moving the gardener there. This if placed down early in the game it can rather speed the game up, as the flow of possible objectives increases. It can be a somewhat useless tile to place down in the late game though, unless looking to complete one of the new objective cards.
A new tile type, Sacred Hills, has been added for each of the bamboo colours. These bamboo plots with statues act like a normal tile, until the gardener grows bamboo on it. Then, all irrigated tiles of that colour grow not just connected ones. This can significantly increase the amount of bamboo on the board in one go. The final tile in the box is a Kamis Garden, which features all three bamboo colours. As it grows all three bamboo colours, when the gardener grows on the Kamis Garden, all immediately adjacent plots also grow, again adding a lot of bamboo to the board.
The new objectives aren’t hugely different from those in the base game. Some new Gardener objectives see new height combinations included. The new tile objectives either focus on an amount of a colour, that don’t have to be connected let alone in a pattern, or using the new tiles in a pattern. The panda objectives are almost identical, requiring a combination of bamboo pieces. However, to give them a twist the panda must be moved back to a pond tile to fulfil the objective.
Each element of the Chibis expansion takes a small step forward, or sideways, from what was present in the base game. Visually the new content fits in perfectly to the extent once the objective cards are mixed it would be almost impossible for a new player to separate them. The new tiles are in the same art style but are distinct enough that they can easily be filtered out, especially due to the Mrs. Panda symbol on each. It really is an expansion that integrates with the base game rather than trying to change it.
Overall, there is enough in the box for those that frequently play Takenoko to get their money’s worth. It does exactly what you would want from what is a mini expansion. The core game is left unchanged but each part of the game has been added too. On top of this, there is a new mechanic that sits amongst the rest in the form of Mrs. Panda and the baby panda tokens. Takenoko Chibis is not a must have for those whom only occasionally play Takenoko. Nevertheless, it could be a great excuse to get the game back to the table more regularly by adding a tiny bit more weight to the game.
[Editor’s Note: Takenoko Chibis was provided to us by Esdevium Games for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £14.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]