So they managed to make one of the cutest games ever designed even cuter. The panda family is getting a little bigger…well, a lot bigger with Takenoko Chibis. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this article you’re already played Takenoko and are familiar with the rules, and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you? It’s a great game!
Chibis adds three major elements: a Mama Panda figure and her nine baby tokens, new plot tiles and new objective cards.
The plot tiles and objective cards are shuffled into the base game. Mama Panda starts the game off the board. When the first Chibis plot tile gets added to the garden (indicated with a Mama Panda face on the tile) Mama gets added to the board on that tile. From then you can move her just like Papa by taking the Move Panda action. When taking that action you’ll decide which of the two pandas you want to move. That is until another tile with her face on it appears. Then she’s magically transported to that tile.
If Mama ends her turn on the same space as Papa she can discard a piece of bamboo (cause we all know food is the way to a panda’s heart) and produce a baby token of the same colour. There are three babies in each colour. They’re worth two points at the end of the game, but they’ll all also grant you a special bonus. In each colour there is one token that gives you an irrigation channel, one will give a free upgrade and one that allows you to exchange objective cards with the deck. Players claim their baby and execute the bonus immediately, holding onto the token until the end of the game for scoring.
The new objective cards are interesting. There are some for all three different categories (gardener, panda and plots). The gardener objectives demand bamboo stalks of different heights or several stalks at a minimum height. The plot objectives use the new Mama Panda tiles as elements in their required designs or look for a minimum number of irrigated plot tiles in a certain colour, ignoring the layout. New panda cards demand that the panda is relaxing by a pond before he can…ahem…process the bamboo in his stomach for points.
The coolest added element in my opinion is the new plot tiles. They are very interesting and can really spice up gameplay. There is a new pool, The Celestial Pond. It works exactly like the starting pond, irrigating adjacent tiles and allowing for irrigation channels to be built of of it. The Kamis Gardens can grow bamboo of all three colours and acts as a wild when assessing plot card objectives. When the Gardener ends his turn on the Gardener’s Cabin tile he is going to draw the top card of all three objective piles and choose one to keep. Finally there are Sacred Hills in the three different colours. When the Gardener ends his turn here every irrigated plot tile of the matching colour with grow bamboo, not just adjacent tiles.
Chibis is a fun little expansion that does a good job adding depth without too much complexity. I’m generally wary of adding new elements to such a perfect original design, but I think in this case they’ve done just enough to please any fan of the original. If you own Takenoko, you’re gonna want to give Chibis a shot. Now, if they can just get started on making a giant, deluxe version of this expansion we’ll be all set!