Simplified Variant Rules for Takenoko

Takenoko
Game components for Takenoko

Ever wanted to play a simplified version of Takenoko with young children? The rules variants set out below will allow you to play this strategy game with children aged 4 years and up.

Our household loves board games, we play them frequently with each other, and host and attend game days with our friends and family just as often. We added a copy of Takenoko to our collection a number of months ago and since then our daughter, who is 4 years old, has been begging for a chance to play the “panda game”. It isn’t really surprising that a game with a miniature panda figure and bright pastel shades would catch the attention of a youngster, but the suggested age range is far from including my daughter around the table. While the box itself says the game is suitable for players eight years old and up, the instruction booklet recommends players 13 and up.

Takenoko Panda
Panda figure and bamboo pieces from Takenoko.

This morning my daughter would hear of absolutely nothing but playing Takenoko. Not going for a walk, not playing video games, not eating breakfast, there was no other choice in her mind. So, I set out the game pieces and came up with a simplified set of variant rules that would allow us both a chance to enjoy the game in a not-so-competitive trial. In the end we both enjoyed the game very much, and I wrote down the rules variant so that I can play with her when she asks in the future. As she grasps the rules better I will add in the various elements of the game that have been taken away, to keep her interest and slowly add in the more competitive strategies.

If you have a copy of Takenoko and would like to try playing with your own youngsters, or a group of elementary students give these rules a try and leave a comment here to let us know how they worked for you.

Variant Rules for Takenoko

Using these rules you will reduce the number of strategy elements in the game to provide a simplified version to allow youngsters a chance to play along with older players. The irrigation and special tokens are removed from play and the rules are adjusted to make up for their removal.

1 – As the emperor’s orders are dealt they are placed face up near each player’s board. Older or more experienced players can help youngsters remember what their orders are as they choose their actions. Once an order is completed it is then placed face down on the opposite side of the player’s board.

2 – The irrigation action on the action board is ignored. Players cannot choose the irrigate action or collect an irrigation piece.

3 – Because the irrigation element is removed from the game each tile is automatically irrigated when it is placed and grows one bamboo.

4 – Special tokens printed on the tiles and the Emperor’s orders cards are ignored, 4 yellow bamboo counts as 4 yellow bamboo regardless of any of these markings.

5 – When the cloud symbol of the dice is rolled, re-roll the dice.

The remaining elements of the game are played out as per the original instructions. Completing orders becomes significantly easier, and shortens the time it takes to complete the game, which suits short attention spans and wiggly kids quite well. I just finished a game with my 4 year old which she enjoyed immensely (and won, by the way).

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