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Which Are The Best Takenoko Objective Cards?

Last night, a group of us decided to play Takenoko. For those who don’t know it, Takenoko is a curious little game from the incredible gaming mind of Antoine Bauza. During Takenoko you all collectively play as a Gardener and a Panda looking to score as many objective points as possible in a Bamboo garden. The Gardener grows bamboo and cultivates the land, the Panda eats the bamboo, and the great gamers around the table use that, and the weather, to score as many objectives as possible. Takenoko is a light and friendly game, and one I would encourage you to pick up. It’s light but challenging, and really really cheerful.

There are three types of objective cards in the game – Gardener, Panda, and Land Plot. You start the game with one of each, but you soon pick more up. When you choose to pick up a card, you can choose to pick from which pile you want it, allowing players to indulge in different strategies. 

Gardener objective cards are usually to grown patterns or heights of bamboo on specific tiles. The Panda objective cards are about eating different types of bamboo, and the Land Plot objectives are about having certain plots of irrigated land in specific patterns. If you want to explore these further, then there is a PDF of the rules here (on the Matagot website).

Takenoko Objective Cards - Land Plots

Takenoko Land Plot Objective Cards

Anyway, an interesting thing happened last night towards the end of the game. We had all been going for the same forms of objective, and soon found ourselves with a board where bamboo was a plenty and there were loads of land plots out. This meant players were picking up Gardener cards or Land Plot cards and completing them straight away because the victory conditions already existed on the board. It was weird carnage.

Naturally, this got me thinking. What are the best objectives to actually go for when you pick cards up? Which are the best objective cards in the game? Does one set of Takenoko objective cards outweigh the others?



Takenoko Objective Cards: An Analysis

So, before we begin I have to confess. After we played last night, I noted down the Takenoko objective cards, but I missed two Gardener ones. Since the game is owned by a friend this meant that, in the end, I had to double check my list against this forum list on BGG. Most were right, but it meant I could fill in the two I was missing. That forum deserves some credit.

Anyway, moving on with the analysis – so, what we can do is, in order to analyse the Takenoko objective cards, lay all the cards out in numerical order. This was not done literally, but in using a filter on Excel it was easy enough to generate. Using that list we can then create a line chart of the results. Neat, eh?

Takenoko Objective Cards Summary

What this shows us is actually kind of interesting. So, anyone who has played Takenoko a couple of times would tell you that the cards are not equally weighted. Instead, the Gardener objective cards are generally worth more, with only one 3pt card. Panda cards and Land Plot cards are then much closer and they don’t stray far from one another as the cards progress.

One interesting point to note is that the highest point value is that of a Gardener card, and that is worth 8pts. This is a whole two points different from the Panda objective cards that have a highest card value of 6pts. Finally, Land Plot objective cards only go as high as 5pts.

This gap may not sound like much; however, when we visualise the data in a different way then the difference can be quite extravagant. This is especially the case when we add the points of each objective deck together. We end up looking at the cumulative points value, and that looks a little bit like this –

Takenoko Objective Cards Cumulative

When we look at it this way, the Gardener objectives are worth so much more. To add actual numerical values to the lines, there are 81pts in Gardener objectives, 64pts in Panda objectives, and 51pts in Land Plot objectives. That means that there is a giant 30pt swing between Gardener and Land Plots. That’s nuts!

Seeing the cumulative score also shows how close the Panda objective deck is to the Land Plot objective deck. There is 13pts between the two, whereas there are 17pts between the Panda objective deck and Gardener.

Finally, we can analyse the decks in one final graph that may unlock their secrets (how mystical) a little bit more. Let’s look at the mean, mode, and median scores.

Mean, Median and Mode of Takenoko Objective Cards

So, to get the most out of the above chart you’re going to need to cast your mind back to school. Mean is, of course, the average of the scores and this is the one we use most often. Mode is the points value that appears most often within the deck. Finally, Median tells us where the middle of the list of scores is.

What this means is we can take the average and say that “oh, with the Panda the average score of the cards is 4.26 points”; however, it also means that we can point out the fallacy with using mean on its own. The average may be 4.26, but you are most likely to draw a 3pt card.

This mode score is actually where the majority of the strategy lies and, as we understand the difference between the mean and the mode, we can start to formulate different options on how best to use this information when playing Takenoko.

Takenoko Panda

The Panda

Using the Takenoko Objective Cards To Your Advantage

Takenoko is, in many ways, a beautifully balanced game. Due to the nature of the game, it is very hard to just stick with one strategy and hope for the best. The sheer addition of the weather dice means that randomness will keep the game balanced to some degree. You can’t avoid certain things happening throughout the game. Likewise, there is enough uncertainty that randomness may also mean certain things don’t happen. Playing the majority of the game in a balanced way is well worth doing.

What understanding the objective cards does though is help determine a strategy for the final 3rd of the game, when players are heading towards their fourth or fifth objective card.

Takenoko Gardener

The Gardener

There is, in Takenoko a certain time element that is impossible to deny. Pandas only eat one thing per turn, and their movement limitations can restrict them; however, Gardeners don’t have the same limitations placed upon them. Where the Panda can only affect the tile it is on, Gardeners can grow bamboo on all adjacent land tiles of the same colour. This makes them a more practical objective set to go for.

This means that, depending on the board, it is possible to use the Gardener and Land Plots as a catch up mechanic. By switching to just picking those cards up, depending on the board and how active other players are with the Panda, it is possible to complete objectives swiftly and efficiently to build up your own points base.

If, for example, the Panda is kind of being ignored throughout the game, it is possible to (in the latter 3rd of play) pick up Gardener cards and complete them quickly, if not instantly.

In the case that other players are active with the Panda, then the same concept can be applied to Land Plots. This may not be as successful due to the points difference and the difference in mode, but Land Plot objectives can be easy to complete later on in the game. Neither the Gardener nor the Panda can get in the way.


The board mid-game

So there we have it – a quick analysis this evening that has led to a little bit of insight into the game and using the objective cards as a catch up mechanic. Takenoko is a great game though and I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t already. If you have played the game then it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts on it. Likewise, let me know your thoughts on the analysis and numbers in the comments below.

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