Takenoko /// Once A Month Gamer

From the publisher's websiteLong, long ago, the Emperor of China offered the Emperor of Japan a Giant Panda in a gesture of peace. You have been appointed to the delicate task of caring for this politically-important Panda and tending to the Emperor’s illustrious bamboo garden. You must cultivate plots of land using irrigation and intelligence so that bamboo, the only food that the Panda will eat, grows in abundance. But beware of the sacred animal’s uncontrollable appetite for crunchy young sprouts… 


Asmodee, Matagot

Antoine Bauza

COST: $49.99

THEME: Animals, Farming, Strategy

We haven't played this game a whole lot, yet, because it is farely new to our collection. However, we played it none stop the week we got it. It is a lot of fun and I have yet to win, lol. You are tasked with working the bamboo gardens and caring for the Giant Panda, all while competing against other players to score the most points by completing as many of the objectives as you can.

There are three types of objectives:

  • Plot Objectives, which award you points for creating a certain configuration of colored plots on the board.
  • Gardening Objectives, which award points for growing colors of bamboo to certain heights, before the Panda eats them.
  • Panda Objectives, which award points for eating certain combinations of colored bamboo.

You can only grow a certain color of bamboo on the matching color plot of land (ie: green bamboo only grows on green tiles), and you have to make sure you irrigate the land or have a water source on an adjacent tile in order to grow any bamboo. You also have to roll the weather dice, which will have different affects on your turn (example, the gentle Rain causes the bamboo to grow, allowing you to place a bamboo section on a garden plot of your choice).

Honestly, this game is a little complicated as there are a lot of things you can do but you only get two actions each turn. However, the game itself is beautiful and very well designed.



If you combine the price (at almost $50, it's one of the pricier games) and the learning curve, this isn't a game I would necessarily recommend to every one. However, if you are an experienced gamer and want a new game that it is fun and beautiful, then go for it! 

Tokaido /// Once A Month Gamer


Since I'm all about travel this month, I thought the perfect game to review would be Tokaido. This is one of my favorite games and it centers around players competing to see who has the be trip as they travel along the legendary East Sea Road connecting Kyoto to Edo. In this game, it is all about the journey.

We even played this game while on vacation!

We even played this game while on vacation!


The set up isn't crazy, but it can take a minute to get all the pieces out. There are a few decks that you need to have on the board, and while I love the design of this game, the box doesn't really help you keep the pieces to it very organized. Once you set up and randomly select your players (each character you can play has different advantages and starting out money), it's time to start your travel.


Passport Games Studios

Antoine Bauza

COST: $40.00

THEME: Japan, Travel, Strategy

There is a two-player variant to this game, in which you have a "third player" that the two real players take turns controlling. Mr. LL and I found this to be tedious and never play this way. We play with just the two of us just fine. Things get a bit more cut throat with just two players though because you KNOW where the other one wants to go.

You get points along the way for buying souvenirs, eating delicious food (but never the same dish twice!), visiting temples, meeting fellow travelers, going to hot springs and painting the scenery around you. If you run out of money, you could even work for turn to get some coins to spend along your journey. Not only do you get points for all these things, but you also are rewarding for doing them better than your other players. If you complete a landscape first (of which there are three), then you get a bonus. If you eat the most expensive foods, you get the Gourmet bonus. If you have the most complete sets of souvenirs, you get the Collector bonus. If you had the most encounters with fellow travelers, you get the Chatter box bonus; and finally, if you visited the most hot springs you get the Bather bonus.

This game takes some strategy so you can make sure you get the most out of your journey to Edo. I'll admit, none of my strategies work and Mr. LL always wins. Always. But I still have a great time playing it and love this addition to our collection. 

Above and Below /// Once a Month Gamer

This month's game is a relatively new one for us, but it's one that once the extensive set up is done, we really enjoy playing. It's part town/deck building, part storytelling and a lot of fun. It's Above and Below.


From Above and Below's website:

Your last village was ransacked by barbarians. You barely had time to pick up the baby and your favorite fishing pole before they started the burning and pillaging. You wandered over a cruel desert, braved frozen peaks, and even paddled a log across a rough sea, kicking at the sharks whenever they got too close, the baby strapped tightly to your back.

Then you found it! The perfect place to make your new home. But as soon as you had the first hut built, you discovered a vast network of caverns underground, brimming with shiny treasures, rare resources, and untold adventure. How could you limit your new village to the surface? You immediately start organizing expeditions and building houses underground as well as on the surface.

With any luck, you’ll build a village even stronger than your last– strong enough, even, to turn away the barbarians the next time they come knocking.

You definitely need a good size space to play this game, especially if you want to play with more than two players. Also, you'll want to allot some time to the set up because there are a lot of pieces to this one. Once you make it past that, though, it's a fun game. I've only played it with two players, and it takes a long time to play with just two. If you had the max, four players, it would – I imagine – take twice as long.

The goal of the game is to build the best village, both above and below ground. You assign your villagers duties that range from harvesting resources, constructed new buildings, training new villagers and working for gold to help you get what you need to win. You also get to send villagers to explore the depths of a giant cave below ground and that is my favorite part of the game. 

When you send them down, you roll a dice and have to do the adventure you rolled based on the cave card you are playing. You then have another player read the adventure aloud from the book provided and you have a kind of choose your own adventure moment. You are offered a choice and presented with different difficulties to roll to achieve the desired outcome. You have to base your choice on what you will be able to actually roll, and then roll for the outcome. If you succeed, you could be handsomely rewarded with resources, a new location to build underground, gold, and/or boost your reputation!


Red Raven Games

Dice Rolling, Set Collecting, Storytelling

Ryan Laukat

COST: $49.99

The under ground adventures are what give this game it's replay value. They are random and there are a lot of them. I've played this game a few times now, and we have yet to have a duplicate adventure. This game is good for two players, but if you are wanting to play a good, long game for a game night with friends, then this one would be a good pick!