There’s a word we use in Louisiana that is very apropos to gaming: Lagniappe.
It means “a little something extra.” What a great word for our board game hobby, especially when a designer gives us a little something extra for a beloved game.
Today, I’ve got a little lagniappe for you — one of the best expansions of 2015 —
Takenoko Chibis, a small expansion for Takenoko. The base game came out in 2011, and was designed by Antoine Bauza one of my favorite designers. As a side note, still not sure how Takenoko was not recognized with the 2011 or 2012 Spiel de Jahres, or at least a nominee. Sure Quirkle has sold a million copies, and Kingdom Builder by Donald X Vaccharino is more fun than Tom Vasel gives it credit for, but of those three games, which one of the three is going to have a more lasting impression on the hobby (not on the mass market) — yep, Takenoko is still played, still beloved, and the only one of the three to get an expensive but beautiful extra large edition.
But back to our Lagniappe. Chibis is a small box expansion designed by Antoine and Corentin Lebrat (they previously collaborated on “Open Sesame”). The base game is essentially a cute tile laying game similar to Carcassonne that adds a few thematic elements. The players score points as they build out the gardens, or if the Royal Gardner grows certain types of bamboo, or even if they can entice the Giant Panda to eat the just the right color of bamboo.
This new expansion essentially adds three elements — (1) new specialty tiles (including some beautiful new water tiles); (2) new objective cards to score points, (3) and a giant female panda with her little baby pandas that produce effects to help the players irrigate the plots or improve the tiles. And of course, those little baby chibis pandas also give bonus victory points at the end.
The word LAGNIAPPE implies that the something extra is something “good” (or else it wouldn’t really be LAGNIAPPE.) That’s what I like best about this expansion. It adds more of what we like in the game (unique tiles, cool new objectives, and more Pandas!!) without adding to the length of the game. You should still be able to set up and complete a game in ABOUT AN HOUR.
There is a couple of little downsides. While the game box is perfectly sized and has a great insert, there are some printing issues on the backs of the tiles that make the new ones stand out. But, Takenoko the base game never really relied on blind draws, since you could pull three tiles at a time and choose the one you wanted to use anyway. Another downside is that the little panda chibis are just small round cardboard tokens. Sure, Antoine probably needed it this way to make it easier for game play, since the Chibis have little icons on them showing what to do with them. But, it is a little disappointing that the only Panda miniature in the box is the mother panda, when it would have been so much cooler to have her as well as her little chibis babies.
But as you can tell, I am just nit picking here. This is a well thought out, well designed expansion that hits all the marks for me. It provides a little more complexity, a little more strategy, definitely new elements to make it a fresh game again, and all without increasing the length. My wife and I don’t play Takenoko anymore without the Chibis expansion. I give it 3 out of 5 Cayenne Peppers.
I am glad the folks at Bombyx and Matagot got together with Antoine to bring to the Takenoko world a little LAGNIAPPE for the game. If you own Takenoko, get to your friendly local game store and get you some LAGNIAPPE too.
Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!