- Designer: Steffen Benndorf
- Publisher: Pandasaurus
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 mins
- Times played: >6 total, 2 with review copy provided by Pandasaurus
Ohanami was a game that I was introduced to years ago. Let’s say that I have a friend, and for pretendsies, lets call him Luke. This friend is a complete fanboy of Herr Benndorf. To the point that Ohanami was the only game in his oeuvre that Luke didn’t have. So what did he do? Contact said designer directly and ask for any info on how to get a copy… and when a way couldn’t be found, managed to talk the designer into giving/selling one from his own game collection! With a backstory like that, how could you not be excited about playing the game?
In this card game, players work to build the most beautiful gardens in the three rounds of the game. However, the criteria change each round, so you have to work on both short term and long term goals. Interestingly, while the game is played in three rounds, the gardens remain on the table for the whole game – you keep building them larger and larger.
The deck is made up of 120 cards, split amongst four suits (blue, green, gray and pink). In each round, each player is dealt a hand of 10 cards. Each round will last for five turns. In each turn, players will select two cards from their hand and place them face down on the table. The remainder of their hand is passed to the next player around the table (the direction depends on the round). The player who takes the longest to do so will play first in this current turn.
The two chosen cards are flipped up and the player then chooses to play any or all of them or discard the ones not played. The player may have up to three gardens. Any card can be used to start a garden. Once started, cards can only be played to either end of a garden – either above the topmost card or below the lowest card. The catch here is that cards must always be in numerical order with the highest number on top and the lowest number on bottom. Play then goes clockwise around the table until all players have figured out what they are doing with their two chosen cards.
All players pick up their new hands and the process is repeated. This continues for five cycles until the hands are fully used with players playing their two cards to extend their three gardens or discarding cards they don’t think will work well at the current moment. At the end of each round, the players review their gardens and score them:
After round 1: score 3pts for each blue card in your gardens
After round 2: score 3pts for each blue card in your gardens AND 4pts for each green card
After round 3: score 3pts for each blue card in your gardens AND 4pts for each green card AND 7pts for each grey card AND score your pink cards based on an arithmetic progression.
If the game has not ended, players get a new hand of ten cards and continue to build onto their three gardens. If the third round has ended, sum up to scores on the score sheet to see who wins. The player with the most points wins; ties broken in favor of the player with the most pink cards played.
My thoughts on the game
Ohanami is an interesting game that requires patience, good luck and decent planning/drafting skill. For me, the big decision here is how much to chase the immediate scoring as opposed to playing for the future. Looking at the scoring criteria, it’s easy to see that each blue card that you play in the first round will net you 9 points over the course of the game (being scored for 3pts in each of the three rounds). However, if you chose only blue cards, you wouldn’t leave yourself much space for growth in the following two rounds. Greens will net 8 points is played early enough, and grey cards will score 7 pts in round 3. (The pink cards will never be worth as much…) So – there is a small advantage to getting an earlier scoring card, but not a lot.
Thus, the other way to separate yourself from your opponents is to play more cards than them. As you can see, all cards will eventually score – but you just need to make sure that you don’t limit your further expansion too much. There is a nice risk/reward to adding extreme cards at the end of rounds one and two. If you are able to continue playing cards through the rest of the game, the gamble will surely pay off!
The game moves pretty quickly, it usually doesn’t take long to decide which two cards will work best for you. I tend to pick out the two cards that I want to play, and then I take a second to look at the player who is getting the hand next. I will often consider taking a suboptimal card (hopefully not too far away numerically from my previously chosen card) if it puts my opponent in a bad place or if it takes a good play away from my opponent. But, there’s a limit to how much I will sacrifice because there’s no guarantee that my play will really mess up the next player’s plans. Say he has a 50 at the bottom of one stack. Instead of taking a 55, I might instead choose a 48 to play on the bottom of one of my own – because the next player would love to have that card, and the 55 won’t work at all. But… in the next turn, the opponent could simply choose to play somewhere else, and later in the game, he might end up finding the 49, and my play ended up not changing his status at all!
I keep my old scoresheets in the box, and I usually just hand each player an older sheet so that they can use it as a reminder of the point scale for the pink cards – and also to get a gauge for how scoring went for people in a previous game. I will also note that there is a player aid on the edge on the box bottom – so if you leave the lid off, players can use that as well to see the needed info.
This game probably isn’t my favorite Benndorf, but it has been growing on me lately, and might be in the top 5 now. I like the simplicity of the rules and the surprisingly tough decisions that you have to make in a short playtime.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…