- Designer: Kota Nakayama
- Publisher: EmperorS4
- Players: 2
- Ages: 10 and Up
- Time: 15 Minutes
- Times Played: at least 12 times with review copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design (TBD)
Hanamikoji, which was originally released in Japan under the name 21 Flowers back in 2016. Since then, there has been a US version (released at GenCon 2018) by Deep Water Games. Though I don’t have much room in my schedule for 2p games, this one has made the cut as a keeper in this very slim genre in my collection. I am looking at this title again because there is an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for a sequel, and I was sent a bundle of the two games to play.
Gameplay in Hanamikoji is quite simple – as once written by Chris Wray:
Players compete to either take four of seven cards in a card line, or they try to get to 11 points (which beats getting four cards). The cards range in value from 2-5, and the value on a given card is equal to the number of cards of its kind in the deck.
One card is set aside at the start of the game, players draw up to six, and the game begins.
Players can take one of four actions on their turn:
- Hide a card to be added to the card line at the end of the game,
- Remove two cards from the game,
- Put out three cards, at which time their opponent will pick one, and the player that picked the cards gets the remaining two, or
- Put out two sets of cards, with the opponent picking the first set.
Each action will be used only once each game, so unless the game ends without a winner, there will be eight turns in total. If there isn’t a winner, players take the markers for the cards they won, and they win any ties in the next round.
Most games go on into a second round, but there have definitely been a few memorable games that have ended after a single round!
The package I recently received from the publisher also includes 7 mini expansions. Each comes in a little cardboard package that looks like a gift. Interestingly, I had never owned the expansions before so these were all new to me — each offers a new set of 4 action tiles to use (along with slight rules modifications for the new tiles).
My thoughts on the game
Hanamikoji has been one of my more played 2p games because it is so easy to learn, and it plays quickly while still giving players a lot to think about. It also helps that one of my favorite game mechanisms is “I split, you choose” – and two of the four actions in the game use this devilish method to divide up cards.
There is an interesting bit of double hand management – you have to figure out when to play the cards in your hand, and you also have to manage your four actions. As you can only use each action once; it is important to leave yourself with options as the turns go on. Likewise, you have to try to keep your hand filled with cards that will allow you to react to the plays from your opponent.
Like Chris Wray (who said something similar in his original review back in 2016) – I first wondered about the replayability of this game. However, given that I have been playing this a few times each year now for 5 years, I’d say that those issues are moot. Sure, maybe I can’t play this 50 times in a weekend (but really what game would stand up to that?!) – but I do find it enjoyable when I do play it, and this is part of the reason why it remains in my game collection, and why I still have it 5 years after initial publication.
Hanamikoji is a deceivingly complex game with simple rules, and one that deserves to see the table a few times each year. With the addition of the expansions, there is even more reason to get it out and try out the different variations. The expansion sets that we have tried so far have all been entertaining diversions from the base game – it is honestly surprising how much the strategies can change by simplay altering the four action possibilities. Highly recommended.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray, Lorna, Doug, Alan H
- I like it. Karen M., Eric Edens, Dale Y
- Neutral. Jonathan F.
- Not for me…