Back with another hot take on a game that’s been out for a little bit. This one is different though as I’ve been reviewing bigger games recently, and this is a small two player game.
In Hanamikoji, you are trying to win the favor of more geishas than your opponent. You do this by giving them gifts. Each geisha has a certain number of gifts in the deck and a certain type of gift. One geisha might want a lute while another wants a tea set. You give them gifts by playing out a hand of cards. One of the cards is set aside, and then each person is dealt six cards, you take turns drawing cards, and then doing one of four actions once per round. You can discard two cards secretly from your hand, you can play a card to score from your hand secretly, you can play down three cards, your opponent chooses one to play and you play the other two, or you can put down two groups of two cards, and your opponent chooses one to play and you play the other. Then you score, the goal is either to win the favor of four of the seven geishas or to have won the favor of 11 points worth of geishas. This adds in some additional strategy to the game as three of the geishas are worth two points, two are worth three points, and then one four point geisha and one five point geisha.
What I think this game does really strongly is give you a good number of options at the start of the round to what you can do, you can start with any of the four actions. So you are going to struggle picking out which one to do because there are a lot of obviously fairly good options. Then as the round goes on, and your actions dwindle, now you are stuck with hard decisions because you know what your opponent is doing somewhat, and you are trying not to play into their hand. Even with that, the game is very fast, it can easily end after one round, and when Kristen and I played it three times, we never had it go longer than two rounds.
And because there is one card removed, and three cards that your opponent plays face down, it makes it hard to card count in the game. This is another thing that I really like about the game and that makes the decisions mentioned above so agonizing. I don’t know what you’ve discarded or played face down for your scoring, so do I think you’ve set it up so you’re going to win the favor of a geisha for sure, or do I think you want to play for a higher scoring geisha in hopes of getting to eleven points. Having the multiple ways to win also makes this hidden information way more important. There are five cards in the deck for the five point geisha to win her favor. So that is statistically the most likely to be removed from the deck of any of the character cards, but there is still a very high chance that it wasn’t. It feels like you’re always trying to figure that out and you never can.
Now, I haven’t talked about too many two player games, but there will be a review of another two player game coming out on Friday, most likely. Two player games obviously limit you as to when you can play them. It also gives you something fun that you can do with your significant other when you have some down time, which is what Kristen and I did while we had a day off of work for President’s Day. I really enjoyed the game because of the puzzle aspect, but as a two player game, I also liked how simple this game was to take down and set-up. I think that there can be a desire to have a lot of big games, I know that I enjoy those games a lot. However, it’s nice to have a game that takes less than five minutes to set-up then ten to fifteen minutes to play a game and then you can put it away in under a minute. So this really works as a two player game that you can play whenever. I have the playmat for it from it’s Kickstarter in 2018, but without that, the game has a very small footprint as well, so you can play it easily anywhere. I think if you wanted, you could easily fit it into a sandwich sized ziploc bag for easy transport as well.
Overall, this is a really well designed game with well thought out mechanics. You always have a tough decision to make. The downside is that it is only two players, so you are limited to when you can play it, but in some ways, that is an upside as well, because you don’t need that large group. So really, that more just something to be aware of.
Overall Grade: A+
Gamer Grade: A
Casual Grade: B+
Have you played Hanamikoji? What are your thoughts on it? What are some other thinky two player games?
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