Number of Players: 2
Length of Game: 15 minutes
Mechanism(s): Hand management, area influence.
(Alternate mechanisms: Arguing about how to pronounce Hanamikoji )
The Hanamikoji geisha theme is a tad odd, even creepy . . . you want to ask, “Why am I attracting geishas? Am I putting together an all-female Japanese punk rock band?” Who knows? This may be off-putting to some. It made the wife take to google to find out more about geishas. After a brief (non-romantic) interlude, during which she researched the fascinating and troubling history of geishas, I was <spoiler alert> able to expound on the reasons the Snobs found Hanamikoji to be a delight. She remained skeptical. Perhaps this review will win her over.
How is it played? Hanamikoji is a simple two-player game. You are limited to four different actions that can be performed only once each round. Each action involves moving about item cards that color match one of the seven geishas, while attempting to attract geishas to your side of the table by scoring (playing cards on your side of the table.)
The four available actions are (in my own words):
- Save a card to be placed at the end of the round.
- Burn two cards that won’t be scored this round.
- Sort four cards into two piles and allow your opponent to pick and score one pile. You score the other.
- Display three cards; your opponent takes one and scores it–you score the other two.
Each player has four markers, with helpful iconology, to be flipped to their exhausted sides once you have completed the action. After each player has taken their four actions, you score your cards. Check each geisha and see which player has attracted the geisha’s favor (by scoring the most cards of that color.) If you tie, the geisha’s favor doesn’t change.
Each geisha has a charm value indicated on their card. If you score a total of 11 charm points, or if you attract the favor of four geishas, you win.
Best geisha game ever I love this game. It’s smart, it’s beautiful, it’s elegant . . . like a geisha, I assume. Of course, I have never met a geisha. However, this game taught me that their love can be won by means of strategic card play.
Hanamikoji is way too slick for such a simple game. I was as engaged by this uncomplicated game as I have been by big box strategy games. It made me second-guess my moves and read my opponent; it required deep concentration. Watching the cards that your opponent plays and shows can give you insight into which geisha they are after. Having to make the difficult choice to forgo the favor of one geisha in hopes of triumphing on a more charming prospect is the crux of Hanamikoji.
I can’t find anything bad to say about the mechanisms. The only nitpicking I can do is mention that the card stock is nothing special and the theme is very light. By the way, the art is great and supplies what little theme there is.
BGS Approved? Clearly, yes. Hanamikoji has given Onitama a run for its money as my go-to light two-player game. I can’t offer a higher compliment than that. If you are looking for a great two-player game that makes you think deeply, with simple mechanisms (and can be learned in about 10 minutes), then Hanamikoji is for you.
The Love: Great art, simple mechanisms.
The Hate: Not much. The light theme may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
THE FINAL DECREE: Straightforward yet elegant, Hanamikoji is a wonderfully engaging game requiring deep concentration and difficult choices.
All views and opinions are my own. Gaby purchased this game with his own money, and he likes geishas.