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Hanamikoji Review

Review of: Hanamikoji
Board Game Review by: :
AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps

Reviewed by:
On Dec 6, 2018
Last modified:Dec 6, 2018


We review Hanamikoji, a two player only card game published by EmperorS4. In Hanamikoji, players are trying to attract the favor of seven illustrious geisha.

Hanamikoji Review

HanamikojiSkilled in the art of art, music, and dance, the Geisha of Hanamikoji are masters of entertainment. In order to win the favor of seven illustrious Geisha, two players will have to collect their preferred performance instruments. With careful speculation and influence, who will charm the masters of charisma?

Hanamikoji is a hand management and influence game by EmporerS4 for 2 players.

Gameplay Overview:

Seven Geisha are set in the center of the play space between the players. A favor marker is placed on each. Players are given a set of four action markers.

Hanamikoji Cards
Impress the talented geisha of Hanamikoji.

The game is played over a series of rounds consisting of four phases – Deal, Action, Scoring, and Refresh. In the Action phase, a player will draw one card and take one of four actions. Each action is performed just once during a round, and the round ends when each player has taken all of their four actions. The actions are:

  • Secret – Choose one card from your hand and place it under your secret action marker, this card will be revealed during scoring.
  • Discard – Chose 2 cards from your hand and place them under the discard marker. They will not be scored this round.
  • Gift – Choose three cards from your hand and place them face up in front of yourself. The opponent chooses one and you place the two remaining, to be scored during the scoring phase.
  • Competition – Choose four cards from your hand and lay them face down in front of you in two sets. Your opponent chooses one set and you keep the other.

After both players have performed each of their four actions, scoring begins. Both players reveal their secret cards and place it next to the corresponding Geisha on their side of the row. If one side has more item cards than the other, move the favor toke to that side. If the two sides are even, do not more the token. After moving Favor tokens, each player calculates the number of charm points they have won. The goal of Hanamikoji is to win the favor of four Geisha or collect at least 11 Charm points.

If a winning result has not yet taken place, all item cards are collected, Favor markers remain in their place, second player becomes the first player, and the next round begins, starting with phase one.

Hanamikoji Game Experience
Move the favor markers by offering the most gifts.

Game Experience:

Hanamikoji is another game by EmporerS4 that pulled me in with gorgeous art and kept me around with intriguing play. Muted but varied colors fill the cards, drawn in a style that is part Edo period screen painting, part anime. While it’s hard to argue the price point, the game could certainly benefit from nicer tokens befitting the art, and the action tokens could really benefit from being clearer (they’re quite small).

Hanamikoji Cards
Each geisha prefers her favorite instrument.

The actions are the twist and hand management is the key. You’ll be forced to choose the lesser of two evils in many cases, and to keep close track of what Geisha’s favors you might be gaining at the expense of others. Do you want to give your opponent an advantage with a lesser points Geisha or bury cards so neither of you can get them. Additionally, since each action is different but can be completed in any order, you’ll constantly be guessing what your opponent has up their sleeve.

While it can have a short play time, two evenly matched opponents can draw this out with lots of back and forth and favor shifting. It’s not quite right as a filler while waiting for other folks to hit game night and the variable length of play time may not make it a good candidate for two players warming up for something else. Additionally, it can have a largish footprint for a short two player game so it doesn’t work well as a pocket game, despite its small box size.

Final Thoughts:

Hanamikoji has a lot of fun strategic elements with a good amount of give and take. With some area control and hand management, EmperorS4 has made a game where balance is the key. However, the variable play time and low player count may make bringing Hanamikoji off the shelf highly situational.

Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Fantastic art and twisty actions form a beautiful and interesting strategy, but player count and wildly variable game time can make this not as great for every game situation.

3.5 StarsHits:
• Four completely different actions performed in any order will keep both players guessing
• Beautiful Art
• Balance in actions creates an almost Zen-like experience in play

• Swingy game time can make this too long/short for some situations
• Small, muted tokens make actions somewhat difficult to see

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