Hanamikoji, a well-known Geisha street in Kyoto, Japan. You walk along this street trying to gain the favours of seven Geisha masters by give them the gifts they long for.
The seven geisha masters all want different gifts. Some gifts are easily obtainable, others are very rare. Additionally, the geisha masters are not equally charming. The rarer the gift, the fewer charm points she has. Basically, the amount of charm points of a master equals the amount of gift cards of her type that are in the deck.
The geisha master who desires flowers has a value of five and there are five flower cards in the deck. There are three geisha with value two, two geisha with value three, one with value four and one with a charms value of five.
There are two win conditions and after every round you check if one or more players have reached these goals. The first goal is to have four or more Geisha masters on your side. The second goal is to have enough Geisha masters at you side to have a combined charm value of eleven or more. If both players reached one of these goals in the same round, the player with the most charm points wins the game.
The game itself is pretty simple. You start the game with six cards in your hand and four actions tokens in front of you. One card is drawn from the draw deck and put aside for this round.
Players can choose between four actions. The first players goes first, draws another card from the draw deck, chooses an action and turns the action token over, so you know you cannot use that action anymore during the current round. After that the other player chooses one action, and so on.
The four action are as follows. First action, choose a secret card from you hand and place it underneath this action token. At the end of the round this card will be placed below the corresponding geisha. Second action, choose two cards from your hand that will not be played this round. Third action, choose three cards from your hand and show them to your opponent. He or she can then pick one. You take the other two and you both place these cards next to the corresponding geisha. The fourth and last action; you choose four cards and openly divide them into two groups of two. Your opponent can pick first, you take the other two cards and you both place them next to the geisha who’s longing for these precious gifts.
You can pick these action in the order you like and after both players have taken four actions, both reveal their secret card and check if one of them achieved the goal.
When you have more gifts on your side of a geisha than the other player, you win the favour of that geisha and slide the favour token to your side of the geisha card. If it’s a tie, the token stays where it is. Either in the middle, or at one of the two sides of the card. So, if four tokens are at your side of the cards, you reach the first goal. You will reach the second goal if the combined value of the geisha with their favour tokens on you side is eleven or higher.
I have to say, Hanamikoji is an excellent two-player game. It’s simple, but very tense. You have to do all four actions during a round, but when you do them is incredibly important. However, only at the end you will known for sure if you made the right choice. There’s so much insecurity, but you still try to control everything as much as you can. You can see how your choices will impact the current state of the board, but only as turns follow up on each other you will see whether what you thought would give you control over a geisha is in fact bringing you victory or not. This makes the game so incredibly tense, but at the same time also very thinky. Every decision you make is critical, because one card at the wrong side of a geisha master can completely turn the game around. There are just very few cards to divide between the players.
Some games take one round, others will take longer. I like that. The tokens stay where they are, so you are now playing another game. During the first round, you just go for the win. During the rounds after that you need to consolidate and gain control over even more geisha masters. That’s why I like the mechanism that tells you that when there’s a tie, the favour token stays where it is. This means that during later rounds you have to make sure that the other player doesn’t take the favour token from you, that he or she doesn’t talk that geisha master into walking over to their side. A tie is enough. This changes how valuable some cards are for you.
Tense and thinky. It accomplishes that with very few components. Plus, Hanamikoji has beautiful artwork and that all makes this game a must have for people who enjoy two-player games. It has the looks and the character.
If only a bigger publisher would pick it up, because it is pretty hard to get as far as I know.