Winning the favor of a geisha isn’t as easy as one might think. After all, geisha are trained in dance, music, art, and everything in between. They are the epitome of grace, elegance, and beauty. In the card game Hanamikoji, two players compete to win the favor of four geisha or gain 11+ Charm Points. You’ll have to use your head if you want a chance to win this quick strategy game.
Hanamikoji is what most people would call a light game or a filler game. It consists of 7 large Geisha Cards, 21 Item Cards, 8 Action Markers, and 7 Victory Markers and takes about 10 – 15 minutes to play. Setup is very easy: simply place the seven Geisha Cards in a row (in sequential order) between the players. Then place a Victory Marker in the center of each Geisha Card. Each player gets four Action Markers, placed face up in front of them. Finally, the Item Cards are placed within each reach of both players. And that’s it; you are ready to begin playing Hanamikoji.
At the start of the round you’ll have six cards in your hand and you’ll draw a card at the beginning of your turn. Gameplay is fairly straightforward with only one of four actions being available on your turn. But, gameplay is also a bit tricky since you can only perform each action once per round. The available actions are: Secret, Trade-off, Gift, and Competition. Secret allows you to choose one card from your hand and place it face-down under the Secret marker. This secret card will be revealed and scored during the scoring phase. Trade-off allows you to discard two cards from your hand. These cards won’t be used. When choosing Gift, you’ll pick three cards from your hand. Your opponent selects one to place next to the corresponding geisha and you get the remaining two cards. Finally, there is the Competition action. When you select Competition, you’ll pick four cards from your hand and divide them into two sets of two cards. Your opponent chooses one set and you get the other.
Choosing which action to take can be rather difficult, and sometimes you’ll realize you should have played the actions in a different order. And because two of the actions give cards to your opponent, and you don’t know which card(s) they’ll pick, even the cards to use as part of your actions can be a tough choice. And that’s really what makes this simple and straightforward game so engaging; you have to constantly think about what your opponent is going to do. Sometimes you’ll be left with cards that can benefit both you and your opponent, but you have to offer them up because Competition is your only remaining action. Or, similarly, you might have to trash two helpful cards because you didn’t select Trade-off soon enough. There is definitely a strategic balancing act that emerges as the game is played.
Components & Storage
All of the cards in Hanamikoji have a textured linen finish. The geisha cards are oversized and feature nice looking art. The cardboard tokens are exactly what you’d expect and baggies are supplied to help with sorting and storage.
Hanamikoji is engaging and can be fast paced. Although, some players might lockup when they are faced with a difficult choice. Speaking of choice, sometimes, due to the first action you chose and the cards you draw, it might not feel like there is a lot of choice. Instead, it might feel like you are locked into a certain play. Luck of the draw will have an effect on gameplay, but ultimately action selection, and which cards to pair with the selected action, should prove victorious. Overall, Hanamikoji is an enjoyable game that can be played quickly between setting up/breaking down longer games. It also stands well enough on its own and its small form factor makes it a great travel game.