Full disclosure: A preview copy of Hanamikoji: Mini Expansion 1 was provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
I’ll be honest; this is an ambitious project. I actually meant to get around to the Railroad Ink Challenge mini-expansions first, but, life comes at you fast, and you write what you can write with the time you have. So here we are. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do these over the course of many weeks or just have two Hanamikoji expansion weeks or something entirely different, so look forward to however that shakes out. Maybe I’ll ask my Patreon supporters. Seems like a good question for them. But let’s dive into the first one, see how it goes, and I’ll figure out where to go from here. These should be relatively short, I hope.
Hanamikoji! It’s back with all sorts of mini-expansions, the first of which is Romance! The Romance expansion involves gifts, secrets, and more, just like a real romance, probably. Take on four new actions in your quest to impress the various folks around town, and see if you can earn their favor! Will romance be on your side?
Alright, so each of the Hanamikoji expansions does not add more new content to the game; instead, they add four new action tiles that you can substitute for the existing action tiles:
Beyond that, you set the game up much the same.
The actions themselves are fairly interesting, since they’re pretty similar to your standard Hanamikoji actions. They are not the same, however. As with standard Hanamikoji, you deal each player six cards and you draw one card each turn before taking one of the available actions. Let’s go through them:
- Discard: Choose a card from your hand and discard it face-down, removing it from the game.
- Secret: Choose two cards from your hand and play them face-down. Reveal them at the end of the round.
- Transmit: Pick three cards and play them face-down. Your opponent removes two from the game, and you keep the third face-down. Reveal it at the end of the round.
- Gift: Play four cards face-up. Your opponent chooses two to keep, playing them on their side. You keep the other two cards. Note that you don’t have to make two pairs; your opponent can select any of the two cards.
Aside from the new Actions, the game plays the same way as Hanamikoji. Once both players take all four actions, the round ends and whichever player controls four geisha or earns at least 11 Charm Points wins!
- Count every card you see. You should really always be doing this in Hanamikoji, but especially so with this one. A lot of cards end up face-down, so any information you do get is critical. You won’t get a lot; at least 5 cards are going to be face-down (between your opponent’s Secret and Transmit) that you’ll never get to see. You need to know what’s in play.
- Transmit can be super fun. I really like using Transmit if I can get all three blue or all three orange cards in my hand. Then, it doesn’t matter what my opponent dumps; I still get to keep that color under my control without any worries and without having to care about what they’re throwing away. You’ll see this strategy note pop up in different forms throughout these reviews; there are a lot of different actions for which this is true, if you have the right cards.
- Careful with that Discard 1. You may think that it’s not worth thinking too hard about it, but you may not want to make that your final action. If you draw something you really needed, you’ll probably regret it! I usually make it my second-to-last action (or my first, if I just really hate my hand).
- Gift can be annoying, but I try to use it early. I don’t really like giving my opponent a lot of choices when they have a lot of information about the game’s state, and so, saving Gift (especially the bigger Gifts, like this and Mini #3) until the very end means that they can pick and choose what benefits them the most. To thwart that, you either need to not give them a choice (hilarious), or you need to give them a choice when they lack information sufficient to benefit them. It’s also very fun to use this in the unlikely-but-possible case that you already control Green (4) from a previous round and just have all four green cards in hand. Then, you both get two, but you keep control. Things like that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
A number of these are going to apply to multiple sets, so I’m going to mostly outline a bunch of those here and then refer back to this in subsequent reviews. That’ll make this one longer than others, but this is also the one that you’re most likely to read, so, shakes out.
- It’s kind of neat that the tiles are also compatible with Geisha’s Road. I think it’s fun, but boy howdy does it make these expansions difficult to review. The modularity boggles the mind at a certain point, like Spirit Island. There’s a reason I haven’t reviewed it yet.
- I was kind of concerned about expanding Hanamikoji, but they exceeded my expectations. I kind of wondered if adding something new to the game would undermine it in some way. I think they agreed and incorporated the “new” stuff into Geisha’s Road. Swapping in a modular Action Tile expansion is actually brilliant; this lets players find the configuration that works best for them, and I loved getting to explore them and determine a favorite. I have a stack ranking that I think is accurate, but I imagine it’ll swing around every now and then with my mood. Honestly, I think the modularity of it is fun enough that if you like Hanamikoji (or even if you don’t love it), there’s probably a configuration here that you’ll enjoy; you just need to sift through and find it.
- I really like that you can use any expansion as an entry point to the Hanamikoji series. That honestly makes them much easier to review, since I don’t have to teach you the full game; I can just teach you the game with whatever Action Tile set I have, since they’re fully modular. My least favorite thing about teaching expansions is having to go through the main game and then go through the expansion, so they take a lot longer to review. Don’t have to do that with these, which is part of why they’re getting reviewed faster.
- All of the expansions fit inside of the main game box. You just kind of need to pivot them around so that they all fit in the wells of the insert, but it does work. Eventually. There’s a process to it.
- I actually really don’t like the Competition (give your opponent a choice of two pairs of cards from your hand) action, so I’m glad it’s not here. Having to choose the pairs and then your opponent gets first pick of the pairs is one of my least favorite gaming mechanics; I’m not an I-cut-you-choose guy. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with my difficulty assigning arbitrary value to things. It’s a reason I don’t love bidding games either, and it’s held fairly consistent. Thankfully, your opponent discarding your cards randomly or taking two of a set of four feels … less annoying, to me, since I didn’t divvy them into sets. I understand it’s still a cut of my hand of cards that they’re choosing from, but the psychology of it feels better, to me. My three least favorite Action Card sets all have Competition in them, I’m realizing.
- For me, this is an almost-strictly-improved version of the main set. You get to keep more cards instead of discarding them, I really like Transmit (almost as much as Refer, my favorite action), and the Gift action is always fun, even if I hate making the choices. Gift beats Competition every time, for me, so, here we are.
- The pinks on the tiles are pleasant. Just a nice color scheme. The containers for the mini-expansions also look fantastic.
- I just noticed that the mini-expansions are numbered from high-value cards to low-value cards. I assumed it was the opposite ordering and then never thought about it that much. But 5 / 6 / 7 are all the 2s, 3 / 4 are the 3s, 2 is the 4, and 1 is the 5. That’s fun.
- It would be nice if there was an explanation of why the mini-expansions were named what they were named. I had to look them up on Twitter / BGG, and there was no explanation, so that was a bummer.
- If you like playing fast and loose, you’re going to really like this mini-expansion. If you want more control over your game, you’re likely going to struggle a bit. You get to keep seven cards, but you get precious little information from your opponent. You don’t know which of your cards they’re going to randomly discard (or take), and you don’t know what they’re going to give you or keep for themselves. This means that you may find strategizing long-term to be a bit more difficult, as this expansion plays a bit more tactically than others. Personally, I find it thrilling, but it might not be for everyone.
- So the Kickstarter has a good storage solution for the actual containers, but there’s no really good way to just transport the tiles without transporting the containers and the rules and etc. This, to my major annoyance, means that not only do I have to punch out the tiles every time, but I have to punch them back in when I’m done, otherwise my box will just be an absolute mess of action tiles. This is, as you may imagine, a massive waste of time.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Hanamikoji’s first mini-expansion is solid! I think this is my third-ranked in my most recent stack ranking of the mini-expansions, (ironically, the base game is at the bottom of my stack rank; I like base Hanamikoji, but don’t love it). Since they’re modular, I can rate the expansions as essentially their own game, and this cleans up one of the actions I don’t like, which is big points for it. Beyond that, though, I think the intrigue and hidden information of this set appeals to me a fair bit, relative to a few of the other expansions. It’s hectic but doesn’t feel like I’m losing control of the game; it just feels like I need to figure out how to get control of the game, based on my current situation. And I like that! I’d probably recommend most of the mini-expansions, anyways, but if you’re looking for a solid new variant for Hanamikoji (or you just really like pink), the first mini-expansion might be up your alley!
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