Full disclosure: A preview copy of Hanamikoji: Mini Expansion 4 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.
It’s weird because I’m Benjamin Button-ing these reviews, but we’re about halfway done! I kind of wrote them in reverse order, and I have no idea why. But here we are, there we go, and I’ll see you back at Expansion #3! Though I guess by now you already have.
In Hanamikoji’s fourth mini expansion, the theme is Serendipity! You want the right things to happen by getting the right cards to the right places at the right time. Your opponent wants the same. Naturally, you two can’t get along, so one has to win (or you both tie and go again). Will you be able to turn luck in your favor?
You kind of know the drill by now. We’ve got new Action Tiles:
Set the game up with them and get ready to play! Let’s go through the new actions:
- Referral: Choose one card from your hand and place it on the bottom of the deck. Draw a new card and play it face-down. Reveal and play it at the end of the round.
- Discard: Choose two card from your hand and discard them face-down, removing them from the game.
- Competition: Choose three cards and create two sets from those cards: a set of one card and a set of two cards. Your opponent chooses one set to play on their side and you get to play the other set on your side.
- Gift: Play four cards face-up. Your opponent chooses one to keep, playing them face up on their side. You get the leftover three.
Play until each player has taken each of the four actions, and then see! The player who controls four geisha cards or has 11 Charm Points wins!
- If your last action is Refer 1, you’re either getting what your opponent buried or giving your opponent a card you buried. Keep an eye on what Action they have left and use that to your advantage. Refer 1 can be a lot of fun. You can use Refer 1 if your opponent has Competition or Gift left to force them to offer you a card in your hand by burying the card that they’ll end up drawing later. Granted, they’d have to use their Referral Action to put another card on the bottom of the deck (since there’s always one card left over), but this is why I prefer Refer 2. If they draw your previously Referred card once they’ve used their Referral Action, then their only options left are to offer it to you or discard it entirely. Hopefully they choose the former.
- Burning cards via Discard 2 is always useful, especially if you have the right cards in hand. I tend to discard later in the round once I know what I’m going after. I can use that to turn the 5s into a three-card set or to lock down the 3s or 2s with just one card. Just be careful! Your opponent is likely thinking about the same thing, and there will be five cards that don’t get played (these two discards and the one leftover). Use your Discards to get cards you don’t want to offer via Competition or Gift out of your hand.
- Competition 3 is weird. It’s just weird. You can at least give your opponent difficult choices. Giving your opponent a choice between unequal sets is always a fairly confusing one. I think it generally has to be used to give them a free choice between bad options. Having two of the same 2 is very helpful here, since you can either offer them a guaranteed 2 or a chance at something else. They might take that? The problem here is that you can’t do something like offer them a 3 or the same 3 plus a 2 with the third 3 in your hand since there’s no way to play a card directly from your hand to lock down the 3. That’s part of what makes this set weird!
- Gift 4 can be very useful here, but you need to either have the right cards for it or make some riskyish plays. I either do a variety pack (3 / 2 / 2 / 2, all different colors) or a Let Me Win pack (4 x 4 or 4 x 5, if I have the cards for it). If you can do this early, then your opponent can’t use a lot of information beyond what they have in their hand to be useful (and if you use your Discard Action well, you might be able to lock down two 2s or a 2 and a 3). If you do this late, then you’re very much challenging your opponent to take whatever card is most useful to you or the card that will give them a majority against you. I find this action hard to really wrap my head around strategically, but this is what I think about when I’m going into it.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
For more general Pros and Cons of the expansion set, see my review of the first mini-expansion.
- Refer 1 is always a lot of fun. I prefer Refer 2, since you can stack the deck for your opponent in fun ways, especially if you know what actions they’ve got left, but this still lets you make a sacrifice play on a bad draw. I like that you still get the top card of the deck, so you can essentially lock a card to the bottom of the deck and get a second chance on a terrible draw.
- Discard 2 can be pretty powerful, since you can essentially lock down anything 3 or lower with the right cards in hand. The base game had some things right, and Discard 2 was one of those things. I still prefer Refer 1 to Secret 1, but what can you do.
- The tiles are oranger, but the container for the expansion is kind of yellowish? It makes it hard to tell this and 5 apart, at times. I probably would have swapped the color schemes around (6 and 7 or 3 and 4) so that they’re not adjacent, but I get them confused quite a bit. They’re orange… ish.
- I really thought that this Gift would be my favorite, since you get to keep so many, but for me it ends up landing in a weird spot since you just end up playing so many cards face-up. I think it’s hard for me to strategize around probably keeping all of the cards since you can’t lock down any one in particular. I think I actually prefer giving more cards away since it means your opponent will be forced to give you a lot of cards as well. Here, you have to rely on your opponent taking the one card you want. In the other, you can rely on your opponent maybe not realizing which card you want and leaving it. There’s a subtlety to that manipulation that I prefer.
- It’s a bit annoying that in this set you really don’t get to choose any of the cards you get to play. This is kind of a unique problem with this set, since every other set lets you either Secret or Reveal at least one card. Here, you don’t ever actually get a full choice. I think this is somewhat accounted for by the massive player-centric Gift, but it doesn’t guarantee you a specific card; it just guarantees you three of a set of four. That lack of control is a bit strange. I kind of get why this is called the Serendipity Expansion; you don’t actually have the explicit ability to guarantee anything; you just have to hope that everything works out.
- I actually really don’t like this Competition, either. I think the imbalance of it is very hard for me to measure, since the sets are pretty obviously uneven. It is, like the rest of this set, unique, but it’s not my favorite, especially since it can leave players with uneven card counts on each side.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Yeah, overall, I think this is a fun mini-expansion but it’s not my particular favorite of the lot. The Serendipity Expansion requires a lot of things to go right for the player, and while both players are getting a lay of the land, things can often go off the rails. Off the rails leads to weird ties, and weird ties lead to you essentially rolling the dice again in potentially unfamiliar territory. I’m not the biggest fan of that, and I still struggle to figure out how the Gift 4 Action works where my opponent keeps one card and I get the other three back. It makes the game feel a bit more … whimsical? than I’m usually looking for? It feels like a bit of a step down from even the base game, primarily around that Competition 3 Action. The randomness doesn’t totally work for me, even if it is a fun digression from the main game every now and then. I think this is, unfortunately, kind of the low point of the mini-expansions, for me, but I don’t dislike it. If you’re more into that lack of control, or you think you’ve got fate on your side, you may enjoy Hanamikoji’s fourth mini-expansion! It’s definitely something a bit different from the rest!
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