Full disclosure: A preview copy of Hanamikoji: Mini Expansion 5 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.
Back with another Hanamikoji mini expansion! I decided to play these backwards for some reason, after the first, but I have no idea why. So writing 1 – 7 – 6 – 5, and then who knows? It’s a mystery. There’s a certain elegance to the whimsy of how I write reviews, I guess? I love that for me, and for y’all, but mostly for me. This is why I have task lists, I suppose; otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done. Let’s get into the expansion before I try to provide any more logical justification for this nonsense.
Expansion number 5! Let’s see what we’ve got here. Big discard, another referral (an action new to the mini expansions), and some secrets and gifts. The name, “Qualification Expansion”, might actually make sense here? Referrals, secrets, and gifts just sound like a nightmare hiring process. We’ve all been there. Anyways. This may be the Qualification Expansion, but will your qualifications alone be enough?
I think if you’re still reading these, you’ve mostly come around, right? You know the drill. New Action Tokens:
Game is still set up as normal, just with some new tricks:
Let’s work through them:
- Secret: Play one card face-down. You’ll play it face-up at the end of the round.
- Referral: Place two cards on the bottom of the deck. Draw two new cards from the top of the deck and keep them face-down. You’ll play them face-up at the end of the round.
- Discard: Discard three cards face-down. They won’t be played.
- Gift: Choose four cards and place them face-up. Your opponent keeps two and plays them; you keep the other two.
Beyond that, play normally. At the end of the round, the player who controls four geishas or has 11 Charm Points wins!
- This set, in general, has a ton of secret information. You won’t know what your opponent plays beyond the Gift Actions. It’s wild, but not necessarily un-fun. The question really comes down to how well you can read your opponent. Is it worth an early Gift to at least force some public information on your opponent so you can get a read? That’s a mystery! A fun mystery, but a mystery nonetheless. I love hidden information.
- I usually use Secret 1 to punctuate a game, but that usually means that the last card I draw gets placed face-down. Maybe that’s good! Maybe it sucks. You don’t necessarily want to randomly keep the last card you get. Keep that in mind! Or, you know, use Refer to mess with the cards in the deck so you can get what you want?
- You can use Refer 2 and Secret 1 in tandem with each other at the end of the game to bury a card and play it later, if you play your cards right. If your opponent has already wasted their Refer Action, the deck isn’t going to change again. This means you can bury 2 with Refer, choose the order, and then, after your opponent’s next turn, draw a card and Secret 1 to bury it. You’re essentially using the deck to launder cards. It’s entertaining.
- Discard 3 is an enormous action. You can use it to very effectively bamboozle another player. You’re burning so many cards out of the game. If you know what you’re playing, you can really make it hard for your opponent to figure out what cards you’ve played and what you’ve burned.
- Gift 4 allowing both players to keep two cards means that you can either use it early to balance out certain sets, or you can play it late when your opponent (and you) have more secret information. Either is valid, but you’re giving your opponent a lot of information when you choose what to keep. I tend to lead early with Gift 4 and then base my remaining secret information around what I’ve been given by my opponent. It’s reactive, but it means that they’re not necessarily learning anything from me when they choose which cards to keep. The only thing they know is that I chose these cards for us. Naturally, this means some configurations are interesting. If you have all five 5s in your hand, for instance, you can do this Gift 4 and keep the last one for yourself, making the Secret action very useful and effectively invalidating this play for your opponent. That is … not a likely outcome, but it’s fun! This is one of the few times I’d consider holding on to Gift 4 until the end of the round.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
For more general Pros and Cons of the expansion set, see my review of the first mini-expansion.
- The yellow of these tiles is fun. It’s got a nice whimsy to it. The one issue is that it looks a bit like the green and the orange expansion, so things can occasionally get a bit confusing.
- The secret information here makes the round stressful, but entertaining! Between Secret and Referral, it’s hard to say if a player buried cards to get them back or buried cards to really mess with you. The terrifying play is if you think a player is good enough at counting cards that they can use the Referral 2 action to try and set up a really bad turn for you. It could happen!
- I think Refer 2 is one of my favorite actions in the game. It has so many possibilities! Plus, I just really like sifting (looking through a deck of cards to get the cards I want) as an action. It’s a great way to get rid of terrible cards, surreptitiously pass cards to an opponent, or even to pass cards to yourself! Plus, it loops back in the card that’s out of play, so even more information. Love that for us.
- This is another one where new players occasionally goof themselves by keeping “good” cards for too long and getting stuck with a final Discard 3. I haven’t seen many players hold on to Discard 3 for that long; usually they’ll Gift 4 or Refer 2 before then.
- I do wonder how different this set would be with Reveal 1 instead of Secret 1. It might change things! It might not. It’s less of a Meh in a bad way and more of just me wondering. I might try a couple rounds with this variant and just see if it’s any fun.
- This is usually the set that causes games to run long, since no player really knows what their opponent is playing. Without the ability to respond in kind, the game tends to tie a fair amount if players aren’t guessing their opponents’ moves correctly. That’s sort of a biggish problem, even if the game is fun. It’s just very difficult to know what you’re doing or playing or getting, because you have so little control over what you get. You can’t bet on Gift 4 directly in either direction. You either get a selection of your opponent’s cards (not necessarily helpful) or you can curate a set of cards but you can’t guarantee you’ll get any of them back.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Hanamikoji’s fifth mini expansion is pretty fun! Refer 2 does a lot for the set, since it’s my favorite Action in the entire Hanamikoji canon. That said, beyond that, the other actions are fine? Not bad, not my favorites, but that’s okay. Secret 1 is pretty good, Discard 3 is a lot of fun. Some players may decry the lack of explicit control you get over cards in this game, but that’s never been a big problem for me. Just something I’ve noticed. If you’re looking for a game of Hanamikoji that’s got a bit more intrigue and a bit less explicit control, well, this is it. If that sounds up your alley, then the Qualification Expansion might be for you!
If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!