Hanamikoji is a two-person game by EmperorS4 in which the players are restaurant owners in the streets of Tokyo. To lure the tourists in, it helps a lot if you employ a few popular Geishas. This sounds easier than it is, you cannot hire a Geisha at the employment agency, but you have spoil them with beautiful gifts and attention. Every Geisha has her own preferences, one lady prefers beautiful flowers, the other wants to get (green) tea and a third one likes to be pampered with an elegant fan. The player who gives a Geisha the most presents persuades her to come and work for him.
In the middle of the table there are 7 cards with the Geishas. The Geishas have values from 2 to 5. There is also a draw pile on the table with 21 gift cards. For the Geisha with value 5, 5 gifts are in the stack, while for the Geisha with value 2 there are only 2 cards. Each player starts with 6 presents in hand. Finally the two players get 4 action chips that indicate which actions they have to perform in each round.
In your turn you always draw a new gift card and then you choose one of your action chips and you carry out the corresponding action. With the first chip you can pick a card and place it separately before the end of the round so that you can then place it with the corresponding Geisha. From the second card you choose two cards that you (without showing them to the other player) remove from the game. With the third card you choose three cards from your hand. The other player may choose one of these cards and place it on his side with the right Geisha and put the other two cards on your side with the Geishas. With the last card you choose four cards and make two sets of two cards. The other player may again pick one of the sets and you get the other two cards yourself.
If both players have performed their four actions, there are eight cards on each side of the Geisha. For each Geisha you check who gave her the most gifts. This player wins this Geisha and places a round chip on his side of the relevant Geishas card. If, at the end of the round a player has either won 4 Geishas for himself or has won Geisha’s worth at least 11 points, the game is over. If one player meets one of these win conditions, that player is the winner. If both players meet a win condition, the player with a Geisha’s with a minimum of 11 points wins.
If neither player has succeeded in winning enough Geisha’s, then a new round will be played. The chips that indicate who won which Geisha will remain and will only shift at the end of the round if the other player has won the Geisha. In the case of a draw, the card remains with the first owner. This gives the second round a new dynamic.
If the second round does not result in a winner, a third round will be played. If neither of the two players meets a winning condition in that round, the player who has won the Geisha with the highest values at the end of that round wins (and in case of a draw, it is just a draw).
Conclusion: Hanamikoji, deeply impressive.
I am really deeply impressed by Hanamikoji. It is unbelievable how much fun you can have with so few rules, so little play material and so few turns. The game seems very simple, but because you only make so few decisions in a round, every move has to be a good move. It almost never happens that you can make an easy and safe choice at the same time, and even if the chance presents itself, you have to wonder if that is what you want to do because there might be more to gain by taking a risk. This makes every choice painfully difficult and therefore fun. I cannot recommend this game enough!