Card Games

Ohanami Review – Admire the Flowers in Bloom

Read our review of Ohanami to see how this small card game packs big drafting gameplay.

Ordered gardens bloom

Blossom flutters in the draft

Water’s hidden worth

– Haiku by Meeple Mountain’s own Andrew Holmes*

Hanami (or ‘flower viewing’) is the traditional Japanese “custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers” (‘hana’). In most cases the flowers refer to those of the cherry blossom (‘sakura’). This custom involves more than simply looking at the flowers; hanami is celebrated by having an outdoor party beneath the blossoming trees, marking the beginning of spring. Because hanami is so important, an ‘o’ is often added before ‘hanami’ as a sign of politeness and respect.

Ohanami is a game for two to four players in which each player works to grow up to three personal gardens through card drafting. Each garden is represented by a column and a player may only add cards to a column on either end of it (the top or the bottom). Cards in a column must always be in numerical order so the number on a card determines where it could be placed. The colour of a card determines how the card scores at the end of the round.

Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon – How to Play Ohanami

To begin a game of Ohanami, each player is dealt a hand of ten cards.

A two-player game of Ohanami ready to be played.

Since Ohanami is a card drafting game, there are no player turns; each player chooses two cards from their hand and places them facedown in front of them. They then pass the remaining cards in their hand to the next player. Over the game’s three rounds, the direction of drafting switches between clockwise and counterclockwise.

Once all players have chosen their cards, players reveal their two selected facedown cards and decide what to do with each: use them or discard them. Players can choose to use both cards, discard both, or use one card and discard the other.

Discarding a card is simple: the card is just placed in a facedown discard pile with no reward gained. Using a card, on the other hand, is where the game’s puzzley gameplay shines through.

Flowers Are Often Scattered By The Wind

Each player can have up to three gardens (read: columns of cards) in front of them during a game of Ohanami. To use a card, the player may start a new garden with it or add it to an existing garden. The kicker is that once a card is in place, it remains there for the entire game.

Card 59 may be added to the garden on the left (in red) or it can be used to start a new garden (in yellow). Unfortunately it can’t be added to the middle garden because its value is lower than 65 and higher than 50.

Any card — regardless of its colour or value — may be used to start a new garden. However, for a player to add a card to an existing garden, the card must either be of a higher value than the garden’s highest card or of a lower value than the garden’s lowest card. This means that the cards in each garden must be in numerical order. Although gaps between card values are permitted, you want to avoid having too much of a gap between the cards you add to a single garden because the bigger the gap, the more limited your options become.

With only 120 cards in the game, it wouldn’t be a good idea for this player to add card 92 to any of their gardens.

After each player has used or discarded their two selected cards, they pick up the hand of cards that was passed to them and repeat the drafting process. The round ends when all cards have been drafted and players then proceed to an end-of-round scoring.

Dumplings Over Flowers – End-of-Round Scoring

At the end of round 1, players score 3 points for each blue card (with the water droplet motif) in all of their gardens.

At the end of round 1, this player would score 12 points for their blue cards (4 cards x 3 points each).

After scoring for the round, all cards in front of players remain in their gardens. Then ten more cards are dealt to each player and a new round begins with players repeating the same drafting process.

At the end of round 2, players score 3 points for each blue card and 4 points for each green card (with the grass motif) in all of their gardens.

At the end of round 2, this player would score 21 points for their blue cards (7 cards x 3 points) and 32 points for their green ones (8×4).

At the end of round 3 (which also signals the end of the game), players score 3 points for each blue card and 4 points for each green card. They also score 7 points for each gray (stone) card and points for their pink (flower) cards — depending on the total number of pink cards they have added to their gardens throughout the game. The player with the most points after three rounds wins.

At the end of round 3 (and the game), this player scores 24 points for blue cards, 32 points for green, 21 points for gray (3 cards x 7 points) and 45 points for their pink cards (based on the table).

Final Thoughts

Small box card games make up about 25% of my board game collection — and that jumps to just over 40% if you count strictly card-based games in bigger boxes with a few components like cardboard tokens or a board (games like 7 Wonders and Lost Cities, for instance). I knew I liked little card games quite a lot, but even these numbers surprised me.

I think this card-based love can be traced back to my earliest game experiences; I have vivid memories of my uncle teaching my young self how to play Bloody Knuckles…and then playing the heck out of it with him. (After an extensive search on the web, I could not, for the life of me, find a link to rules for this card game.) I feel this early love for card games has only blossomed (pun intended) the more invested in the hobby I become. I can now really appreciate the creativity and genius that goes into designing a game and its mechanisms around a deck of cards.

Ohanami is a great example of this. It’s a game that consists of 120 cards that players lay out in numerical order in one of three columns in front of them. The mechanisms and ruleset couldn’t be more simple, yet the gameplay is so deep and filled with tough choices. When selecting your two cards, you must consider so much: the value of the cards and how they can help or hinder your gameplay, where and in which garden to place them, and the colours of the cards and where you want to focus your strategy. Not to mention, since this is a drafting game, you are always considering what your opponents can benefit from in your hand of cards — and how you might need to denial-draft and discard cards.

Some boxes have advertisements on the inner box, but interestingly Ohanami’s acts as a player aid (something that, I’m told, is unique to Pandasaurus’ printing of the game).

One thing I really appreciate about Ohanami is how the four different colours of cards are distributed. For instance, cards from 1 to 10 aren’t only one colour, but have a variety of all four colours. This lends itself to there being many paths to victory because a player focusing on the pink cards, for example, won’t necessarily also be collecting a specific range of numbers. Conversely, one person collecting a sequence of numbers won’t skyrocket to victory because they happened to get lucky with a hand filled with one colour of card.

The cards from 1 to 10, for example, have a pretty even distribution of card colours — 4 blue, 3 green, 2 pink and 1 gray. (Note there are about half the number of gray cards in the game than the other three colours.)

Not surprisingly, I think Ohanami is a great small box game with big gameplay. Of course it has a new home in my collection and you should consider adding it to yours too if you like thinky, card drafting games.

Thematic Music for Playing Ohanami

I haven’t yet had a chance to experience ohanami in Japan for myself and in my research I’ve found conflicting information about whether or not music can be played in the public outdoor celebration of this custom. (Some sources have reported that in the past this was acceptable, while others say it no longer is and is actually considered rude to do so.) As such, I’m inclined to recommend playing Ohanami without any music so players can admire the card gardens they create without any aural distractions.


*A big thank you to Andrew Holmes for his beautiful (and appropriate) Ohanami haiku. To read more board game haiku from Andrew, check out Board Game Haiku: Tabletop Games in Seventeen Syllables, A Hat Hits the Ground: More Board Game Haiku, and The Island Awaits: Board Game Haiku Volume 3.

Ohanami details

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

About the author

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Ashley Gariepy

Ashley Gariepy is a French elementary school teacher who loves board games. She considers herself a euro-gamer at heart, but has been known to enjoy the occasional Ameri-style game. She has also become Meeple Mountain's resident escape room gamer and is one third of the Maple Mountain triad. Follow @redmeeplesmash on Instagram and Twitter to stay current with the games she's playing.

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  • I am trying to enter this contest. However, after each of the items, I am told I need to re-log-in to the Gleam account. I do, and then I have to request a new confirmation code. I request it, enter it, and then it tells me that I have no entries into this contest…

    Thus far I have:
    * Tweeted
    * Followed @meeplemountain
    * Followed @pandasaurusgame
    * Visited the Meeple Mountain channel on YouTube
    * Visited the Meeple Mountain page on Facebook
    * Visited the Pandasaurus Games page on Facebook
    * Visited Ohanami’s homepage
    * Clicked on the Daily Bonus

    I have, at times, seen 4, 5, or 6 entries listed… then when it forces me to log in again, those go away.

    Is there something I need to do to clear this up?

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